Reacting to DEI
I was rather dismayed to read the interview with President-elect Dan Hastings in the January issue [Meet your AIAA candidate for president-elect], particularly the focus on, and endorsement of, diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. These initiatives will be the death of AIAA if implemented.
Take me, for example. Unlike most of my peers, I grew up in a small town heavily dependent on agriculture, with almost no exposure to engineering, giving me somewhat of an outsider’s perspective of aerospace. I approach issues with a rather different mindset from those who have never prayed desperately for rain. The contributions that come from that would be very hard to replace, considering how most engineers are the children of engineers or of other white-collar professionals. Despite being different, I am committed to the industry and have been an AIAA member for almost 15 years now. I’ve watched classmates leave for lighter disciplines and colleagues leave for lower-pressure careers, but aerospace engineering is just too fascinating and, well, fun to abandon.
However, I, like many my age, have been told my entire career that “We don’t really want you,” simply because I am a straight white man. This message has been delivered by countless laments about the demographics of the engineering profession and by dozens of programs to “fix” it. Usually, this is implied, but sometimes, as in Dr. Hastings’ “strategic” adjustments of MIT’s “terrible” demographics, it is explicit. Do we really want to hammer home this idea that so many people are not welcome in AIAA because of their race and sex? Those of us who stay in the industry endure it for a living and for the unique opportunities, but AIAA is very much a voluntary organization. If we get the message that we are not wanted, we will take you at your word and find another way to spend $125 each year, leaving AIAA smaller, older, and more homogeneous in its thinking.
Surely, the withering of the institute cannot be the goal of its incoming president. Such a focus on DEI, however, will cause it all the same.
Response from AIAA President-elect Dan Hastings: “The aerospace business and AIAA need to be open and welcoming to everyone interested in aerospace engineering. No one, including Mr. Thompson, should feel alienated.”
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