The Student Diversity Committee: A Student-Led Initiative Promoting Diversity at Bronx Science

The Student Diversity Committee (SDC) kicked off its speaker series with world-renowned teacher and anti-racist activist Jane Elliott, who spoke about her work and her sentiments on race.

Ms. Raven Wilhelm

The Student Diversity Committee (SDC) kicked off its speaker series with world-renowned teacher and anti-racist activist Jane Elliott, who spoke about her work and her sentiments on race.

At approximately 4:00 p.m. on September 23th, 2020, Bronx Science students and faculty alike logged into the first school-wide event of the Student Diversity Committee (SDC), a webinar with world-renowned teacher and anti-racist activist Jane Elliott. Elliott, best known for her Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes discrimination exercise, has addressed audiences across the nation and has conducted interviews with the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Jimmy Fallon. She spoke for an hour and thirty minutes to the over 200 members of the Bronx Science community who attended the event.

This summer, against the backdrop of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests that followed the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, Bronx Science students established the Student Diversity Committee (SDC), a group that is currently composed of twenty-three students of color, all of whom are devoted to fostering greater diversity within Bronx Science. “The first thought that comes to my head when I think about the SDC is advocacy. We’re trying to create an environment where we not only respect but support diversity,” said Mamadou Barry ’22.

The SDC’s formation is also a response to New York City’s failed attempts at diversifying its eight specialized high schools, some of the least racially diverse high schools in the entire city. Data from previous years reveal that, compared to their Asian and White peers, Black and Latinx students are severely underrepresented in the eight schools that require the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT). During the 2018-2019 school year, of all the students enrolled in these schools, only 6.3% were Hispanic and 3.9% were Black. In contrast, 24.3% were White and 61.6% of the students were Asian. These numbers are misrepresentative of the overall NYC public school student body, as over 40% of NYC public school students in the 2018-2019 school year were Hispanic, 25.5% were Black, 16.2% were Asian, and 15.1% were White. 

Although Mayor Bill de Blasio has worked on integrating the specialized high schools in the past, and expanding programs for disadvantaged students such as the Discovery and DREAM programs, these efforts have not been fruitful to date. This past admissions cycle, only 11.1% of the students admitted were Black or Latinx; at Bronx Science, the current student body is just 7% Latinx and 3% Black. 

The members of the SDC acknowledge Bronx Science’s current underrepresentation of Black and Latinx students. Aside from hosting anti-racist speakers to educate the student body, the SDC plans on working with other student groups like the Anti-Racist Coalition (ARC) and the Curriculum Diversity Committee (CDC) to further diversify Bronx Science’s curriculum. “In conjunction with the Curriculum Diversity Committee at our school, we aim to create standards of inclusivity and diversity for curriculum in all subjects – standards that last,” said Diana Campbell ’22. Campbell continued, “We also want to work with the New York City community at large, to identify why there are so few Black and Latinx students at Bronx Science, and fix it.”

Connected to the SDC’s plan for improving the curriculum further to focus more on inclusivity is their goal of providing spaces for Black and Latinx students at Bronx Science to express themselves and to share their experiences. “We want to educate ourselves and each other through the sharing of our experiences,” said Campbell. In accomplishing this, the SDC hopes to create a community of support for Bronx Science’s BIPOC students. The most recent SDC event, Let’s Talk: Colorism, was a community forum that provided students with a space to share their experiences regarding colorism.

After the success of the SDC’s webinar with Jane Elliott and the community forum on colorism, many students are wondering what the SDC has planned next. Fortunately, they are not slowing down: the Committee has multiple events planned, including webinars with many speakers who are experts in their field. “The SDC has already secured multiple speakers to engage with our Bronx Science community. Future events will cover a multitude of issues facing our schools and our communities, addressing the larger political and racial climate in America, as well,” said Campbell. Barry concurred, noting, “This year, I’m most excited for the new speakers with whom we will be having seminars, because I was nervous the first time, and I would love to see how I perform during future seminars. I am also excited for all of the joint projects that we will be having with the ARC, the Anti-Racist Coalition, and the CDC, the Curriculum Diversity Committee.” 

For students interested in becoming involved with the SDC’s work, the application to join the committee is available on the SDC’s Instagram page (@bxsci.diversity). Students can also access an application by contacting the SDC through the committee’s email, [email protected]. Applications are currently being accepted on a rolling basis.

Bronx Science students established the Student Diversity Committee (SDC), a group that is currently composed of twenty-three students of color, all of whom are devoted to fostering diversity within Bronx Science.

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