We, the members of the Zamudio lab, are horrified by the continued violence against Black people that has yet again made it to the forefront of the news cycle. We recognize that racism and white supremacism are pervasive both within academia and in society at large. Antiracism requires action and education. We stand in solidarity with our Black students, and those of us who are not Black recognize that we have an immense amount of work to do.
Cornell’s President Martha Pollack issued a statement announcing immediate actions to strengthen unity and support our community. We applaud our president for her active response. Our lab agreed that for highest impact, antiracist actions need to happen at all levels of organization, from individual labs, departments, colleges, to the entire university.
Given the recent murders of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless others who have lost their lives to racism, and the violence that continues against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), we as a lab group commit to taking the following steps:
- We will read ‘How to Be an Antiracist’, by Ibram X. Kendi, as a lab, and members of the lab (especially our white members, but welcoming all) will meet every two weeks to discuss and reflect. Thereafter we will continue devoting time each month to reading works and engaging in exercises to self-educate about the history of racism in our country, the practice of anti-racism, and dismantling white privilege.
- We will as a group read the research papers on what works and what does not work to curb police violence, to inform our own advocacy efforts (e.g., we will take action by calling our local representatives in Ithaca and demand that the police department be reformed according to our research).
- We will work toward clarity in action and expectations, and training in communication across differences, and in educational practices so that BIPOC students and trainees feel safe, welcome, and supported.
- We will continue to support Diversity Preview Weekend and advocate for its full institutionalization at the Graduate School level.
- We will center the voices of, advocate for, and learn from Black and other POC in evolutionary organismal biology by promoting their work on our website, providing mentorship, and disseminating their work on social media.
- In collaboration with the Cornell Herpetological Society, we will host at least one event per semester devoted to the intersection of herpetological research, inclusion, safety in outdoor spaces, and equity/diversity.
- We will provide support to groups at Cornell working to diversify STEM including SACNAS-Cornell.
We recognize that this is just a start to dismantling the systemic racism that has resulted in low diversity in STEM, and we look forward to continuing to improve our response.
Signed by all members of the Zamudio lab:
Lina Arcila Hernandez
David Chang van Oordt