Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Updates on anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

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In the summer of 2020 our department shared a statement on racism and recent violence, reprinted here:

Dear students and colleagues:

We recognize that our Black and African American students, faculty colleagues, staff, friends, families, and neighbors may be experiencing trauma and harm from the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and the official responses, or lack thereof. We see what is happening and support you in your grief, anger, and weariness. We recognize that recent events are just that – the most recent manifestations in a long history of white supremacy, inequality and oppression of communities of color. As psychologists, we know our discipline can help illuminate the individual, ecological, and structural contributors to racism, violence, and oppression as well as their direct and indirect impact on disparities in development, health, and well-being. Psychology can also offer insight into effective and ineffective strategies for intervention and change. However, we simultaneously recognize that our discipline has a history of contributing to injustice and trauma, foregrounding the perspectives of the powerful at the expense of others, and failing to act. Indeed, in Dr. King’s address to the American Psychological Association Convention in 1967 entitled “The Role of the Behavioral Scientist in the Civil Rights Movement,” he exhorted psychologists to engage with and in the movement, noting that as a society we must always be “maladjusted” to racial discrimination, religious bigotry, and economic inequality. 

As a university community, a department, and as individuals we must reflect on our own positionality and the ways that we collectively and individually contribute to racism and oppression by our actions and inactions. We commit to examining on our own teaching and research to 

  • Work to ensure our department climate welcomes and supports all students
  • Listen to the lived experiences of communities who have experienced injustice
  • Evaluate the diversity of our curricular choices and perspectives represented in them
  • Identify and follow through on the ways that we can promote justice on campus and in the larger community

Responding to an email asking for volunteers to begin drafting an action plan to combat racism and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, seven faculty and four graduate students met regularly to identify a short-term workplan and join specific subgroups. Our work to date has included the following:

  1. Graduate student recruitment and support – action items include offering financial assistance with the application fee, attending the Black Doctoral Network’s Virtual Graduate School & Career Fair, examining our application and recruitment process, producing a list of grants and other support opportunities for BIPOC graduate students.
  2. Undergraduate research participation – action items include a completed faculty survey on undergraduate research participation in their labs,  a pending survey for undergraduates assessing their interest in research and providing information, and an ongoing redesign of the research tab on our webpage. That page includes links to faculty, grad, and undergrad audio/video interviews and news stories about their research; more information about faculty research interests/projects, links to our undergraduate research opportunities pages. 
  3. Undergraduate course enrollments and metrics – working with Office of Assessment and Decision Support to obtain data on undergraduate students who take our courses and our majors to learn who they are and what pathways they take through our courses.
  4. Diversifying our colloquium series – Several outstanding BIPOC scholars are part of our colloquium series this year.
  5. Creating an inclusive environment – I have begun a “Chat with the Chair” monthly zoom meeting on the second Wednesday of each month to hear from undergraduate students about their perspectives, concerns, and kudos on the department. We have also launched a website link for anonymous comments.  

Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Thanks again to all the faculty and graduate students who have been working over the past several months on initiatives large and small to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in our department. To instantiate and expand those efforts, as Chair I have created  an Ad hoc Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.  My decision is informed by our workgroup’s effort this summer, information from other Georgetown department chairs, and information from members of the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology (COGDOP).

Our committee will include three faculty members, three graduate students, and three undergraduate students, along with a senior advisor. Professor Chentsova-Dutton will chair the committee, with Professors Kushlev and Barr as members and Professor Moghaddam a senior advisor to the committee. I am appointing one graduate student member and asking the graduate students themselves to select two other representatives through a mechanism that they deem appropriate. Undergraduates Ian Torres-Figueroa and Denzell Brown will also join the committee; I am waiting to hear back from a third student appointee.

I will charge the committee to spend this year in both action and planning. They will identify, facilitate, and implement an action agenda that will undoubtedly require involvement from many in our department. They will also begin to develop a short and long term strategy for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as combatting racism and other forms of oppression. Although I hope that this ad hoc Committee will continue in the coming years, I have asked members only to commit to serving this academic year, which is the remainder of my current term of service as department chair.

As a department we have the opportunity to bring both scientific evidence and lived experience to bear on these issues, hopefully serving as a resource and example to our Georgetown community. To be clear, this is just the start of our work on these issues and much remains to be done.