Celebrating the Truth – 10.08.21

Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff,

You may remember the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s book 1984. They had the job to rewrite history, so it fit the propaganda. It was where Winston Smith worked, who became so disgusted with his assignment and society that he sought to escape, and find the real truth (unfortunately, with no happy ending).

I wonder often what is ‘real’. When I need something unequivocal, the maple tree in my yard is a help – the rough bark under each finger and the view up the high trunk confirm with every sense that this is real. But assessing the truth behind news reports, history, or anecdotes is so difficult that ‘fake news’ is now a scholarly field.

On Monday, we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Associate Dean Randall Hughes writes: as of last year, Northeastern University observes Indigenous Peoples’ Day, as do multiple regional municipalities, to honor Indigenous Peoples including the local Massachusett and Wampanoag tribes. The state of MA and the federal government continue to recognize the holiday as Columbus Day. In the spirit of celebrating the truth, we encourage you to contemplate and acknowledge the violence towards Native Americans by Columbus and fellow colonists, and the continued marginalization of Indigenous Peoples in MA and beyond. In the College of Science, our commitment to a culture of respect and action towards equity is unwavering.

Monday is also the running of the Boston Marathon, and it’s great to see this return. The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) faced criticism for selecting this time, as disrespectful of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which is observed in communities along the route. In response, the BAA issued an apology. This statement also outlined important commitments for honoring the truth of Indigenous peoples’ past and continuing presence in the region. If you watch the race, listen for the land acknowledgement at the start, and look for banners and celebration of Indigenous runners Ellison Brown, Patti Catalano Dillon, and Tom Longboat.

We try to find the real truth in Science research. Sometimes we succeed brilliantly, as vaccines demonstrate. While we hope that no Ministry of Truth is rewriting the origin of SARS-CoV-2, there is necessary checking and sometimes retraction of ‘untrue’ data that is inconsistent or fabricated. I teach my trainees to repeat an experiment enough to know in their hearts that the findings are reproducible and valid. Research data seldom shouts, it whispers to us, and we have to listen closely to find its real truth. When we do, the understanding can have stunning outcomes. The ‘good Power of Science’ seeks what is real, truthful and ethical, and in the Northeastern College of Science, we are proud to be part of that landscape.

Best regards,

dean signature

Hazel Sive PhD
Dean, College of Science
Northeastern University