DSRB Anti-Racism Committee Statement of Purpose

The tragic and troubling deaths of members of the Black community have most poignantly highlighted the persistent and pervasive issue of systemic racism in our country and in academic science. We seek to dismantle institutionalized and societal barriers that exclude Black and People of Color (POC) from entering science and hinder their success within the field. The onus of dismantling racism should be shouldered collectively, especially by those who have been successful because of white privilege. We, the members of DSRB, believe drastic and ongoing measures are required to remedy these issues.

To make long-lasting change, we will implement policies and initiatives aimed to end racism and to promote inclusivity at Penn, currently focusing on two key areas:

  1. Create an inclusive scientific culture that bolsters the support and retention of Black scientists and POC at Penn. We believe that the scientific culture at Penn must undergo a significant shift towards a safer and more inclusive environment that adequately supports its Black and POC students, post-docs, and faculty.
    1. Create a more inclusive scientific culture. According to the 2017 and 2019 Penn BGS inclusivity surveys, many Black scientists and POC in BGS have experienced racial discrimination, evidence of a non-supportive and hostile work environment. To better support and retain our Black scientists and POC, we propose the following initiatives:
      1. DSRB students and faculty will collaborate to design an engaging annual training for students and faculty, similar to the RCR-like case study trainings. During this academic year, the training will focus on recognizing racial bias and microaggressions in academic settings, and learning how to effectively intervene.
      2. We will establish a policy for reporting and handling incidents of racism, including microaggressions, that occur within the DSRB graduate program, which will standardize how the DSRB administration responds to reports of racial bias or racist behavior. This policy will focus on accountability and transparency to ensure that racism does not go unchecked.
      3. We will yearly incorporate anti-racism literature into our DSRB lunch programming where we as a community discuss primary literature on racism in the United States and academia.
      4. We will establish monthly meetings with other diversity/inclusion committees within CAMB and BGS to combine our forces and voices for change.
    2. Support the advancement of Black scientists and scientists of color at Penn. Disparities in racial representation are prevalent in DSRB and CAMB, particularly in the distribution of faculty and tenured faculty (Figure 1).
      1. We will advocate for increased resources, spending, and exposure for the Office of Research and Diversity Training (ORDT) led by Assistant Dean Arnaldo Diaz-Vasquez, PhD and Associate Director Linnet Ramos, PhD. A primary goal of this office is to recruit and support the training and development of Black and POC students and postdocs at Penn. We propose that Penn commit to triple the funding of the ORDT to scale up its current efforts, including in recruiting postdocs of color to Penn.
      2. We commit to participating in the programming of the ORDT, including hosting student and faculty panels on graduate school for underrepresented students.
      3. We commit to inviting one of our two annual DSRB student-invited seminar speakers to be from an underrepresented background.
  2. Engage with our surrounding communities to improve Black and POC representation in STEM. We believe that Penn has a responsibility to improve the representation of Black students and students of color in academic science by investing in their education and engagement. We propose the following initiatives:
    1. In conjunction with the ORDT, we have created the pilot program, CAMB: Path to Graduate School. In this program, we have invited students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to the CAMB Symposium to engage with scientific research at Penn and network with Penn scientists. Following the CAMB symposium, students will be invited to participate in programming events that focus on the following topics: what is graduate school, how to apply to graduate and professional schools, and summer research programs and internships. In addition to the programmed events, students will be paired with a graduate student mentor.
    2. We will lobby the Penn Medicine administration to allocate funds for summer internships for students who participate in the CAMB: Path to Graduate School Program.
    3. We commit to mentoring young Black students and students of color from the Philadelphia area to assist with recruitment towards advanced degrees in STEM.

Fundamental changes are required now, and ongoing work is necessary to end the systemic racism that exists at Penn and in academic science. As a result, we commit to continuously update this statement of purpose as initiatives further develop or change. DSRB is committed to dismantling institutionalized and societal racism against Black people and people of color at Penn. We pledge to attack these deeply ingrained injustices and rebuild our community as anti-racist, and to create a community that fosters a sense of safety and belonging among all its members.

Sincerely,

DSRB Student Anti-Racism Committee: David Sidibe, Elizabeth Gallagher, Jayme Nordin, Joel Rurik, Maya Hale, Sarah Gagnon
DSRB Faculty Anti-Racism Committee: Drs. Montserrat Anguera, Greg Bashaw, Michael Granato, Raj Jain, Mary Mullins, Meera Sundaram