Sustainability of DEI Efforts at SAFS

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” 

—Edward Everett Hale

In the midst of a pandemic, civil unrest after a democratic election, and their interconnections to our work, education, and relationships at SAFS, many in the SAFS community are pondering our roles in advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ). These are immensely challenging tasks, which for some may invoke a state of paralysis or exhaustion, and for others a call to action. The SAFS Equity & Inclusion (EI) Committee, which has recently been raised to the status of an official school committee, strives to play a part in making SAFS a welcoming place, where people work together as a diverse and inclusive community.

Several efforts related to DEIJ are in progress at SAFS. For example, the EI Committee has hosted and sponsored several events: an Annual Open Meeting; a virtual screening of the documentary Picture a Scientist, with a follow-up discussion on gender discrimination; and two workshops led by Naheed Gina Aaftaab, assistant director, UW Center for Communication, Difference, and Equity.

In the workshop, “Dominance and difference in knowledge systems,” participants read and discussed Knowledge, Power and Decolonization: Implication for Non-Indigenous Scholars, Researchers, and Educators by Soenke Biermann. In another workshop, “Practicing anti-racism and anti-sexism in education,” participants were asked to reflect on access to certain spaces, such as higher education, and share their own experiences; they also learned practical tools for interrupting micro-aggressions and disrupting discrimination in an academic setting.

Working toward equity and inclusion is a group/community effort, and members across SAFS peer groups have contributed. We have many graduate students and colleagues to thank for proposing a line-up of speakers for the 2021 Bevan Seminar Series on “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences,” which can be viewed through recordings on the SAFS YouTube channel.

Staci Amburgey (postdoctoral scholar) led the seminar course, “Cultivating Inclusive Conservation Practices,” which can also be viewed through recordings on the SAFS YouTube channel.

The School’s DEI Book Club, facilitated by Julieta Martinelli (postdoctoral scholar), recently read and discussed Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist. The next book discussion will be co-facilitated by Julieta, Kelly Mistry (graduate student), and Jennifer Gosselin and will focus on Caprice Hollins & Ilsa Govan’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Strategies for Facilitating Conversations on Race.

The SAFS outreach program, Students Explore Aquatic Sciences (SEAS), aims to increase access to science for underserved students in the Seattle area; it is volunteer run by graduate students, undergraduates, and staff.

Many SAFS members devote time and effort to DEIJ, and there is now a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice and Community Service Recognition Award to help highlight, celebrate, and reward these significant contributions.

There is still much work to be done to increase DEIJ at SAFS. Based on community engagements and co-created objectives, the School is moving forward with a racial equity audit to provide baseline data, give opportunities to the SAFS community to voice their perspectives, and produce guidelines for working toward racial equity in a way that is meaningful and effective. This will be an important step towards promoting many dimensions of social justice in the School. It will be a great opportunity for increased participation and will be a critical juncture for maintained engagement from many at our School’s members. Following the departure of Isadora Jimenez- Hidalgo (see DEI article in the Spring-Summer 2020 SAFS newsletter), SAFS is in the process of hiring a new diversity specialist, who will help support DEIJ efforts at the School.

The EI Committee is excited to work with the entire SAFS community (past and present) to make SAFS a place where diversity is celebrated within a vibrant hub of discovery and innovation. Please feel free to reach out to the EI Committee at safsincl@uw.edu, visit the SAFS DEI website, and stay tuned for further announcements of upcoming events.

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