December 20, 2020

Formation of the DEI Task Force

By Sarah Connelly, CMB Student

This spring the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers shocked and enraged many across the nation. In response to Floyd’s tragic death, the reinvigoration of the Black Lives Matter movement, and nationwide protests against police brutality, CMB evaluated the environment it creates for students and the systemic inequalities in science both inside and outside UM. The program came together on June 5th for a town hall meeting where members of the community suggested concrete actions to address racial disparities in science. These proposed actions included adding a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) seminar to CMB 850, considering diversity efforts in review of CMB faculty, and hosting sessions on the history of racism in scientific research. These and other suggestions were surveyed for support from the CMB community.

CMB subsequently created the DEI Task Force to generate ideas for fostering inclusivity in the program, empowering community members, and implementing curriculum changes to reach the former goals. The Task Force, including CMB students and a faculty advisor, focused on addressing the proposals discussed in the summer town hall and creating a survey to identify problems in the program environment and better understand student experiences. The Task Force invited Dr. Jamie Amemiya and Elizabeth Mortenson to a CMB 850 seminar to discuss the underrepresentation of people of color in science. At the fall retreat, CMB hosted Dr. Sean Valles to speak about structural inequalities in U.S. healthcare and how the system must change to address them. The work of the Task Force has just begun, and member Haley Amemiya states that going forward “a top priority for the group is to keep our eyes and ears open to our community…[we] aim to create more platforms to let voices be heard and not burden already marginalized groups to educate others on what is happening in the world.” For the upcoming semester, the task force will continue defining their goals and using these goals to drive changes in CMB’s curriculum.