Collectively as a lab, we present our lab statement that addresses solidarity, inclusion, our core values, and anti-Black racism and anti-racism actions we support and are taking as a lab at the university, and as a PI.
Members of the Burford Reiskind lab are sickened by the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Ahmaud Arbery and many more, which are sobering reminders of the systemic racism our country was founded on and that continues to present day. This includes institutional racism that promotes inequities that white citizens in the country continue to benefit from, as well as blatant acts of discrimination, oppression, and exclusion. We stand with Black Lives Matter and Antiracist leaders in our communities in academia, in Raleigh, in North Carolina, in our nation, and beyond. We believe that we need to explicitly centralize these issues in our lab, in the classroom, and through trainings of students and faculty. We acknowledge that we have not done enough in the past, and thus were complicit in the perpetuation of systemic racism. The call has come from many of our Black colleagues and other underrepresented groups in academia, “to become true allies through action!” We are responding to this call by crafting our own inclusion and core value statements and committing to specific actions as a lab that we hope will promote meaningful future change and the destruction of existing systems of oppression. This is a work in progress and as we learn more we will continue to update and add to our statement.
We are committed to making sure our lab and our university are safe communities for all people. We recognize that anti-Black racism does not occur in isolation—there is also anti-indigenous and other forms of racism, sexism, classism, trans-antagonism, heterosexism and homophobia, ableism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and other forms of oppression. Students, faculty, and staff in these groups feel both micro and macro-aggressions, discrimination, and marginalization in our classrooms, in the hiring process, and in the work environment. Underrepresentation is pervasive in STEM fields, including the life sciences, and represents a failure to promote equity in all facets of research, education, outreach, and extension. This lack of diversity is not only morally problematic as a result of inadequately addressed systemic oppression, but it hinders the ability of STEM initiatives to solve the very problems they set out to address in order to better the world we live in. A diversity of voices and perspectives is better equipped to tackle any problem. We are committed to providing an environment that is welcoming to and supportive of all humans.
We also seek to celebrate and elevate our colleagues from underrepresented groups by highlighting their work with our students, in our lab meetings, on our websites, and in our outreach. We encourage others to do the same (check out Black in the Ivory: @BlackInTheIvory ; Black in Stem: @BlackAFinSTEM @BlackAndStem @BlackInStem ; Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS): @MISS_Elasmo)
We believe that equity is essential to a work environment where ALL scientists thrive and succeed. We acknowledge that within “diversity,” there are many cultures, communities, and groups that cannot be recruited, retained, or included using a broad brush; as a lab we recognize that we need to openly discuss and be open to learning the explicit needs and values of these communities. We aspire to the core values elegantly expressed by Black Lives Matter (https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/) and highlight some of our specific values as follows.
- We strive to create a lab environment that supports a diversity of thoughts, perspectives and experiences, and honors ALL identities (including race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, ability) with acceptance and support
- We will listen with empathy and openness to understand others’ perspectives
- We will value humbleness and humility to admit when we get things wrong
- We will actively stand up for our core values and values highlighted by Black Lives Matter with accountability and integrity
Actions we support within the broader academic system
We believe in the importance of levelling the playing field, but additionally, the value of taking active steps to increase representation for underrepresented groups, especially in faculty and administration. Here are some steps we support at NC State.
- Eliminate barriers to underrepresented/marginalized groups such as application fees and standardized test score requirements for both undergraduate and graduate applications
- Build diversity training into degree requirements and professional training, with an emphasis on updating outdated models/modules
- Work with other university leaders for independent research funds for BIPOC undergraduate and graduate students research projects
Actions we are taking to promote inclusion and diversity in our lab and community
- We provide a competitive payment for undergraduate research assistants in the lab to reduce barriers to participation. When we do not have financial support available, we will help to find sources of funding so that undergraduate students can support themselves and their research.
- We include undergraduate students in our lab meetings and events and actively mentor these undergraduates
- Outreach through our science learning modules for K through 12th grade with schools in our region
- Monthly reading of papers in our field by BIPOC scholars to increase representation in citations and knowledge in our field
- Equity in authorship following goals highlighted by Dr. Max Liboiron here
- Allowing remote work and flexible schedules to accommodate the need of lab members
- We pledge to discuss and teach the legacy of scientific racism in classrooms and conversations, especially in our positions as academics, scientists, researchers etc, and to continue to educate ourselves about the ways racism (and other forms of systemic prejudice) have impacted (and continue to impact) our fields
Actions I’m taking as PI
As the laboratory Head and Faculty member I recognize that I have often been silent or sat down when I was shot down for speaking up, and I know I should have spoken up and kept standing, and that inaction has helped perpetuate racism in the sciences. I commit to actively fighting racism and injustice in my lab, in my department, in my college, in the University and in my communities within and outside of academia. I know I will make mistakes, but I’m committed to educating myself until I do get it right, and to holding myself and our lab to our core values of inclusion. Here’s a few things I’ve done, I am doing, and will continue to do, that I will expand as I learn more ways I can be an active ally.
- Trainee in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HMII) Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) Inclusive classroom Workshop & Training at NCSU – completed March 2019
- Mentor for the HMMI CUREs Inclusive classroom Workshop & Training mentor at NCSU – Spring 2020
- Attended the Columbia University EdX Training course on Inclusive Teaching: Supporting All Students in the College Classroom – Summer 2020
- Facilitating a semester event for the Graduate Peer Mentor/Mentee program for the GG Scholars program and for affiliated Graduate programs that want to join.
- Facilitating a weekly and continuous university community discussion group on Allyship & Inclusion
- Work with our colleagues and students to create a list of action items to present to the university.
- In conjunction with the Genetic Engineering and Society faculty, created a series of 7 workshops to help train-the-trainers including leading one of the workshops on Centering diversity, equity, and inclusion in mentoring graduate students (2021/2022)
Signed by all members of the Burford Reiskind Lab
PI: Martha Burford Reiskind
Postdoctoral Associates: Erica Henry, Andy Maurer, Emily Reed
PhD Students: Megan Dillon, Bradley Scholten
Undergraduate Researcher: Emma Wallace
- Scaffolded Anti-racist Resources: https://bit.ly/2An7aul