Confronting racism and discrimination in the sciences and beyond

Jun 8, 2020 | From the Dean

To: Division Faculty, Staff, and Graduate Students
From: Dean Paul Koch
Subject: Confronting racism and discrimination in the sciences and beyond

Dear faculty, staff, and graduate students of the division,

The last two weeks have been hard for our community and the nation. The anti-black violence that claimed the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery is heartbreaking, dispiriting, and enraging. Their tragic deaths are a stark reminder of the racism embedded in American society. Our current situation is made all the more fraught as the pandemic spotlights how racist policies have created disparities in wealth, housing, and health outcomes that are leading communities of color to disproportionately suffer the consequences of COVID-19.

As my professional society noted in its anti-racism statement, “the sciences … have participated in the discrimination, oppression, and erasure of people of color throughout history.” In our division, we need to be aware of the anguish that recent anti-black violence has triggered for members of our community. We need to listen and respond with support and compassion in these difficult times. As one small step in that direction, I’ve encouraged our departments to offer maximum flexibility in how instructors assess student learning this quarter. And I want to remind members of the division of the campus support services Chancellor Larive mentioned in her message last week

Beyond reacting to trauma after it has been inflicted, we all must combat racism on campus, in our local community, and in the wider society. Over my time as dean, the division has launched a number of efforts to directly or indirectly confront racism. The report on the division’s graduate student climate survey, which arrived this month, has captured some of the issues we face, and I’ll make it a priority to share its findings with the division once the quarter ends. In the weeks and months ahead, I am committed to working with different communities of students, staff, and faculty to get a deeper understanding of how racism manifests in the sciences at Santa Cruz, as well as their ideas about the best ways to eliminate it and support those affected by it. I will suggest more concrete plans and a timeline for this engagement over the next couple of weeks.

To help all of us think how we can have an impact fighting racism in the nation at large, our colleagues in the Institute for Social Transformation in the Division of Social Sciences are pulling together anti-racism and criminal justice reform resources that I know will be useful. They welcome suggestions and additions to the site, which can be sent to Chris Benner ( In solidarity with the black community and other communities of color, let’s continue to listen, learn, and work together on dismantling structural racism and ending racist violence.

Thank you for the great work you do for UC Santa Cruz and the wider world off the hill, and be well.

Paul L. Koch
Dean, Division of Physical & Biological Sciences

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