Message from the director
June 5, 2020
To the Stanford ISCBRM community:
It is sad to realize that despite over 60 years of intense and embattled civil rights movements here in the US, the lives and livelihoods of black individuals and others of color are still viewed and treated through the lens of racist beliefs, beliefs not only held by individuals, but by governmental institutions both local and national. The recorded murders of George Floyd and many others have kindled the community to respond with peaceful assembly and protests. But at all levels of government, especially the Presidency, equal rights to assemble and protest have already been limited by the executive branch, and the threat of military suppression of the citizenry by executive actions brings the stakes even higher—the potential loss of our democracy. What has been a common theme in military dictatorships has become a possibility here. But even this threat should not end the assembly and protests of all of us to bring justice and fairness even to each local police department in the US. If we stop, the lessons of the dictatorships will be a sad part of our future.
It is especially gratifying that people of all colors are active in these demonstrations. But we should acknowledge that after the protests each day, and even in those days before and after protests, black and brown people in the US every day, all day, return to lives in which they are the subject of racism and its effects on them and their families. We all need to learn and understand what that means from those that are under the yoke of racism. I learned long ago when I led an anti-war assembly here at Stanford that it is easy to underestimate the insights brought out by those who in daily life, in war, and even in pandemics, can articulate most clearly how they are affected. We need to hear and learn from our community, and we need to respond. Then, perhaps, we can participate in the processes to erase racism and the effects of racism on the opportunities that should be granted to all. We can start with the vigil at 5pm today [see below]. But these conversations should not be limited to a vigil, so I request that we start our own web of communications, which could result in a Town Hall. I hope first to hear from members of our community who are black, or chicano, or others whose lives every day are different due to racism.
I want to end this with a special plea. For 20 years I was the premed advisor for Chicano and Native American Stanford undergrads, and it was gratifying to see how they returned to serve their communities. But only a few of them became academics. If some of you do not become academics, we will not be able to understand how to reverse the obvious lack of commensurate numbers of black and brown research and clinical leaders in our biomedical research institutions. I hope you will consider this as you evaluate your own career trajectories. I know directly many of you who clearly have the potential to do so. I was also lucky enough to watch one of my own MSTP students, Sam Cheshier, move up the scientific and academic ladder here at Stanford in Neurosurgery and now at the University of Utah. To start the conversations I have asked him to describe his own background, his journey, and the barriers he perceived and perceives need to be broken down. He will send us his thoughts within a few days.
Message from the co-directors and staff
June 5, 2020
Dear Stem Cell Institute Community:
In this difficult time when we are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and building resumption, our way of learning, conducting research and managing the Institute has changed significantly as we try to keep up with this ever-changing volatile environment and world. The directors and staff of the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine ask you to respect the wishes of the Floyd family today and take a breath for peace, for justice, to help heal our country and for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
Stanford is a community of respect, respect for ourselves and for each other. We are a community that cares for each other and that supports one another. Preventing racial injustice and inequality in our community is a responsibility that we all share, one that starts within each one of us. It’s not just a peoples of color issue and we cannot pretend it’s not an issue. It’s on all of us to promote a culture of respect, to do the right thing and to support the people around us.
We all need to communicate better and more often. Talk with your co-workers, students and faculty and listen. Be there for each other. Talk about your experiences, ask questions, and make a sincere effort to understand each other’s perspectives. Help each other to understand these perspectives, and how we each want to be viewed by others. Help each other to think about the words we use. WORDS MATTER. If you see inequalities or hear injustices, call them out, don’t let that be part of our culture. Most importantly, don’t be a bystander. If you see something, say something, stand up and intervene.
The Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine is our home away from home, and our colleagues are our family. It’s not you and me. It’s not them against us. It is us. What happens here affects us all, so lead by example. It is on us to create the relationships and the community we want here at Stanford and in our Institute. Everyone should feel welcome and safe in their home away from home and community.
In these difficult moments, this is a time to listen attentively, to accept the discomfort of our own deficiencies, and to have productive and long-lasting conversations which will impact how we move forward. To this end, please attend the Vigil for Black Lives TODAY at 5PM. The event will be livestreamed.
The Institute is committed to align our actions around compassion and intention to better help the University and School of Medicine achieve their mission, and to ensure long-term realignment continues to reshape these principles: Justice, Equity, Peace, Respect, and Empathy. We intend to follow the momentum generated by the tragic events of the past weeks to assemble a committee of faculty, staff, postdocs and students to share our thoughts about equality for all, and to plan for reform in the way we conduct our processes.
In a separate letter, Dr. Weissman requests that we start our own web of communications, which will result in a Town Hall. Thank you in advance for participating in this, and for carrying the conversation forward with a commitment to change.
Institute Directors and Staff