Osiris Rankin

Osiris Rankin

DIB Fellow
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What are you most proud of as a DIB fellow?

I think it’s the lecture that is named for Dr. Jim Sidanius.

I’m actually not the one who formally suggested that we name a talk for Dr. Sidanius and that it be on his topic of power and social inequality. I had mentioned it to others in the past to encourage grassroots support. I may have mentioned something about the general topic at a meeting, but it was another member of the DIB committee, a faculty member I hadn’t spoken with about the issue, who strongly suggested that we name the talk for Dr. Sidanius. It may seem small. What’s in a name or in a suggestion at a committee. For me, it was a powerful moment to know that I wasn’t the only one who believed strongly enough in this lecture—and in Dr. Sidanius’s importance--to suggest name an annual guest lecture on social inequality in his honor.

The next step was faculty approval, and it’s my understanding that the faculty unanimously voted in favor of the proposal. Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt of Stanford was the inaugural speaker. She was a perfect fit. She studies the consequences of psychological associations between race and crime, and her work has practical and scientific implications. Dr. Eberhardt was the winner of the 2014 MacArthur award, and she received her PhD in Psychology from Harvard University. Her talk was phenomenal, even on Zoom. Dr. Sidanius was in attendance. He received a lengthy introduction and that included well-earned praised for his life’s work. He was soon to be retiring, so it was especially poignant. The whole event was a moment in the sun.

Dr. Sidanius passed away within the year. Had we waited another year, he would not have known that we were going to create a lecture in his honor. I wish that he was still with us. A lecture doesn’t change that. It does mean something to me on a personal level though. He got to see that first inaugural lecture. His colleagues unanimously approved the motion. He was publicly recognized, and the broad focus of his work continues to have a place here with us.

Dr. Sidanius also impacted our department through his teaching, which emphasized stating smart things simply. His teaching style was personal. He adjusted the speed of his teaching to match the speed of our learning. It was personal for me, too, to learn from him. I am a Black male student who has had so few Black male teachers of any kind. To learn from a person of his stature and care was a joy.

He also improved the department by bringing in truly impactful students. One of them was Dr. Sa-Kiera Hudson. As a graduate student, Dr. Hudson was invited to serve on Harvard Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging. Dr. Hudson improved our institution. She and the Task Force identified specific points of improvement and plans of action. One of their areas of focus was to address a lack of diversity in names and symbols on campus. The reasoning was that symbols signify importance. Names tell stories of who belongs, whose work counts, and who is worth celebrating. Our names say who we are.

Dr. Sidanius was a legend in political and social psychology. He made our department a better place. Having his legacy maintained is deeply meaningful to me. This annual lecture celebrates Dr. Sidanius,  who we are as a department, and who we will be going forward.

Photo of Jennifer Eberhardt
Jennifer Eberhardt
Photo of Jim Sidanius
Jim Sidanius


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