Equity and inclusion are core values central to both the Vollum Institute and the Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP). From innovative scientific discovery to training the next generation of critical thinkers, we aim to create an environment where every individual has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
As important as these core values are to creating a productive and supportive environment where everyone thrives, these values are oftentimes hopeful goals rather than the lived realities of many people across the scientific enterprise. Many groups remain underrepresented and excluded, explicitly or implicitly, from scientific research and education. This includes women, individuals with physical or mental disabilities, social and economic disadvantages1, and persons excluded due to ethnicity or race (PEER, i.e., individuals of non-European descent)2.
What is a system of racism?
This video titled “Systemic Racism Explained” outlines some of the ways racism shows up in the U.S. including redlining in the housing market, differences in funding for education, and incarceration rates3. One way of thinking about how racism shows up in society is by thinking of it as a system. A system is defined as a set of individual connected parts that operate together to create a larger function. Similarly, a system of racism has a set of individual connected parts that work together4.
These parts include personal racism (e.g., racist beliefs, discriminatory attitudes, and biases that we have within ourselves), interpersonal racism (i.e., racist behaviors towards each other), institutional racism (e.g., customs and laws that treat people of non-European descent unfairly because of their skin color), and structural racism (i.e., the accumulation of the historical and present day effects of personal, interpersonal, and institutional racism) (diagram above). This system of racism is also known as systemic racism. Systemic racism works similarly to the discrimination based on wealth or gender that occurs across the globe, except it is tied to race (a made-up concept that uses skin color to differentiate and discriminate between people). With all of these (systemic racism, wealth, and gender discrimination), one group has an advantage over another, creating inequities that harms people’s health and livelihood. Gender discrimination create gender inequities, differences in wealth distribution creates wealth inequities, and systemic racism creates racial inequities. We use the term “inequities'' instead of “inequalities,” as they have different meanings and are not interchangeable.
Equality vs. Equity
Equality is about equal treatment of groups; however, equal treatment only works if everyone starts from the same place5. Equity, on the other hand, is about fairness5. Equity recognizes that different groups of people have been and are currently treated differently in our society, which creates barriers that may prevent them from accessing things such as wealth, healthcare, housing, safety, and more. In the U.S., systemic racism can be found in every aspect of society including within science and academia. Many groups remain underrepresented and excluded, explicitly or implicitly, from scientific research and education. This includes women, individuals with physical or mental disabilities, social and economic disadvantages1, and persons excluded due to ethnicity or race (PEER, i.e., individuals of non-European descent)2.
We believe it is important to address the ways in which systemic racism and other group inequities show up in our program. We are working closely with the Vollum Racial Equity and Inclusion center (REI Center) to identify and find solutions for systemic racism and other group inequities.
The REI Center believes that the best way to address and resolve systemic racism is to use a ‘systems lens’ approach. That is, identifying how all parts of systemic racism (personal, interpersonal, institutional, and structural racism) show up in our program and university. In this way, the REI Center can target all the ways in which systemic racism operates. The REI Center has been structured to do this by having two specific positions:
Director of Community Transformation: focuses on the personal and interpersonal forms of systemic racism. They are responsible for helping members of the NGP community have a better understanding of systemic racism, with an emphasis on how individuals and their personal beliefs and attitudes contribute to systemic racism. They provide anti-racism education for faculty, post-docs, and graduate students.
Director of Innovative Policy: focuses on institutional and structural forms of systemic racism. They are responsible for identifying inequitable policies and customs within the program and creating and implementing policies that promote equity. This position focuses on reviewing and updating policies that affect how the NGP recruits and retains faculty, students, post-docs, and other research staff.
We hope that this statement provides a starting point for understanding racial inequities within the U.S. and provides context to how we address it in our program. The NGP is committed to the continual process of transforming our environment and creating a welcoming, thriving, and anti-racist organization. We believe that advancing racial equity benefits all of us, and it is everyone’s responsibility.
For questions or to learn more about our approach, please feel free to contact:
Marc Freeman, PhD Director, Vollum Institute, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kelly Monk, PhD Co-director, Vollum Institute; Director, Neuroscience Graduate Program; email@example.com
Letisha Wyatt, PhD Director of Innovative Policy; firstname.lastname@example.org
Antoinette Foster, PhD Director of Community Transformation; email@example.com
Sarah Kissiwaa, PhD REI Center Postdoctoral Scholar; firstname.lastname@example.org