Investigations of bias and harassment in the academy have largely been focused on gender (and sometimes race), and are often framed in terms of STEM participation and inclusion. However, these experiences are not restricted to STEM fields, nor are they restricted to those experiencing racism and sexism; in fact, they can include factors such as sexual orientation, perceived English language proficiency, and disability.

Motivated by discussions in the field after some recent high profile cases of harassment, Dr. Namboodiripad and her collaborators conducted a survey of 1,415 linguists and language researchers, asking how individuals’ social identities have affected their experiences of harassment and bias. They end by sharing a living document of actions that individuals can take within their own spheres of influence to co-create a more just and inclusive future for linguistics.

As language research occurs in myriad departments — including biology, computer science, anthropology, philosophy, psychology — they believe that this survey will resonate across fields, and can serve as a model for comparison across the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities.

This work was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Corrine Occhino (Rochester Institute of Technology), Dr. Lynn Hou (UC Santa Barbara), and Dr. Hayley Heaton, Marjorie Herbert, & Dominique Canning (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor). The study was partially supported by an NCID Grant to Support Research & Scholarship for Change, and will be presented at the 2019 Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting.

Savithry Namboodiripad earned her PhD from the University of California, San Diego, and her BA and MA from the University of Chicago. She grew up speaking Malayalam in Minnesota, and her research explores how social structure shapes language use, variation, and emergence, particularly in multilingual post-colonial and immigrant contexts. Her teaching interests include linguistic discrimination and language policy, and she's currently part of a collaboration looking at climate issues in linguistics.

The National Center for Institutional Diversity Research and Scholarship Seminar Series features scholars who have furthered our understanding of historical and contemporary social issues related to identity, difference, culture, representation, power, oppression, and inequality — as they occur and affect individuals, groups, communities, and institutions. The series also highlights how research and scholarship can be applied to address current and contemporary diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in higher education and society.