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Departmental response to national events

June 09, 2020

A message from department chairperson, Jeff Johnson, in response to #ShutDownSTEM

Dear UNC Chemistry,

I write to bring your attention to the #ShutDownSTEM movement and the associated strike planned for June 10, 2020.  As this is a department that very much prizes local autonomy in the research groups, this email is not one to decree a particular course of action for the department, but instead to call upon that autonomy as an opportunity for research teams to individually decide how best to support the laudable goals of this movement.  For example, over the next 24h my research team and I will be digesting various resources from the ShutDownSTEM website. On Wednesday, we have set aside time from our research activities to reconvene for a lab meeting to discuss what we have read and how it can influence our individual and collective action plans.  The focus of the ShutDownSTEM movement is on anti-Black racism; I also encourage us all to consider in our discussions and action plans all the forms of discrimination that we are working to overcome.

Jeffrey Johnson

Department Chairperson


June 07, 2020

A message from department chairperson, Jeff Johnson, in response to the essay in Angewandte Chemie

Dear UNC Chemistry Community,

By now many of us have seen the recent Angewandte Chemie ‘essay’ purporting to be a reflection on the state of affairs of organic chemistry.  Instead, the reader is presented with anti-social justice critiques on diversity, inclusion, and equity.  The fact that these backward-facing views are held by some in our community is unfortunately not shocking; that they would persist through the peer-review process in a top chemistry journal is deeply disheartening.  On a number of occasions in the last several years as chair I have invoked Louis Brandeis’s quote of “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants”.  While I lament this episode as a reflection of how far we still have to go as a science and a society, I take some solace in both the breadth and depth of outrage, the strength of the sun’s rays, in response to the brief publication of this essay.

Angewandte Chemie has indicated that it will be conducting an investigation of the matter and will institute changes in response to what it finds.  The concept of voting with one’s feet appears apt here.  I will not submit work to ACIE until such time as both my team and I are completely satisfied that the deficiencies that led to this breakdown have been structurally and meaningfully addressed.  I strongly encourage everyone in the department to have similar conversations.

Systemic racism and sexism continue in all corners of society; STEM is no exception.  In contrast to the views espoused in the ACIE essay, I strongly believe that we must build on the best practices that can allow us to make progress against these pernicious problems.  The Diversity Committee, in response to the committee charge for the 2019-2020 academic year, has completed a strategic plan that will be shared with the department to provide us with goals and strategies for ‘local’ progress.  Together, we must embrace diversity and equity and the actions that support them, for the betterment of our department, our scientific community, and our world.

Jeffrey Johnson

Department Chairperson


June 03, 2020

Dear Chemistry Colleagues and Friends,

We as members of the Diversity Committee are deeply saddened by the murder of George Floyd, yet another senseless death resulting from racism. We are incredibly disturbed by the continued violence from those sworn to protect us. The racism that affects African American people every day and that is endemic to our country is heartbreaking.  The images we have seen over the past week will forever be burned in our minds.

Recognizing that our own Chemistry community is not impervious to racism and other discrimination, the Diversity Committee wants to emphasize our commitment to making the UNC Chemistry Department an inclusive, tolerant, and inviting atmosphere that lifts up all its members. Discrimination of any kind is not acceptable.  Indeed one of our key goals is to create and sustain a Chemistry community where all feel welcomed, respected and free to pursue their goals and dreams.

In the spirit of creating such a Chemistry community, we want to remind you that we as well as the SWELL Committee encourage dialogue that creates positive change.  Please reach out to one or all of us with suggestions, concerns, or anything at all that you would like to discuss.


The Diversity & SWELL Committees

View contact information for our Department Chair, The Diversity Committee, and SWELL

View the University’s Message from campus leaders on events in Minneapolis

View the Office of the Provost’s Diversity and Inclusion’s anti-racism resources

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