2020-2021 DEI Activities

Email from Professor Lisa Traynor to Math Majors and Graduate Students (February 2021)

Dear Math Majors and Math Graduate Students:

I want to take a moment to welcome you all back this semester and to update you on some of the important work that the Math Department has been engaged in related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion over the past few months. As you are all aware, we decided to partner with Marta Esquilin (external DEI consultant) and Richard Barry from the Institutional Research Office this past summer to better understand the cultural climate within our department and the experiences of BIPOC and other underrepresented communities. Our decision to engage in this assessment process was the result of an external review that occurred in 2018-2019. While the external review yielded positive results overall, it highlighted the need for deeper exploration of these issues.

Marta and Richard engaged in an assessment process during the fall semester and collected data via both focus groups and a survey exploring the cultural climate of the department. Reports from both processes were shared with members of the Department in mid-January; I am sharing executive summaries of these reports provided by Marta Esquilin and Richard Barry. The Department met in late January to discuss the reports and begin to make plans for action. I want to share with you some of the steps we have taken and the start of plans for moving forward. 

Action Steps Taken:

  1. The Department had a faculty meeting to discuss the reports and brainstorm about actions that can be done.
  2. Based on the reports, the Department engaged two TLI consultants, Kirtee Ramo and Madison Kearns, to advise the Department on innovative and more inclusive methods for teaching.
  3. The Department has gathered information about DEI efforts at other peer liberal arts institutions.
  4. The Department has created a Moodle page with lots of links to antiracism resources for faculty self-education and future department meeting discussions.
  5. The Department had a faculty meeting to discuss changes being made to this semester’s classes based on the reports and recommendations of the TLI consultants; all faculty members are making several changes to how they run their courses.
  6. The Department will regularly devote portions of future department meetings to discuss pedagogical efforts to make more equitable classrooms.
  7. The Department has shared documents about STEM microaggressions to raise our awareness. We are working on establishing a mechanism for anonymously reporting microaggressions and bias to the Department.
  8. The Department has submitted a request for a TT position in Statistics. We are committed to diversifying our faculty, and we will focus our efforts on ensuring that we are identifying strong candidates of color and those from diverse backgrounds.
  9. In future department meetings, we agreed to discuss characteristics of white supremacy culture and how white supremacy influences aspects of the culture of mathematics and the Department.
  10. We will support the student-led antiracism self-education group by offering their meetings as “enrichment” opportunities in classes.

At this point, we have generated many ideas for future action. For example, we plan to have our TLI consultants organize town halls with majors and math students in order to further generate ideas. We are also planning to develop a web site where we can clearly communicate actions and plans.

We look forward to working together with you on these important actions.

Best wishes,

Lisa Traynor
Professor and Chair of Mathematics, The Class of 1897 Chair of Science

Math Department Response to Letter from Students (November 2020)

Dear Math Majors,

On Monday, October 26th, Walter Wallace, Jr., a Black man, was killed by white police officers in West Philadelphia. We are saddened and angered by his death. The killing was the act of both people and institutions that continue to treat Black lives as if they do not matter. We watch in reverence as BIPOC students from the Haverford Women of Color House, Black Students Refusing Further Inaction, and the Black Student League have begun, fueled, and now are maintaining, being further joined by the Bryn Mawr Strike Collective, strikes across the BiCo to confront our own Institutions’ complicity with structures responsible for Mr. Wallace’s death and the continued oppression of students on our campuses.

On Wednesday, November 4th, we met with a number of you to specifically discuss the strike. We want to thank all of you for your participation in this meeting. We deeply appreciate hearing from those of you that shared your convictions. We acknowledge the anger and pain that leaves students no choice but to strike.

We recognize the sacrifices students are making by striking, and have heard the request for support from faculty. We want you to know that all math faculty support the intention of the strike, though we lack consensus on many crucial issues and how to respond to them. This makes it challenging to craft a single response from The Department. Below we give what we feel can truthfully be said as a collective in response to your demands sent on November 5th (which is copied at the end of this letter).

1. The cancellation of all classes (synchronous and asynchronous) and assignments until the end of the strike.

We did not reach departmental consensus on outright canceling of classes, so individual faculty members will continue to determine their own class meeting schedules. Please know that all math faculty members have good intentions. But each of us is choosing our own way to show support for the strike and its goals. Please check Moodle or email from professors teaching your courses for their individual responses to the strike.

2. The guarantee that no students or faculty participating in the strike will be subject to any academic or professional penalties.

We agree.

We reached departmental consensus in not penalizing striking students and faculty, academically or otherwise. We agree that syllabi and course policies will be adjusted to account for how much time remains in the semester if or when the strike ends. Faculty members intend to meet prior to the end of classes to hold each other responsible for having thoughtfully and equitably dealt with the adjustments made this semester and to inform pedagogical and content choices for the start of next semester.

3. The guarantee that when the strike ends, students will be consulted to determine the most humane way forward regarding lapsed and future assignments and assessments.

We agree upon this.

4. The continued support of the department for its students of color, particularly BIPOC students.

We agree.

Continued support is crucial. And so is finding ways to do better. Students currently rely heavily on individual faculty members for support. The Department recognizes that it must improve its structures, requirements, and policies so that specifically students of color, BIPOC, first-generation, and low-income students thrive. The department pledges to devote time and money to this end. As a first step, in the summer of 2020, the department hired an external consultant, Marta Esquilin, to advise the Mathematics Department on ways to make our learning environment feel affirming and inclusive to all students, but especially for BIPOC and for those from underrepresented communities within our department. You can read about Marta’s process at Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Activities.


The Bryn Mawr Mathematics Department


Dear Professor Traynor and the Bryn Mawr Math Department,

We–– the students of the math department–– are participating in the Bi-College strike led by the Haverford Women of Color House, Black Students Refusing Further Inaction (BSRFI), and the Black Student League (BSL). We are striking in solidarity with our Black and Brown peers at both colleges and their/our demands. We stand with our peers in combating anti-Blackness in the Bi-Co and beyond, and many of us have committed to striking until all the demands (HC)/demands (BMC) have been met. This strike is built upon the work that BSFRI did in coauthoring the Open Letter to the Bi-Co this past summer, and those demands remain largely unmet by Bi-Co administration.

We appreciate the efforts that some individual professors within the Department have already made to stand with students on this matter. To that end, we demand that the Bryn Mawr Math Department, especially the Chair of the Department, strengthen its stand with its students (many of whom are BIPOC), the Bi-Co, and the larger Philadelphia community that the Bi-Co profits off of. We demand that the Department release an official statement of solidarity. An example is the one released by the Haverford Department of Anthropology. We demand the Department commit, at least, to the following:

1. The cancellation of all classes (synchronous and asynchronous) and assignments until the end of the strike.

2. The guarantee that no students or faculty participating in the strike will be subject to any academic or professional penalties.

3. The guarantee that when the strike ends, students will be consulted to determine the most humane way forward regarding lapsed and future assignments and assessments.

4. The continued support of the department for its students of color, particularly BIPOC students.

We implore the Bryn Mawr Math Department to join us in the strike.

July 2020 Update on Departmental Initiatives

The Bryn Mawr Mathematics Department is aware that we need to engage in deep and sustainable work related to creating learning environments that feel affirming and inclusive to all students, specifically for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and for those from other underrepresented communities within our department. 

Our department, similar to our larger society, is experiencing a great moment of reckoning, and issues of race, identity, and power are front and center. Central to this movement for change is the necessity for a serious focus on racial justice in every sector of our society. Within the Math Department at Bryn Mawr, we have decided to engage an external DEI (diversity, equity, & inclusion) consultant and social justice educator, Marta Esquilin, to help us engage in this evaluative process. 

Before we can determine the most appropriate course of action to help create a more inclusive and affirming culture within the Mathematics Department, we must first unearth and identify the challenges and strengths that exist. To this end, Marta will be gathering experiences from current math students, majors, alumna, and faculty within the department. She will be gathering this data via confidential focus groups/listening sessions and confidential surveys. After all data has been collected, she will present us with themes and issues that emerged, as well as recommendations for next steps. We will share these themes with our Math community and enlist your feedback and participation in determining how to best address the issues that emerge.

Link to full letter from July 23, 2020

History of African Americans in the mathematical sciences (July 2020)

As part of the Mathematics Department’s ongoing efforts to educate ourselves about the history of race and racism in the U.S., we are also learning about the history of African Americans in the mathematical sciences. A great resource for this information is this summer’s webinar series on Mathematicians of the African Diaspora organized by the PRIME REU at Pomona College. Professor Erica Graham is one of the speakers in the series (links to YouTube videos of the talks are available at the site too).

June 2020 letter: Bryn Mawr Math Stands with Black Lives Matter

Dear Math Students,

Black Lives Matter. We stand together with those across the country and around the world who condemn the murder of George Floyd. His murder is only the latest example of long-standing systemic racism and police brutality. We are outraged that these violations of human dignity continue to happen.

We acknowledge that many of us are largely unaware of the institutions and history of structural racism in America and the profound extent to which Black lives are affected by them. This ignorance perpetuates systemic and other forms of racism which continue to devastate Black people.

We have to do better. The math department commits to learning about the history of racism and oppression in the United States, to understanding how the associated structures are embedded within Bryn Mawr, and to changing these structures within our mathematics community so as to better support our students and colleagues of color. As part of this  work, we will educate ourselves about anti-racist and inclusive pedagogies and incorporate these approaches into our ongoing departmental curricular revisions. 

We welcome your feedback and suggestions.  If you would like to communicate with us anonymously, you may do so at: 


The Math Department

Department of Mathematics

Contact Us

Park Science Building
Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania 19010-2899

Phone: 610-526-5348
Fax: 610-526-6575

Tina Fasbinder
Academic Administrative Assistant