Ocean Currents 7/30/20

Hello Fellow Oceanographers,

First off, I would like to address the subject of individual faculty sharing opinions via emails that are broadcast widely. No individual opinion ever reflects the collective opinion of the faculty as a whole. To the many of you who have recently felt hurt by some email traffic, I am truly sorry. The leadership of the School of Oceanography does not endorse the emails of individuals, and we cannot censor individual opinions. In this particular email I will try to give you the collective opinion of the voting faculty, who met yesterday to share thoughts and find common ground.

The voting faculty met informally on Wednesday to share thoughts and ideas in response to the open letters provided by the students and postdocs. Twenty-seven faculty were in attendance. Personally, I feel that it was a great listening and sharing session, and I am proud to say that the vast majority of faculty in attendance share the following opinion. In fact, many helped me craft and edit the remainder of this email.

Many faculty shared that the emotions embedded in the letters, and our individual emotional responses, were cathartic and informative. We better understand the strong passion for, and dedication to, the School of Oceanography that our graduate students and postdocs have. We thank you for your documents and all the hard work that went into them. We also appreciate the structured and clear paths forward that were presented as frameworks within the letters. You have provided great material to build from, and we look forward to building together.

Segments of the faculty have been active in responding to certain elements of the letters. We recognize the desire for swift action, but overall we are glad that we took the time to process the full content of the letters, while also being excited and ready to make initial progress. In balancing the demand for a quality response versus the demand for a rapid one, we choose quality over speed. We will continue to act this summer on the elements of the letters that lend themselves to rapid progress, while other elements will require more work, more planning, and more involvement from our entire community. We respect the request for goals, metrics, accountability and timelines. We will continue crafting them and requesting input from you over the summer and into the new academic year.

The listening session closed with a strong sense that we are all in this together and that we deeply respect the hard work and passion shared by all members of our community. In case you are wondering what progress we may have made so far, the culture survey, which has been improved by more than five dozen people, will be released next week. Much more information on that soon. The DEI committee lead the revamping of our graduate admissions process (including dropping the GRE exam), has nearly completed our application to the AGU Bridge program, has begun to outline strategies to change faculty hiring processes with diversity goals in mind, and along with Jodi Young will be highlighting early career underrepresented minorities in the School departmental seminar this fall. The graduate student exit survey is in place – thank you Marta and everyone who worked so hard on that. The departmental action plan for DEI is in its formation stages and a committee is now being set up to complete a first draft – if you are interested in helping please let me know. Some of the requests for reformation of our graduate curriculum will be implemented this fall, and the requested meeting between postdocs and the leadership team is being scheduled for mid-August.

There are many other things in the letters that will require deep thought and long-term effort. The faculty are united in their commitment to working together with you to make positive progress on these important issues. There are some issues that will come up, but the faculty felt sure that we could work within the existing rules protecting the privacy of individuals, balancing them against the need for collective and transparent action. 

As always, the director’s office wants to hear from you. Email, anonymous email, request a virtual meeting, any means that suits you.


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