News Archive

Statement on Diversity and Recent Events in Charlottesville, Virginia

August 28, 2017

Today, on the 28th day of August, 2017, the 54th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society is reaffirming its commitment to the principles of equality articulated in its Policy Statement on Diversity

Sigma Xi’s history of including women and minorities dates back to the late 19th century, with the induction of Anna Botsford Comstock, Susanna Phelps Gage, and Julia Warner Snow in 1888. Sigma Xi's first African American inductee was Julian H. Lewis, in 1913; Saint Elmo Brady, the first African American to obtain a PhD in chemistry in the United States, was inducted in 1915. Yet in May 1993, Sigma Xi leadership acknowledged that the rich diversity of contemporary society was not reflected in the composition of the scientific and engineering communities, or in its own membership. 

To address these concerns, the Board of Directors approved a statement during its 1993 annual meeting. The statement proclaims that to have a positive influence on the future of scientific research and the world of the 21st century, Sigma Xi must steadfastly commit to opening the scientific and engineering community, as well as the Society itself, to all persons, without regard to characteristics such as age, color, creed, cultural background, gender, national origin, physical disability, race, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation. This statement pledged the Society to set aside barriers encountered by individuals from underrepresented groups who seek to become scientists and engineers, as well as to reach out to all members of our diverse society. 

Sigma Xi remains dedicated to these goals today. As we continue to expand our membership globally, we seek to recognize the highest quality researchers from all backgrounds, for it is through diversity of experience and viewpoints that we realize scientific breakthroughs and engineering triumphs. As a matter of mission and ethics, we are obliged to speak up when the diversity that characterizes our community and heightens innovation is at risk.

We are deeply troubled by the escalation of racial hostility in the United States these past weeks. In the wake of recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and other parts of the country—including racial conflicts in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, near Sigma Xi’s Research Triangle Park headquarters—we are concerned that the principles of equality and freedom, normally protected within the United States, are being threatened and that the substantive progress achieved through the efforts of Dr. King and his successors in the civil rights movement is in peril. 

Hate groups, lately emboldened to spread fear and animosity, must be censured. We condemn the discriminatory words and incendiary actions from white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, and we call on leadership from all sectors of society, including industry, academia, and government, to forcefully reject racism and prejudice. These beliefs run counter to our organizational culture, mission, and vision and cannot be tolerated. In this time of crisis, our organization believes we can all do a better job of achieving unity by repudiating bigotry, rejecting messages of division, and reaffirming unwavering principles of equality. 

Stuart Cooper signature
Stuart L. Cooper
President, Sigma Xi

Jamie Vernon signature
Jamie L. Vernon
Executive Director and CEO, Sigma Xi