Department Holds Town Hall

By Wendy Plump
Monday, Jul. 20, 2020

The Department of Chemistry hosted a Town Hall on Friday, July 10 that drew over 100 participants as new Department of Chemistry Chair Greg Scholes, William S. Tod Professor of Chemistry, and Associate Chair Paul Chirik, Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Chemistry, met online with students, graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and staff.

The one-hour event covered a range of topics, most generated by participants themselves in the leadup to the Town Hall. Questions about teaching, GREs, precepting, research, diversity, and hiring practices were either discussed or slated for further review.

Department administrators and faculty are currently preparing separate FAQ documents to be shared with the Frick community.

“Stepping into this role is a little like going from a scientist to a diplomat overnight,” said Scholes. “It’s been an interesting transition for me so far and I’m looking forward to everything this community has to teach me.

“We were happy with the Town Hall in the sense that it gave us a chance to hear first-hand what our community members are thinking about,” said Scholes. “The questions were fantastic and showed real insight.

“Partly because of the fluidity of the COVID-19 crisis and partly because we wanted to have only two talking heads hosting the meeting, Paul and I were not able to answer all of the questions,” he said. “Substantive answers take time and input from many sources. We’re collecting that information now to provide the depth of answers the questions deserve.”

Scholes added that questions about diversity as it relates to hiring practices in the Department cannot be answered comprehensively. In order to protect the confidentiality of candidates as they apply to other institutions, the rationale for specific hiring decisions cannot be entirely open and public. However, Scholes and Chirik have made diversity their main priority as they begin their three-year leadership terms.

“There is clearly a crisis in diversity in STEM and particularly with chemistry. We will do the hard work of getting out there and recruiting women and people of color to join us,” Scholes said. “Paul and I are absolutely committed to addressing this situation and bringing in incredible new colleagues who will enrich our program, our research, and the work of our students.”