Crystal City, Virginia
April 29, 2018
April 29, 2018
May 2, 2018
Diversity and Race/Ethnicity
This paper will examine the use of the label "underrepresented minority" as a tool of oppression. For the past 100 years, engineering has been a domain of white, upper-class, able-bodied men. Students who do not identify within those historic norms of engineering are often referred to collectively in educational policy and literature as underrepresented minorities, abbreviated URM. Usage of this shortcut provides authors a succinct grouping, yet presents many problems. Use of underrepresented focuses the conversation on counts and proportionality, neglecting the experiences of the people comprising the numbers. The use of the noun "minorities" denies explicit personhood and focuses the context on racial identity, as evident in the title of the report, "Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering" . Most importantly, the label "underrepresented minority(ies)" places the weight of being different from historic norms on the students. This label establishes their outsider position in engineering as an immutable characteristic within their social identity.
We will propose and discuss a new label to replace "underrepresented minority." In our sixteen years of qualitative research concerning equity in engineering education, we have found that exclusion is the result of systematic institutional conditions and individual agentic actions. These structures and actions preserve the historic norms and favor some students over others. In this paper, we will describe an alternative label, Excluded Identities (EI). This language choice foregrounds the engineering education system as the active agent of exclusion.
1. National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. 2017. Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2017. Special Report NSF 17-310. Arlington, VA. Available at www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/.
Walden, S. E., & Trytten, D. A., & Shehab, R. L., & Foor, C. E. (2018, April), Critiquing the "Underrepresented Minorities" Label Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. https://peer.asee.org/29524
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