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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

June 8, 2020

Genetics Department Public Statement of Solidarity

The graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and staff in the Genetics Department at Stanford University express our solidarity with Black community members at Stanford and beyond. The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, David McAtee, Nina Pop, and too many other Black people are heart-breaking and unconscionable. These events have re-emphasized the ongoing racial injustices that Black people face and the struggle for police reform, criminal justice reform, and ending the murder of Black people. We share the outrage, anguish, and grief expressed by the Black community while recognizing that these recent events and underlying systemic racism affect us unequally. We commit ourselves to caring for our community and creating an equitable and empowering space that supports all department members, especially Black department members.

We support The Movement For Black Lives’ goal to reform police measures, and commit to supporting this change on the Stanford University campus through direct advocacy to the School of Medicine and University administrations.

Moreover, we stand with the Black community at Stanford in condemning the countless acts of anti-Black racism that go unrecognized and unresolved every day, including the recent use of racial slurs by Stanford faculty.

We acknowledge the grief and anguish felt by many of our community members, especially Black community members, as we mourn the losses of far too many Black people. We recognize that trainees and staff need more support than the department currently provides. As a first measure, the Genetics Department commits to supporting trainees in taking extra time to complete coursework and/or research responsibilities, staff in time in their work efforts. We will also advocate for these policies to the School of Medicine and University administrations on behalf of all trainees and staff at Stanford. Moreover, we commit to facilitating ongoing conversations within the department to determine how best to support our trainees and staff during this time.

We recognize that there is still much work to be done to fight systemic racism and advocate for the rights of Black people, both within Stanford and our larger communities. As a community, we commit to reading, listening to, and amplifying the voices of Black individuals, while also working to unlearn the racist, white supremacist rhetoric that pervades American society. We acknowledge that there is no space for indifference or silence on this issue while recognizing that this statement has not included the specific actions we will take to fight racism within our department. To address this, we held the first in a series of quarterly department-wide Town Halls to solicit anonymous feedback from department members. We also created a task force comprised of faculty, trainees, and staff that will work with the Black community and local organizations to develop and implement anti-racist measures. We will make the first round of these specific actions public by the end of June.

We hope that all community members, especially Black community members, are keeping well at this time. We see you, we support you, and we stand in solidarity with you. 

Sincerely,

The Genetics Department at Stanford University


Message from the Department Chair


Message from Michael P. Snyder
June 3, 2020

I write to express my personal distress over the pattern of racial injustice that has haunted our nation and was witnessed most recently in the death of George Floyd. This pattern is clearly unacceptable. The recent events have been particularly disturbing to the Black community, and we all must condemn and reject them. The latest event, on top of a pandemic that disproportionately affects communities of color, is terribly disturbing. We should all do our best not only to make all members of our community feel welcome and thrive, but to take a stand against injustice.

The Genetics Department values diversity at all levels and historically has embraced a diverse community. This diversity is part of our strength. We hope to make everyone feel welcome and supported, regardless of race, color, or personal background. We also hope to create opportunities and advances for the betterment of humankind. Our department strives continuously to diversify its programs through the enrollment and support of diverse graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and staff. We have devoted considerable resources to this endeavor, including outreach programs and a summer diversity research program. Additionally, many faculty, post docs, and graduate students in our program actively participate in diversity programs and research. But there is still much more work to do.

We need to make sure that all of our community feel supported, especially our Black citizens and others of color. Please be aware that there are support systems to help people in need.

Sincerely,

Mike Snyder

Specific Action Items  June 30, 2020

Collectively with input from many trainees and department members, we are taking these specific actions to work towards creating an anti-racist, equitable department. This is not an exhaustive list of the actions necessary to achieve this goal, but we hope that the stated projects will provide the foundation for change. We will continue to update this page as we develop additional projects.

 

Short term projects

Service requirement (completed): Enact a service requirement for Genetics PhD program.

Resource curation: Curate resources and project information that can be shared on an outward-facing portal to benefit advocacy efforts in other departments and institutions. This includes updating the department website to include anti-racism efforts and content.

Campus police reform: Critically discuss and consider supporting the petition put forward by the BLSA about campus police reform.

Communications: Develop methods to broadly foster dialogue across the department.

Anti-racism education: Coordinate department-level anti-racist education facilitated by the Genetics Department and the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity, most likely in three phases. The first phase would involve a faculty-only structural racism 101, in an attempt to recognize existing oppressive structures and the effect on trainees. The second phase would be a virtual-retreat for the department as a whole, including incoming students. The third phase would involve ongoing discussions and education.

Student tracking: Understand why interview candidates choose other schools and follow the trajectory of current and former students in order to address issues related to graduate retention. Collect and analyze data about applicants, those who accept offers, and those who matriculate to provide identify the shortcomings of our diversity and advocacy initiatives. 

 

Long-term projects

Retention and wellness: Aggregate and create a centralized, easily accessible repository of mental health resources for trainees, staff, and faculty. Survey incoming, current, and former students on mental health and retention topics. Provide resiliency training for incoming students during training camp.

  • Ethics: Ensure ongoing education of trainees, faculty, and staff on ethical issues within the field of genetics. Focus on the ethics of (1) the conduct of genetic research involving vulnerable and underrepresented populations, both past and present; and (2) the contemporary use of personal genetic data in healthcare and the consumer sphere. Develop persisting frameworks to provide education in a classroom, seminar, and/or discussion setting.

  • Department conversations: Foster ongoing conversations about diversity-related issues in the department. Invite speakers who study issues related to justice and inequality to speak at our “Current Issues in Genetics” seminars on a monthly basis, and in department-wide workshops. Host quarterly Town Halls and start a monthly lunchtime discussion group for diversity and inclusion-related issues and experiences, to serve as a listening and support group as well as action-planning when appropriate.

  • Training camp: Redesign the department's training camp, a week-long program for incoming PhD students, to introduce fundamental skills for their success in the program. Evaluate new topics for inclusion in the training camp curriculum including self-advocacy training, information about student support resources, and discussions about the societal impact of genetic research.

  • Outreach and recruitment: Facilitate Stanford Genetics faculty talks, virtually or in-person, at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other universities composed of predominantly underrepresented minorities (URMs). When faculty speak at external universities, publicize talks to URM groups, and encourage a "meet the speaker" component. Hold graduate student info sessions and Q&As with students from underrepresented backgrounds and discuss topics including graduate school and PhD careers, the field of Genetics, the environment at Stanford University, how to get involved in research, and the PhD application process.

  • Seminar series: Increase diversity of speakers at Stanford Genetics seminars. Increase the diversity of speakers and attendees of conferences held at Stanford.

  • PhD admissions process: Identify areas for improved equity in graduate admissions with respect to applications, application review, recruitment/interview weekend, and direct communication and support for applicants.




Genetics Advocacy Team

The GAC has many active projects to improve equity and inclusion in the department. Have questions? Email the leadership team.

GAC Slack workspace

Join us on Slack! Anyone affiliated with Genetics is welcome to join, participate in discussions, and/or sign up to work on specific projects.

  1. Search for “geneticsadvocacy” at stanford.enterprise.slack.com, or follow this link. SUNet ID required.

  2. Click "request to join".

  3. Say hi in the #general channel! There is also a pinned post in #general with info on other channels you can join.



STEM Undergrad Outreach

Our graduate student-led one-hour session aims to reach students who might not have considered graduate school. We will have a short presentation about what doing a PhD looks like, why might someone want to do a PhD, and how to get into graduate school. This will follow with a Q&A session, the main part of the program. While this program is led by Genetics PhD students, there may also be panelists from Biosciences programs across Stanford. This program is intended for a professor-led class/group of undergraduates, and has zero associated costs. Interested? Sign up here and we will contact you.