Academic punk

Despite common stereotypes, punk subculture has much more to offer than aggressive music, spiked mohawks, and ripped clothing. While punk covers a spectrum of social and political ideologies, one of its cornerstones is non-conformism. Punk challenges social agreements and hierarchies and reminds us that no rule is holy. Rules and agreements have been made by people, are relative, and should be revisited and revised. In this sense, punk goes back to the anarchist philosophy of the 18th and 19th centuries. A proper punk performance is supposed to be illegal and provocative.

In authoritarian countries, punk action art is often used as one of the few available forms of political protest, e.g. the Pussy riot performance at 2018 FIFA World Cup Final. In the countries with more freedom of speech, illegal guerilla art can still be a powerful form of political and social expression, e.g. punk climate activism of Extinction Rebellion or installation of Snowden’s statue.

Following the punk footsteps, my friend Alberto Bailoni and I made a performance focusing on diversity and inclusion in academia. Many of you have probably seen the staff boards hanging in the university hallways. They usually look like this, especially in STEM:

Explicitly hierarchical, mostly white men as professors and group leaders, women as secretaries. The lower you go down the academic hierarchy, the more diversity appears. We believe that the reason for this situation is, among other things, the implicit bias (read my post on this topic).

To draw attention to the issue, Alberto and I entered some of the university buildings in the night and shuffled the pictures on the staff board aiming at introducing diversity in every academic group. We also left a QR code pointing to the implicit bias studies and test. This was the result:

As far as we know, the pictures were rearranged back the next day. But we hope to have caused a few discussions on the topic.


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