We Apologize For Offensive Test Question

Note: after this letter was sent to The Campus, the Chemistry department announced that Jeff Byers, the professor who posed the offensive question, will take an immediate leave of absence.

We write to acknowledge and offer deep apologies for an egregiously inappropriate question, related to the use of chemical agents during the Holocaust, that one of our departmental faculty members included on an exam earlier this semester. 

We understand and share the feelings of outrage, hurt, and disappointment expressed by many within our community. The use of such a question is indefensible and antithetical to the core values and aspirations we hold for our department, for our discipline, and for our profession. We profoundly regret the use of this question and the harm it has caused.

This incident makes us more acutely aware of the critical work we need to do to address the broader systemic inequities and injustices that hinder full participation and success in our courses and in our field. We commit ourselves to doing this urgent work and to earning your trust and confidence in our ability to create a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students. We begin the work of listening and learning by inviting concerned students, faculty, and staff to a restorative circle (details to be shared when finalized).

This op-ed is signed by every faculty member of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. They are:

Richard Bunt 

Jeffrey Byers

Sunhee Choi

Robert Cluss

Molly Costanza-Robinson

 Michele Dube

Lesley-Ann Giddings

James Larrabee

 Stephen Oster

Lindsay Repka

Mary Jane Simpson

AnGayle Vasiliou

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “We Apologize For Offensive Test Question”

  1. Arno Concis on April 11th, 2019 8:19 am

    Apologize for what? The department didn’t write the question, a single professor did. I can only speculate what led him to craft such an offensive question, but I sincerely doubt the department had anything to do with it. If the department did, explain that. Otherwise, any “apology” smacks of grandstanding.

  2. An alum on April 11th, 2019 11:44 am

    These struggle sessions get rougher every year

  3. Morgan Evans on April 12th, 2019 8:01 am

    The Chem Dept is virtue signaling and has lost perspective. The question clearly stated the Holocaust was “horrific”. Within that framework, learning about the Holocaust through a STEM class is appropriate & useful. If we don’t learn how mass murder was horribly executed how are we to learn from it and avoid it?

    Instead of cheap virtue signaling, the more difficult & historical conversation that should be occurring on Midd Campus is that chemists misused their knowledge & developed a cheap, effective, & horrific way to achieve mass slaughter. Furthermore, all knowledge can be misused. How might we be doing that today?

    Background: a parent and strong supporter of STEM education (PhD, Physics 1996, practicing physicist ever since), I’m very concerned that our son is taught STEM thoughtfully and with perspective.




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We Apologize For Offensive Test Question