In response to the growing awareness of the need to support marginalized groups, faculty, staff, postdoctoral associates, and graduate students in Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) began meeting last fall to map out how the school can make meaningful changes that address inequities.
“Our efforts have gained momentum with the surge in support for the Black Lives Matter movement last spring,” says Hale Tufan, SIPS’ Chair of Diversity and Inclusion. “But our mission is much broader and addresses racism and discrimination of all kinds, and aims to build an inclusive culture focused on social justice.”
Tufan, who is also a Research Professor in the Department of Global Development and SIPS’ Plant Breeding and Genetics Section, convened the SIPS Diversity and Inclusion Council last October. The Council’s charge is to help coordinate SIPS’ responses to inequities, including advising SIPS’ Director and Executive Committee on policy and structural changes to break down barriers and promote diversity.
The Council’s vision is for an inclusive SIPS community that flourishes because it values and supports diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. It recognizes that our institution was founded on and perpetuates various injustices. These include settler colonialism, indigenous dispossession, slavery, racism, classism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, antisemitism, and ableism.
“We seek to address and repair the harms caused by these intersecting forms of oppression,” the Council’s vision statement concludes.
The Council’s activities include:
- Listening to and amplifying voices, interests, and concerns of marginalized members of our community.
- Identifying barriers to diversity and inclusion.
- Investigating best practices for recruiting and retaining members of under-represented groups.
- Identifying and advertising professional development opportunities and resources centering on diversity and inclusion.
- Providing support and advocacy for meaningful grassroots initiatives.
The Council will coordinate its efforts with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the Graduate School Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement, and other groups pursuing similar goals.
Council working groups have already formed around key concerns, including:
- Academic support
- Curriculum development and review
- Faculty recruitment, promotion and support
- Graduate student recruitment and support
- Technical and custodial staff recruitment, promotion and support
- Research, Teaching and Extension faculty and postdoctoral associate recruitment, promotion and support
- Trainings, events and seminars
The Council has begun its work with events. In response to the need for more pedagogical trainings, SIPS graduate students Josh Garcia (Council member) and Kavya Krishnan offered a workshop on ableism and inclusive teaching methods.
Many of the members of the Council are also involved with other diversity and inclusion and anti-racist efforts. Graduate student Sam Bosco is co-president of QGrads, and Carlyn Buckler, Professor of Practice in the Horticulture Section, chairs the CALS Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
The Council plans to share regular updates with broader SIPS, CALS and Cornell networks, reporting on accomplishments and highlighting ways to participate. Look for monthly posts on the SIPS blog, Discovery that Connects
“We are seeking real change and are looking for people who will share their passion, commitment and readiness to learn” says Tufan. “Please join us!”
Interested in joining the SIPS D&I Council? Please email sips-dicouncil [at] cornell.edu with a paragraph (max 100 words) outlining why you would like to join, and what you hope to contribute through your work with this Council. Membership terms are for one year and members will be expected to join monthly Council meetings, as well as monthly working group meetings the members choose to join. We know you are busy but we anticipate 4 to 8 hours per month of time commitment. At this time, we are particularly seeking faculty members and staff, as well as those of you who excel at content curation and communication.
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