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Optional Diversity Statement Question

  1. Dec 6, 2015 #1
    One of my physics Ph,D application is asking for a optional diversity statement. Do you think describing how I'm pretty religious and how Theists in general are under represented in physics, especially among young people aspiring to be physicists help me or hurt me?
     
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  3. Dec 6, 2015 #2

    Student100

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    It would do neither in an ideal world. Since we don't live in an ideal world, it's wholly dependent on the person reading it. It will probably do neither still, however. I'm also not sure why you believe religious people are underrepresented in physics, or why religious belief is somehow fitting for a diversity statement.
     
  4. Dec 6, 2015 #3
    I actually also considered putting this, as a white middle-class female I don't have much to put for a diversity statement. My professors kindly told me that I'd be stupid to consider that angle, as most in science regard theists to be... not the ideal scientist. And since you are trying to convince the admissions committee that you are an ideal scientist, leave it out. Plus, as they pointed out, you run the risk of getting a Dawkins reviewing your application, in which case your optional essay may have just cost you the spot.
     
  5. Dec 6, 2015 #4
    I agree it's not exactly something that would give the OP any advantage, but I don't think it has anything to do with some kind of dichotomy between theists and scientists. A full (around) 50% of scientists are religious in one way or another*, and if there are Dawkinses out there denying applicants due to religious views, they had better be careful, since discrimination based on religious belief is pretty frowned upon by the government.

    Now, I can see how an issue would arise if, say, the OP wanted to talk about his belief in a 6000 year old earth and was applying for Ph.D programs in evolutionary biology or cosmology, but claiming to be a theist gives no indication on how well one can do physics.

    Still, it's not exactly something good to put on a diversity statement, seeing as how 95% of the general public and virtually every high-ranking US official are religious--not exactly a minority in general.

    *http://www.pewforum.org/2009/11/05/...ly4CFSVQG2lphsg-KopIg.1&utm_referrer=https://
     
  6. Dec 6, 2015 #5

    Choppy

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    This would be like me claiming that because I'm a judo player (judoka) and since judoka are under-represented in physics, I should be given special consideration if I were applying to the graduate school.

    Universities establish diversity policies to help counter the disadvantages that certain groups have.

    The simple act of holding a belief does not generally put you at a recognizable disadvantage.

    If you were a member of a religious group that has been persecuted recently, then maybe this idea would hold water. For example, if you were from another country and had to seek asylum or become a refugee due to not belonging to the religious group that owned the most guns, and you managed to do well in school despite coming into the country with no money and not speaking the language then absolutely it makes sense to make the admission committee aware of those circumstances.

    But generally, dressing up on Sunday mornings and singing in a choir doesn't entitle you to special consideration.
     
  7. Dec 6, 2015 #6

    Andy Resnick

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    That's not what a 'diversity statement' means. It means that you have experience/expertise in working within a 'diverse' community; 'diverse' referring most often to racial diversity (i.e. underrepresented minorities), but can also refer diverse demographics in general.
     
  8. Dec 6, 2015 #7

    Vanadium 50

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    I predict that you will see a lot of lawsuits about diversity statements.

    The intent of these statements is to highlight how one's background and life experiences might contribute to the overall diversity of the entering class and how this might contribute to the class experience. This is legal. However, they have become a way for applicants to argue that they should be admitted because they are members of a particular class. The first time there is a committee decision along the lines of "OK, we've admitted a lot of (class 1). We need to start looking at more of (class 2)" and word gets out, there will be a lawsuit.

    I am a strong supporter in admitting diverse classes (and am considered a bit of a pest by my colleagues because I include things other than race and gender in 'diversity': large school vs. small school, LAC vs. research university, etc.) but feel these essays are seldom helpful. I don't think "I am the biggest victim" essays are constructive (and there are such essays), and I don't think this specific suggestion ("You should consider my religion as a reason to admit me") will help.
     
  9. Dec 6, 2015 #8
    I'm curious about your (V50, Andy, Choppy, etc.) opinions on what to do if one isn't truly "diverse". Is it better to dwell on something insignificant (for me, it's being a first-gen college student) or to forego the "whining" entirely and to focus on how you've interacted and seen the diversities of others?
     
  10. Dec 6, 2015 #9

    Student100

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    Leave the optional statement blank?
     
  11. Dec 6, 2015 #10
    And if it's not optional?
     
  12. Dec 6, 2015 #11

    Student100

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    They should still all be optional I would hope, if not then...

    Leave it blank anyway in protest, the whole thing has become silly. That or make up some gibberish like everyone else.
     
  13. Dec 6, 2015 #12

    Vanadium 50

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    Is that a hypothetical? If not, can you PM me with the name of the university? I'd like to have a chat with the department head; they probably don't understand the risks they are taking.
     
  14. Dec 7, 2015 #13

    Andy Resnick

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    First, let me be clear that my experience with diversity statements may not be isomorphic to the OP. In my experience, the relevant consideration is not that *you* are diverse, it's that you can function within and promote the growth of a *diverse community*.

    And I'd like to note that being a first-generation college student is not insignificant.
     
  15. Dec 7, 2015 #14

    radium

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    You can write about being a woman in physics. For me I considered that as a valid thing to write about as the percentage of women in my particular subfield is most likely less than 15% if not even lower. I was the only woman in the class three times during undergrad so that was definitely something I had to get used to.
     
  16. Dec 11, 2015 #15
    Thank you all for the input. I decided that it is best that I leave it blank.
     
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