The faculty senate is currently voting on an amendment to the UW Faculty Code mandating the consideration of faculty contributions to promote diversity and equal opportunity as part of the promotion and tenure process. This means that along with the typical considerations of research, teaching and service, activities to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion will also be considered as meritorious activities worthy of assessment, but will not be required components. It is one small step to be sure, but it is an opportunity for us to speak as one voice regarding our priorities as a University Faculty.
Why, among all the Faculty Senate emails that pass our inboxes throughout the year, should we take notice of this one? Let me tell you why I will vote in favor of this legislation...
It still takes me by surprise. I walk into a patient’s room, smiling, and receive requests for water, warm blankets, and pillow adjustments. I am always happy to help. But, then, slowly I realize that they didn’t hear my introduction. In the split second before I spoke they decided that I was there to tidy up and missed me saying that I am the consulting Infectious Diseases Attending Physician. Confronted with a middle-aged, brown woman, full-speed ahead unconscious bias skipped over facts. Gentle correction and we’re back on the right track.
Unconscious bias is pervasive. “I’m a recovering racist,” Episcopalian Bishop Rickel said in the Seattle Times Under Our Skin video series, giving us a starting point for recovery, learning, and a new way of doing things. We must be on guard. Racism, sexism, and exclusion are hurting us in ways we don’t fully appreciate. The facts are shocking – poor outcomes for black male youth are not linked to socio-economics – and black women are more likely to die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth than white women regardless of their wealth and education. These health inequities are instead linked to the many insults and stressors experienced through racism. Enough.
There is so much more to do: We must unlearn bad habits and address our own implicit biases. We must see with new eyes to enact structural changes to attract, retain, and nourish students, staff, and faculty of color. We have to work on our relationships with each other, which is the surest way to build sustained and organic inclusiveness, and as Gandhi said, to be the change we want to see in the world.
We encourage all UW Faculty to review the Class A Legislation 143 and vote before June 8th: https://www.washington.edu/faculty/files/2014/05/143-bulletin-to-faculty.pdf (legislation overview); to vote refer to the catalyst link in your faculty email inbox.
Ruanne Barnabas is the co-Chair of the Department of Global Health’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and a member of the Diversity Committees for the Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Department of Medicine.