Statement from the Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences

Dear DBBS Community Members,  

We write you today in solidarity with the many emotions you may be feeling at this time—outrage, fear, anger, sorrow, grief—given the current state of affairs in our country and world. We have to stand together with the victims of murder, marginalization, anti-Blackness, and oppression because of their skin color- especially those in the Black community – and with those who seek justice through protests across our country. We are so proud of all the protesters taking to the streets in George Floyd’s name and against police brutality all over the country. This movement is so brave, risking infection and injury so that this story and others are told and justice is demanded. In order to sustain changes, we all, especially white folks, need to be committed to adopting anti-racist ideologies and practices. We believe it is the responsibility of those with privilege to commit to and do this work to make changes in our current system. 

This month alone we saw in six parts of America, six different scenes of racism played out in front of all of us.  George Floyd, Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Tony McDade- it is important to say their names and recognize their humanity and personhood. Alarmingly, these are just instances that received national attention or had video footage. Although the national dialogue has increased over the past few years due high-profile cases of police brutality and murder in the media, little to no change has been actualized to address racist policy or social norms. In June, we nationally observe LGBTQ+ Pride Month. In this moment, it important to remember that the first LGBTQ+ Pride, at the Stonewall Inn in June 1969, was a riot led by trans women of color against police violence. State-sanctioned violence and police brutality are issues that affect many communities. Liberation for one marginalized group cannot happen in isolation, we rely on community.  

We recognize that in order for students to be allowed to bring their full, authentic selves to their labs and programs, we need to be aware of the social conditions outside of DBBS. We are here for you as students, scientists, and people. We have kept returning to Audre Lorde’s quote, “Without community, there is no liberation.” We hope to continue to build a DBBS community that seeks to empower and recognize all identities and experiences. As part of this effort, we are building and continuing to:  

A.      collect and curate resources for DBBS community members to engage with. We hope these resources will encourage growth, connection, and meaningful change. We have provided a list of events and resources at the bottom of this email and these will be available on our website;  

B.      develop and launch two newly created mini-courses/online journal clubs on Resiliency & Racial Injustice and Inequity. These mini-courses/journal clubs will not be for credit, but will have registration start and end dates. In the next two weeks, we will be releasing registration for our Resiliency journal club. Please refer to our webpage or sign-up emails from your program coordinator.  

C.      follow through and implement the AAMC’s restorative justice pilot program in which DBBS and MSTP students will be participating in next year. The SOM Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, jointly with the DBBS Office, submitted a proposal for the request for applications for the Restorative Justice in Academic Medicine (RJAM) program in mid-April. This program, selecting five pilot institutions, is a supplemental/alternative process for academic health centers to build community and address mistreatment and misconduct. In late May, we received notice that WUSM has been selected as a pilot institution. All DBBS and MTP students will participate in this program in fall of 2021.  

D.     & assess and address climate and climate-related issues within DBBS. In 2017, DBBS began systematically collecting information on climate and culture in our programs and division. We have done this through our 2017 Climate Survey, subsequent focus groups, and other surveys and assessments. We had been working on releasing a plan addressing our climate this spring. We know that addressing bias needs to begin with our students and community. However, we feel strongly that without collecting data on the COVID-19 pandemic and experiences during this time of unrest that our plan would not adequately address the various needs of our student body. Hence, we need to gather feedback in various forms (e.g. listening sessions/focus groups, surveys, etc.) from our community members so this plan is thoughtful and informed by all of our community’s needs. We plan on releasing this full plan to you in the fall of 2020. This strategic plan will include action items, assessment metrics, and targets for addressing our climate, culture, and training in regards to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

We recognize that many of us are feeling deeply affected by the racial injustices present in our society, which have continued to persist systemically for generations. We feel, as DBBS leaders, it is important that we show-up for the community and provide support, tangible resources, and reinforce our commitment to this movement. We want to assure you that DBBS staff is here for you. 

If you would like to arrange a time to chat about current events, how we can best support you and your fellow students, build our community, or simply touch-base, please let us know. We understand that focusing on your science at this time may be difficult. Should you encounter any issues, we are here to support you. 

“People over property.  
People over product.  
People over profit.” – Rachel Cargle  

Black Lives Matter.  

In Solidarity,  
Robyn, Cami, Anna, Jessica, Andrew, Joel, and Rosie

Educational, Community and Support Resources

We recognize there may be paralysis in not knowing what to do at this time. We want to highlight some recommendations and resources that you can use. While this is not an exhaustive list or checklist, this is a place to start.

As a note in a movement for justice and equity, we recognize this means there will be a diversity of tactics and we must support and center those most directly affected by these issues. Supporting and centering the movement can take many different shapes and forms- there is no one way to do this work given we all have differing limits, boundaries, and traumas we carry with us. This means we will intentionally take care to not put others in harm’s way with our actions, especially those who are most vulnerable. Similarly, we should work to support those in leadership who are affected by these issues. Those of us with privileges should shoulder risks and burdens when others cannot. Talk to people who are in the fight with you. The stronger our community is the more difficult it is to divide us. 

For All  

WashU Community Events and Resources

WUSM Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

WUSM Town Hall: Dr. Sherree Wilson and Dr. Will Ross have scheduled a Town Hall meeting on Monday, June 8th from 5-7 p.m. to continue this critical discussion of who we are and what we stand for, as well as what can we do during this time.  Please join as we facilitate this discussion
Link: https://wustl-hipaa.zoom.us/j/92667973106  
Meeting ID: 926 6797 31062 

Statements and Articles from WUSM Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI)

Statements from WashU Center for Diversity and Inclusion: “We Must Say Their Names,” “A Letter for Sean and Ahmaud,” and “COVID-19 Open Letter”: https://students.wustl.edu/letter-cdi/ 

Virtual Programming

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion is collaborating with campus partners to provide the following virtual programs. Registration information can be found here for CDI’s programming

  1. International Student Dialogue: “Understanding the U.S. Context of Current Political Protests in the Wake of George Floyd’s Death” on June 9, 3-4:30 p.m.
  2. A Gathering Space for Action on June 12 (Students Only)
  3. White Allyship Workshop on June 17, 2-3:30 p.m. (Open to All) 
  4. Student Initiated Summer Purpose Project for Racial Justice (Students Only) – TBA
  5. Summer Racial Equity and Justice Workshops (Students Only) -TBA 
  6. Summer Education Series on Race, Ethnicity, & Gender(with Vice Provost Adrienne Davis) (Students Only) -TBA
  7. The Racism Pandemic Town Hall Series (Open to all) 
    I. June 18, 2-3 p.m. – The Racism Pandemic Town Hall:  Is It Juneteenth Yet? 
    II. July 23, 2-3 p.m. – The Racism Pandemic Town Hall:  Athletes of Color & Athletics in 2020  
    III. August 20, 2-3 p.m. –The Racism Pandemic Town Hall:  Who is an Essential Worker? 
    IV. September 24, 2-3 p.m. – The Racism Pandemic Town Hall: Revisiting the Asian Pacific Islander and Desi American (APIDA) Experience in College
    V.Other topics for the academic year will include: Gender Identity, Educational Access, The Silenced Experiences of Women of Color, Mixed Race, etc. 

If you would like to get involved with protest taking place in the St. Louis community, please refer to these resources

  • Expect Us page: Expect Us is for organizers to connect with others and build bridges with the St. Louis community
  • Resist STL page: Resist STL utilizes their social media pages to aggregate resistance in St. Louis
  • Protest Against Police Murder – June 7 @ 2 p.m.
    Information from the event page: “Recently, there has been quite a bit of media coverage surrounding those that have lost their lives in the hands of American police officers. There has also been an abundant amount of police murders that have NOT been aired by the media. In response, Join us on June 7, 2020, @2PM to PEACEFULLY Protest the Police MURDERS occurring within our country. SOCIAL DISTANCING WILL BE PRACTICED. So, bring your masks, your signs, and your voices.”  
    For those looking to donate, feel free to send funds to Venmo/CashApp for protest organizers to purchase PPE and water bottles for participants: Cashapp: $againstpolicemurder, Venmo:  @againstpolicemurder
    If there are any funds remaining that are not utilized for supplies for the rally, the funds will be donated directly to:  Know Your Rights Camp, Northstar Health Collective (Medics), NAACP
    Similarly, a group of independent individuals will be collecting and distributing PPE, water bottles at the rally: Sign-up to provide PPE or water bottles and drop-off, Sign-up to join for distribution at protest at 1pm on Sunday the 7th. We ask that, if you want to participate in this action, to please respond to these forms by Saturday, June 6 at 12pm.

For Black folks in our community

We are working to do better and you deserve better. We’ve compiled some resources to support Black mental health at this time:  

White folks, Non-Black folks, and folks looking to engage with anti-racist materials

What you can do 

Educate yourself: Every hour you spend on your own reading anti-racist resources, practicing skills to speak up against racism and racist ideology, etc. is an hour Black folks can be resting, mourning, healing without praising you or educating you. It is not the responsibility of oppressed people to teach you about their oppression.  

Anti-Racist education resources: You may refer to resources provided by the School of Medicine’s Upper Leadership- Dean Perlmutter, Vice Chancellor and Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Wilson, and Associate Vice Chancellor Stanton:  

Additionally, we recommend these resources:  

Donate, act and speak up: Every action we take is another opportunity to show by example what allyship and being anti-racist can look like in action. You can do this by speaking out against racism or white supremist ideology, teaching your kids/family/friends, donating, being politically active, protesting, etc.  

Speaking Up and Action Resources:  

Organizations committed to this work:  

  • Arch City Defenders (STL): ArchCity Defenders (ACD) is a holistic legal advocacy organization that combats the criminalization of poverty and state violence, especially in communities of color. ACD’s foundation of civil and criminal legal representation, social services, impact litigation, policy and media advocacy, and community collaboration achieves and inspires justice and equitable outcomes for people throughout the St. Louis region and beyond
  • STL Anti-Racism Organizing Collective (STL)STL-AROC works to become a force for mutual work among whites and non-Black folks doing anti-racist organizing in ongoing, multiracial, multinational movement-building
  • National Bail Out Collective (National)The National Bail Out collective is a Black-led and Black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists building a community-based movement to support our folks and end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration
  • American Civil Liberties Union (National)The ACLU dares to create a more perfect union — beyond one person, party, or side. Our mission is to realize this promise of the United States Constitution for all and expand the reach of its guarantees
  • Black Lives Matter (National)By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives
  • Black Trans Advocacy Coalition (National)Established in 2011, The Black Trans Advocacy Coalition (BTAC) is the only national organization led by Black Trans people to collectively address the inequities faced in the Black Transgender human experience
  • Collection of petitions and protesting resources

This isn’t about your feelings: If you are tired of hearing about racism, police brutality, and protest, imagine how Black folks feel! While we understand there is shame and guilt, it is your responsibility to turn those feelings of shame and guilt into thoughtful actions.