Over a year ago, a long-overdue social awakening, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and active anti-racism efforts, gave many of us hope for a better future. In the framework of that hope, the ongoing violence against Black people in our country is all the more painful to witness.
The recent murder of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, a few miles from the trial for the murder of George Floyd, has triggered painful and infuriating emotions, and we recognize there have been many other senseless killings of Black people not mentioned in this note. While justice has been served in the conviction of Derek Chauvin, we acknowledge the ongoing suffering of our Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPoC) friends, colleagues, and students. But today, we specifically stand in solidarity with our Black community members.
Words alone cannot heal the pain or solve the problem. The continual acts of violence against the Black community reflect our failings as a society that is steeped in structural and systemic racism. To honor the memory of those lost to this violence and to acknowledge the exhaustion and pain of the BIPoC community, all members of our university must come together to do what we do best — open minds, think critically, solve problems, and act in the best interest of our Black friends, colleagues, and students. The challenges are monumental, and solutions will require sustained effort and commitment on the part of many.
CNS reaffirms its commitment to this important work, but the success of these efforts can only be realized if all members of our college engage, beginning from wherever we are in our DEI work. Please see below for an update on the ongoing DEI efforts in CNS and for ways in which you can individually make a difference. And, most important, please care for yourself by taking the time to rest, connect with friends, and engage with resources for support.
Tricia Serio, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences
Brenda Barlow, Assistant Academic Dean
Elizabeth Connor, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education
Nilanjana “Buju” Dasgupta, Director of Faculty Equity and Inclusion
Peter L. Holden, Associate Dean for Administration, Finance & Operations
Leo Hwang, Assistant Academic Dean
Jody Jellison, Director, Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment
Jennifer McDermott, Director of Diversity & Inclusion for Graduate & Postdoctoral Scholars
Maureen Perry-Jenkins, Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences
Rachel Rosenfeld, Director of Human Resources
Mark Tuominen, Associate Dean of Research and Innovation
Karen Whelan-Berry, Director of Faculty Development and Programs
Linda M. Ziegenbein, Interim Director, CNS Office of Student Success and Diversity
What exactly has CNS been doing?
Over the past year, CNS has organized its efforts in four areas:
- Raising awareness through a documentary screening, book club, invited lectures on achieving inclusive excellence, and focus group discussions.
- Seeking funding to transform our educational and recruiting practices through grant applications to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Institutes of Health.
- Facilitating systemic engagement by organizing and funding the work of climate advisory committees in every academic unit in the college and recognizing outstanding contributions with college-level awards for faculty, staff and students.
- Developing programs to provide mentoring for our graduate students of color beginning fall 2021 and establishing a summer funding fellowship starting in 2022 for graduate students of color.
How can you help?
- Center the needs and experiences of BIPoC members of our community by listening, acknowledging what you hear, and reflecting on it. This includes having discussions that are honest and call people in, with ALL members engaging in active listening with the motivation to better understand and the willingness to try practices that may feel uncomfortable and different from past traditions and customs in our departments. Let's challenge ourselves to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, to resist the inertia of the status quo.
- Commit to self-assessment by joining an assessment and accountability group in CNS this summer. While this type of personal exploration may take us to places where we feel defensive, tired, uncomfortable, and angry, this is the work that we must do to reach our aspirations. We will provide more details in the coming weeks, but please feel free to reach out to Professor Maureen Perry-Jenkins with your ideas and questions.
- Educate yourself on the history of systemic racism in this country and in your discipline. Then take the necessary steps to undo the processes that have disadvantaged and harmed BIPoC communities and move forward with justice, equity, and inclusion at the forefront of how you contribute to our community. Participating in our upcoming book club (where we are reading Black, Brown, Bruised: How Racialized STEM Education Stifles Innovation, by Ebony Omotola McGee) is one place to start.
- Decide on at least one action that will take a step toward dismantling power and privilege in your own department by working with your climate advisory committee on its action plans.