By Fritz Freudenberger
On January 21, people across the world participated in the Women’s March to demonstrate support for women’s rights. Now, scientists and science enthusiasts, including those at Oregon State University, are following in their footsteps organizing a march to support science as a non-partisan issue.
Two days after the Women’s March, a Facebook group, March for Science (then named Scientists March on Washington) grew out of an idea spawned on the website Reddit. The Facebook group includes over 815,000 members, supporters of evidence-based, empirical science.
The March for Science announced through Twitter that the main event in Washington, D.C., will be held on Earth Day, April 22. Satellite marches are being planned for cities across the country, including Portland.
The group grew out of concern for what supporters see as an anti-science attitude in the federal government, especially in regard to climate change. Stressing a non-partisan commitment to aid evidence-based policy, the group and its supporters are planning the event to defend access to science.
In Oregon, the March for Science – Portland has over 7,000 members including graduate students, staff, and faculty at Oregon State University. March for Science also has a Eugene Facebook page with over 1,700 supporters.
Alejandra Sanchez is at OSU studying oceanography as a Ph.D. student in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and plans to attend the march in Portland in hopes that it will help connect science to the public.
“I believe one of the biggest problems we have in this country — and I could argue, everywhere — is the separation of scientists and the community,” she said. “My life has been focused on science and I love it. It pains me to see we haven’t done a good job transferring our facts and excitement for it to the entire community.”
Sanchez was born in the United States but was raised in Mexico before coming back to the U.S. for graduate school. Her international background plays an important role in how she sees science studies in the U.S. To her, international students have to work, be efficient and productive but with the feeling that their place in the country is not secure.
“I’m privileged in the fact that I don’t have that fear, but I had to fight hard to get a place in this school too,” she said. “I owe it to my peers to fight for their rights, their security and their science that, in the end, is beneficial to the USA.”
The March for Science group celebrates diversity as a cornerstone to scientific success and notes that the changes in policy toward science will disproportionately affect minority scientists and advocates.
Sanchez, who also participated in the Women’s March in Portland, believes that diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields and the nation makes for a stronger country as well.
“It’s incredible to see stories — when you start digging more into people’s backgrounds and work — how minorities are an essential component for the advancement of science in the USA,” she said. “I feel this march is also a way to create awareness on how diversity does make us stronger and has done so for a long time now!”
This celebration of diversity is echoed in the OSU community in a letter from president Edward Ray on January 30. The letter reaffirmed the university’s commitment to its international student body and noted that OSU will remain dedicated to the diversity of its students and researchers.
“This university will remain unwavering in its commitment to inclusive excellence, social justice, diversity of all kinds and the safety of all people,” the letter reads. “These commitments are the foundation upon which we build excellence in everything we do. As your university’s president, I assure you that Oregon State University is fully committed to support students’ pursuit of their education and faculty’s work in teaching and research.”
Details for the march, such as specific locations, are yet unclear. However, organizers are planning the main event, coordinating satellite marches and maintaining Facebook and Twitter feeds for information.
Editor’s note: Fritz Freudenberger is a graduate student in the OSU College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.