Dear UC Davis Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute and Bodega Marine Laboratory Community,
We will start with this: the lives of our Black students, staff, and faculty matter, as well as all other Black people in our communities and beyond. The long history of racial violence and inequity in the United States against Black people requires us to specifically pronounce our commitment to their health, safety, well-being and prosperity. Though discrimination extends to many other groups, the vitriol our systems hold for Black people is singular. There is a deep and diverse ocean of daily, weekly, monthly, annual and historical data showing that George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are not exceptional cases in the treatment of Black Americans by our institutions (Brentin Mock at City Lab has done some excellent journalism parsing the studies and data on police violence toward Black people, and our knowledge gaps). Even COVID-19 has highlighted our inequities.
To get closer to the truth, we have to admit our ignorance, our prejudices, our fears, our mistakes, and our frailty as humans. We have to commit to taking risks, changing course and reaching a higher level of understanding. It is analogous to becoming an athlete, where repeated practice builds our capacity for ever harder, more complex feats. Many of you are engaged in this process for science and discovery because you believe that knowledge makes us better. We encourage you to use these same skills that have helped you unravel the mysteries of nature, this same insatiable curiosity, to learn about the roots of current events and find your role in changing a system that harms our friends, colleagues and family members. That doesn’t mean asking them to guide you – many people have already identified themselves as willing teachers through a variety of resources you can find online. If you're looking for a place to start, the UC Davis Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion offers a list of resources.
Through our strategic plan, budget and programming, CMSI will invest in initiatives that not only diversify our student body and staff, but support the people of color who come to the Institute by working on our collective emotional intelligence around social justice issues in science and academia. Equity – “fair treatment, equality of opportunity, and fairness in access to information and resources” – and inclusion – “building a culture of belonging by actively inviting the contribution and participation of all people” – are critical to our success rebuilding more just institutions.
We have some learning to do ourselves, starting with connecting to groups like the Bodega Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, the diversity officers in the UC Davis Graduate Division, and our UC Davis Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. If you are willing, we want your help deciding how to move forward.
To the Black members of our community. We see you. We will do better. Insofar as you want to give us guidance, we will take it.
On a final note, each of us has an open-door policy. We will be reaching out to you, but we hope you feel like you can come to us.
Tawny Mata, Executive Director, CMSI
Rick Grosberg, Director, CMSI
Gary Cherr, Director, BML
Pat Helbling, Associate Director, BML
Anne Todgham, Associate Director of Academic Programs, CMSI
Tessa Hill, Associate Director of Public Engagement, CMSI
John Largier, Associate Director of International Programs, CMSI
Marissa Baskett, Associate Director of Research, CMSI
Suzanne Olyarnik, Director, BMR