Aug 14, 2020

Chair's Statement on Racism

Photo of a Black man's torso holding a board that says # Black Lives Matter in his hands

Scott Heximer

Photo of a Black man's torso holding a board that says # Black Lives Matter in his handsAs the world comes to grips with recent devastating events stemming from generations of inequity and racial injustice, I am grateful to members of our graduate student body for reminding me of the importance of speaking out. We are called upon, as intellectual leaders, to publicly stand in solidarity with members of the Black and Indigenous communities, to denounce discrimination in all forms, and work toward a future that provides equitable opportunity and justice for all. 

As members of one of the most prestigious Physiology departments in the world, it is incumbent upon us to look inward, to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism within the basic sciences and the University and, for those of us who benefit from this system, to reflect on the privileges it affords us. This awareness must then compel us to take a number of proactive steps toward identifying and addressing systemic inequities within our own community.   

I have spoken openly about the need for us to build a culture of caring and inclusion within our department. As part of this initiative, I am pleased to announce the formation of a new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee that will oversee future initiatives around anti-Black racism and other EDI-pertinent issues. I look forward to working with a broad cross-section of the department’s faculty, post-docs, students, and staff to identify and carry out meaningful initiatives that lead to real change. 

As a start, I commit to taking the following steps during the 2020/2021 school year in collaboration with the Physiology community. I will regularly communicate updates on our plans and progress:

1. Address systemic under-representation of Black and Indigenous faculty and learners in academia:

  • We will identify and support “Pathways” for under-represented high-school age students in the community who are interested in a career in Physiology.
  • We will establish a mentorship/sponsorship program for Black and Indigenous learners to assist in their career development and success.
  • We will continue to research best practices on recruiting Black and Indigenous faculty and apply these to our searches.
  • We will review our promotion and leadership appointment processes through an anti-racist and anti-oppression lens and make changes as needed.

2. Provide Anti-Racism Education to our Members:

  • We commit to educating our entire department about anti-racist practice and the value of diversity within the scientific community through platforms like our Annual Departmental Retreat and other Departmental Meetings.

3. Enhance wellbeing of under-represented faculty and learners:  

  • We will provide a safe and confidential reporting system for our members to bring forward their experiences with racism in the department, and, as needed, to provide culturally appropriate support mechanisms for affected individuals. 

The time to act is now. Let us work together to make our department and our University a more caring, diverse, and inclusive space to work and learn.