Cognitive Science Statement of Solidarity and Support for Black Lives Matter Movement

Dear Students,

We write to you all today in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We must speak out against the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other Black victims of police brutality. We must also acknowledge that their deaths are the product of a culture of systemic racism and white supremacy. We cannot continue to allow racial injustice to be the norm in our society and we pledge to stand with you to actively fight against racism in our society, in academia, and at Oxy. 

As a department, we affirmed our support for the Black Lives Matter movement when students occupied AGC in Fall 2015 to speak out against racism, oppression, and the anti-Blackness that is embedded in Oxy’s climate and curriculum. We continue to recognize our complicity in this system and pledge to take the following actions as an ongoing enterprise, and report on them annually:

  • Continually review, audit, and assess our course and departmental policies to identify and change any that contribute to and reinforce institutional racism
  • Create an assessment plan that examines the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students within our courses, major, and high-impact practices such as research
  • Invite our students into recruitment, retention, cultural, and curricular discussions 
  • Continue revising syllabi in our existing courses to include BIPOC scholars 
  • Ensure that every iteration of our Introduction to Cognitive Science, Empirical Methods, and State of Science courses includes discussion of the privileging of white perspectives and the negative impacts of this privilege
  • Explore the creation of a new course on identity and cognition
  • Identify and check when white fragility manifests in our classes, in our meetings, in our personal interactions with students and colleagues and works to contribute to and reinforce institutional racism
  • Bring BIPOC speakers to campus
  • Extend our records of demographic information to our research programs, and make major and research demographic information available to students
  • Continue participating in diversity initiatives within and outside of Oxy
  • Continue using faculty governance structures to advocate for the BIPOC community
  • Commit as a department to develop regular anti-racist departmental training that is ongoing

Our next community event of the summer will be this Friday, June 12th at 3pm PDT. We will be using the Netflix Party app to watch 13th, a documentary by Ava DuVernay about race, injustice, and mass incarceration. RSVP here to be sent the link. We also encourage our students to participate in the CTSJ summer webinar series and to explore the resources provided by Professor Thalia González on behalf of the Politics Department.

We recognize that we are responsible for making the Cognitive Science department equitable and just and we vow to hold ourselves, our colleagues, and the institution to such a standard. We are grateful to our past and present students for speaking out against injustice and holding us accountable to Occidental’s mission of excellence, equity, community, and service. 


The Department of Cognitive Science
Carmel Levitan
Caro Brighouse
Alan Knoerr
Justin Li
Dylan Sabo
Michael Shelton
Sasha Sherman
Andrew Shtulman
Saul Traiger
Kevin Urstadt