Paul Burgett: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a little past the hour and we thought we would get started. I’m Paul Burgett, co-chair of the Presidential Commission on Race and Diversity with my partner, Richard Feldman, who’s Dean of the College and Professor of Philosophy. At President Seligman’s request we have undertaken the task of reviewing the issue of race, particularly in the early days of our commission’s work. We are looking at race – particularly race and diversity – particularly as it relates to student life. We will in the – as we get into the spring term look at faculty and staff as well. But part of our – part of our effort is to convene Town Meetings in all of the units. And perhaps Rich would like to just say a word of what we’re trying to do with the Town Meetings.
Male Voice: Can you use a microphone?
Paul Burgett: Sure. You mean you can’t hear this big booming voice? [laughter].
Richard Feldman: Okay, well that’s – then, ah, you got one. Good. So, as I think you all know, the initiative is a result of a protest and a set of demands from undergraduate students in the college primarily. But the result of that is this commission that Paul and I are co-chairing, and we’re looking at issues related to the kinds of issues the students raised – students have raised about life in other units of the University.
So the focus here is to think about – to identify the climate, to get comments on the climate here in – over here in the Medical Center. And there’s a couple of – there’s some slides here that I think identify the charges and also just set a couple of ground rules for this discussion.
Paul Burgett: And Linda’s going to do that.
Richard Feldman: Ah. Linda’s going to do that.
Linda Chaudron: No, that’s okay, go ahead.
Paul Burgett: So why don’t we introduce. We have members of the Commission who are here. And because Linda Chaudron and LaRon Nelson – where’s LaRon? Ah, there’s LaRon Nelson from the School of Nursing, and Anne Nofziger who are members of our Commission are going to sort of MC this effort.
And what we’re really looking to do is – and Linda will talk about each of the questions that we’re sort of interested in focusing on – but we really want to hear from you. Should say also that this Town Hall Meeting is being taped and the tape will be transcribed and it will be posted on the Commission’s website. We have had one Town Hall Meeting already, on the Yik Yak subject, and that has been transcribed and is on the website. If you go to our website you will see where the other Town Hall Meetings are as well. So I think we want to turn it over to Linda at this point.
Linda Chaudron: Do you have something else?
Paul Burgett: And have her.
Linda Chaudron: Do you have something else?
Female Voice: No, no, not yet.
Linda Chaudron: Oh, okay. I’m going to put this down.
Paul Burgett: And we should also point out that the President is here. As is Mark Taubman, CEO of the Medical Center. It’s all yours.
Linda Chaudron: Oh, thank you, thank you. All right, well thank you all for coming. Welcome. So I wanted to just lay some of the ground rules or some of the thoughts about how we can make this time most efficient. And as Dr. Burgett has said, we want to make sure that you use the microphones. There’s one up there. We have ones that are – one over here and we can hand them around so that we make sure to capture your comments and that they’re transcribed appropriately.
Try to be concise, if you can, so that we can really address the issues. Please talk about your experiences, your specific experiences, if you’re willing to share them. And also tell us about ones about which you have personal knowledge. And also, if you don’t feel comfortable or you have things that you want to say that you don’t feel like you want to say them here in the Town Hall, we have papers around that give you an opportunity. Grace has some up there. We have some on various desks where you can write whatever you have to say and it will go back to the Commission in an anonymous fashion. You’re also welcome to put your name and contact on there if you want, but we want to give people as many opportunities to have input in whatever fashion they see fit. The Commission also has an email that you can send anything to and the Commission members will also review those and respond. So just to give you that as a basis.
And then also, as you may know, from President Seligman’s comments and his emails and announcement about this Commission, there were four areas – four questions really that we were asked as a Commission to address – and I’m hoping will help structure some of what we want to talk about today, which is really about the state of our campus climate. What have – what do we have that currently strengthens our campus climate? What are not consistent with the healthiest campus climate that we could have, and what are we going to recommend to improve our community? We can always improve and that’s where we are today, to listen to you, to hear what your thoughts are and questions are of the University community. So that’s really about it. We want to hear from you today. And I know this is not a quiet group, so . . .
Paul Burgett: It’s always hard to get the first question isn’t it? Or the first comment.
Linda Chaudron: Anybody? We have a taker.
Eddie Schwartz: Hi, Eddie Schwartz, Orthopaedics Center for Musculoskeletal Research. So, my experience – speaking of my experience a couple of things stuck with me with the last MEDSAC meeting where, Linda, you presented, I think; the most serious was your statement that, based on your interviews with students, residents and fellows, that they don’t trust us. And as shocking as that was for me at the time to hear, I went from that meeting to the Orthopaedic Resident Match in which the residents refused to say anything. And so it was absolute validation of your comment.
And so I think that, you know, of the things that we talked about, that is something that we have to address. I think that is not healthy and, obviously, there are underlying issues there, but certainly we have to improve on that. I think that other things, you know, are harder to change that we all recognize. In fact, in research the Dean pointed out that we essentially don’t have any minorities as postdoctoral fellows. That’s not something that we can change overnight. It’s something that we all want to do but, again, I struggle in every approach, in my capacity, to improve on that. And I don’t know how we do that.
I think the third thing that was mentioned is that our culture in Rochester, in general, as the only person who’s willing to come to the microphone, is that we’re very uncomfortable talking about this subject, in general, as a culture. And to validate that, I think in several of the MEDSAC meetings I heard the term “the Yik Yak thing,” “the Yik Yak thing,” but I’ve never actually heard what was said on Yik Yak, which is, again, feeding into this culture of us unable to discuss what racial problems really are. So I think that those are my three comments, kind of, questions.
Linda Chaudron: Thanks and appreciate that. Paul, do you want to say anything about the Yik Yak thing since you know more than I.
Paul Burgett: Yeah.
Linda Chaudron: Do.
Paul Burgett: I’ll ask Rich to help me with that. Yik Yak is.
Linda Chaudron: Talk into the mic.
Paul Burgett: Oh yeah. Yik Yak is – how many here know Yik Yak or have used Yik Yak? Okay, so it’s pretty familiar amongst a lot of people here. Yik Yak is an app that you can download onto your device, and it’s a social media site which is – in which the posts are anonymous, and so you can – the people can say anything that they want to say about almost anything and not be identified.
We had several episodes on the River Campus in which unknown persons posted racist comments, particularly that were directed at what we call DLH or the Douglas Leadership House, which is a special interest house on the fraternity quadrangle. It’s a house in honor of Frederick Douglas and a very high proportion of the students who live there – perhaps, maybe not all, but almost all, of the students are students of African descent. And one has to compete for those – for this special interest housing, and when the DLH house was renewed – when its three-year term (right, Rich?) three-year term was renewed, there were some acerbic and racist and awful comments – some of which came close to breaching the threshold of being violent. Things like – I can’t remember – I’ve seen them, but I can’t remember all the language, but it was pretty horrible stuff. And suggesting violence.
What the University did was to seek through the District Attorney a subpoena of Yik Yak so that we could identify the source of that – of those posts. That first subpoena was ignored. We went back again several months later and the District Attorney issued a second subpoena and we learned, only today, because we haven’t had a meeting of the Commission, we learned only today that our General Counsel had an hour long conversation with the General Counsel of Yik Yak, and this is in an effort to try to understand better what the policies and procedures of Yik Yak are as we – as we deal – as the Commission deals – with the issue of making a recommendation to the President about whether Yik Yak should be banned from University servers. Let me ask Rich if he would just elaborate. He’s closer to it than I am.
Richard Feldman: Just a couple of points to add. One of the notable things about Yik Yak is that it’s regional or local – each area has its own set of messages, so any message about – our one is local to the University – a few miles around the University. So all the messages are locally produced. It doesn’t extend beyond that.
One of the things that happens with it is the messages are fleeting, actually. They go by pretty quickly. They can be voted up and down, and new messages come and eventually they go away. But one of the unfortunate things that happens with some of the most offensive messages is students react to them – they take screen shots, they tell their friends about them, and that preserves them. It gets them into another medium and so they get spread around.
The other thing to say is, so some of the students have advocated that we ban it. It’s important, if you want to understand that issue, that, you know, to understand, what banning it means is we make it impossible for people to access the site through the University’s network, basically the University’s wireless network. That doesn’t prevent people from accessing the site through their phones, on their own phone network, on the 3G network. So we really don’t have the capacity to block people from using it. We only have the capacity to block them from using it through our own networks. So that’s the issue that the Commission is thinking through and whether – what to do in response to the students’ demands.
I will say one other thing about the nature of the posts on Yik Yak. The vast majority of them are, I would say, kind of innocuous chatter about this or that. A lot of – some of them are offensive, not only racist and sexist and others offensive in every way you can imagine. The ones that most upset us last spring named a particular individual and advocated – basically was advocating sexual assault against a named individual, so that was the one that most clearly crossed the line into what was not protected speech. Some of the other things are offensive – are violations of the communal principles that students live by in college but were stuff that people are allowed to say.
Paul Burgett: One of the things that we’re trying to do is to survey the activities of institutions around the country – institutions of higher education around the country to see just what their experiences are and how they are – how they’re dealing with it. How they’re managing it. So the Commission is taking this on very, very seriously.
Scott Seidman: I am Scott Seidman from Biomedical Engineering, and most of my involvement with Biomedical Engineering is actually on the undergraduate level. Dr. Feldman might remember me from my email hissy fit I threw last year, and if I can describe that, I’ll be rather vague about what it was, but there was a change in math preparation requirements for introductory STEM courses. Vague enough? Okay. And it resulted in a way that the faculty at large thought that underrepresented minorities were being – there was an extra obstacle thrown in their path towards an engineering degree. And I can say that the University responded very well. I think Dr. Feldman put his money where his mouth is in terms of math preparation. But it got us, as a faculty, talking about diversity a lot. And things we’ve done over the years that try to patch some issues – like when we assign laboratory groups for students, we don’t let students pick their own laboratory groups, we randomize it to try not to exclude students and little things like that.
And today, actually this morning, we had our end of the semester meeting where we talked about how the semester went, and diversity issues took about forty minutes of the meeting. And one of the things we were talking about was what resources are available to us – and there are a bunch of resources available to us, but they are diverse – they’re spread around. Like, if there’s an issue about sexual harassment, I know that I can go to our Title IX Coordinator, and our Title IX Coordinator would know exactly how to respond.
And I know now that there’s a new Care – an addition to our Care System that deals with these issues but we sort of thought that it would be better if there was one person, one connection, that we can go to and know that this person would help us find the right resources instead of us having to take a more active part in trying to find the resources.
Paul Burgett: That’s a very, very helpful suggestion and, in fact, one of the things that the Commission is doing is assessing and taking an inventory of the very thing that you’re talking about – an inventory of the resources and the assets that are available, and the idea that there be a sort of one stop shop, which is what you’re suggesting. That a faculty member or a student can simply say that’s the person you need to go to – to find out about that is certainly the Commission will take under advisement.
Richard Feldman: Just one – partly a question or a comment. If you’re looking for one place to go – if there’s a student about who you have a concern or an issue where there’s a concern, the Care System and the Bias Related Reporting that goes in it – that’s the place to go. And that will go to one person who then will be well connected. I mean, it’s a largely – a lot of it is triage. I mean, it’s just getting things then directed to the right place. Some of what you were talking about was more about academic resources and the like. And that is a little bit different, although even that system would get you to the right place anyway, so. . .
Scott Seidman: I actually think that that’s an interesting example – the one with the coursework I was talking about and that’s a case where the faculty really stepped up, but it’s sort of in a private manner. And I hope the students didn’t even realize it was going on and the recent advocacy sort of behind the scenes, plenty of advocacy behind the scenes, but I really think enough.
Richard Feldman: Okay. Well, I’ll just say I’m heartened by your description. I mean, that a department spent so much time and energy focusing on this issue, I think, is good to hear.
Paul Burgett: In a perfect world, all requirements would do what you’ve gotten, so we need to be moving more towards that direction, it seems to me.
Male Voice: We have a question over here.
Paul Burgett: ((inaudible))
Linda Lipani: I just want to go off on the Care System. I’m Linda Lipani and I’m with the Graduate Education Office here in the School of Medicine. And I know that the Care System is one that is – it’s located on the River Campus, and the School of Medicine and Dentistry generally does not use that system.
But in the fall semester we had students concerned about another student who hadn’t shown up to school and there were reports. Okay. I’m sorry about that. The report was made through the Care System, and Dean Lord and I received a phone call that we had a student that needed assistance. When we did some follow up, we were told by the Care Program office that it doesn’t support School of Medicine and Dentistry, and that if it were to support School of Medicine and Dentistry, we would have to provide funding for it.
So they’ve been very good about sharing information and letting us know that if we do need support, in terms of guiding our own students, we could do that. We could rely on them. But there are some students that want to use a service that they feel is confidential, that doesn’t have to go through the Graduate Dean’s office, and it was disappointing to know that, again, we have a great resource that’s not available to our students.
When Dr. Chaudron asked if Dean Lord and I would be the contact person for students to reach out to through the Care System, should there be a report made, I was surprised that she asked that because I realized that she probably didn’t realize that Care isn’t available to us, but it should be.
Richard Feldman: We have had discussions about how best to extend the Care System throughout the University, and it’s partly a resource issue, and we are making steps in that direction. And one piece of it is to make sure that if a report comes into the system that there’s then somebody in the relevant school to follow up because the worst – I don’t know worst thing but it’s a really a terrible thing – is what happens is a report is filed and there isn’t any appropriate follow up. I will talk to folks about, further about, where we stand on extending it beyond the college. I mean, there have been steps in that direction, but I have to admit I’m not exactly certain right – where we are right now about that. But I mean, I grant – I agree that, ideally, it should be available throughout. I’ve been told, in some discussions of this, I was told, well, we have our system over here in the Medical Center and we don’t need it. So I’m not sure what more to say at this point, but we’re certainly interested.
Paul Burgett: ((inaudible))
Female Voice: Thank you.
Joel Seligman: Let me speak to, particularly to, the students and staff here. We need your help. I don’t create Commissions or task forces very often. I only do it if I think that there’s an important problem that needs to be addressed. And in this case, it was not so much a student protest. It was not so much what happened at the University of Missouri or Yale or Princeton, but it was my concern based upon conversations with some of the students who were involved in presenting demands to me that they felt fear – and particularly in the Douglas Leadership House – particularly because of some of the Yik Yak communications and other communications.
And I have to confess when I hear Professor Schwartz, you know, talk about his concerns about a lack of trust, that’s deeply concerning. Maybe a way to stimulate the conversation today would be to ask you to focus on a different question. What can we do to improve our community? That’s really what this is about, and it doesn’t require you to make confessions about your personal life. It is in a context where this is not a place where anyone has any fear, or should have any fear, about what you say, in some sense, not being respected or held against you.
We’re here to learn, and I will tell you there is no way you can improve an institution – none unless you’re honest about its problems, and that’s why I asked a lot of hard working, over scheduled individuals to be involved in this Commission on a very accelerated schedule. I take this seriously. I’m going to attend as many Town Hall Meetings as I can but, literally, the best information in this room hasn’t been articulated yet, and I know I’m eager to hear, and I know, one way or another, the commission is eager to hear your views.
Paul Burgett: Oh boy did the hands ever go up.
Male Voice: He has the microphone. He’s.
Paul Burgett: Oh.
Terry Platt: Thank you, Paul.
Paul Burgett: I could twirl, but I don’t think I will. Terry, you’re on.
Terry Platt: So, I’m Terry Platt, a former member of the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department here in the Med Center, but I’ve been on River Campus for about fifteen years almost, in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. And I’m also the Posse Mentor for our new program there. I wanted to add a comment about – that ties into some of the previous ones, and based on some recent conversations I’ve had with both faculty and staff on the River Campus, and that is, Where are the conversations? And we talk about other campuses like maybe the University of Chicago, which is where I grew up, and other places, where faculty get together and they have, you know, over lunch or whatever, they have conversations about, you know, important campus issues.
And I think it would be helpful if we could find a way – I don’t know how to do it but find a way to expand from what was described that goes on in one department to go on in other departments but also to go on within – between various departments, the Humanities, the Social Sciences and the harder Sciences, as well as across Elmwood Avenue. So I think if we can get – it’s not going to solve the problem but it’s a necessary condition, I think, for improving the overall campus life to – for the students to know that we faculty are actually talking about this stuff and at some point can get engaged in this sort of thing. Thank you.
Bobby Rhodes: I work in Psychiatry and.
Paul Burgett: Where are you?
Bobby Rhodes: I’m right here.
Paul Burgett: Okay.
Bobby Rhodes: And I.
Paul Burgett: Are you going to stand?
Bobby Rhodes: I am.
Paul Burgett: Okay, thank you.
Bobby Rhodes: I have a few different, I guess, perspectives. I’m definitely a little older than, you know, the students who would have been involved in the protest. But I have been a student here. I hope to be a student here again, but I have been an employee here for twenty years. My mother was a student here. She graduated from the School of Nursing. I was saddened to hear about the protest for a few reasons.
But first let me say this, which will probably be an unpopular position. The University of Rochester has to take ownership of the fact that they are a city within a city. That they are surrounded by a culture. That it is very clearly and often painfully evident that the desire is to be separate from the culture that surrounds them. That being the case, young women who I have worked with in the past – and when I say worked with, I mean just community time (LaRon can speak to that, you know, some of that – that we’ve done) have said to me that the one thing that the U of R said to them by some of the structures, you know, and the pathways and the changes that have been made so that it looks as if they are separate from the rest of the city – is that they don’t welcome them.
I looked at one of the newsletters not too long ago and I think there was a graduating class of ’65, and it was, if not completely, predominantly Caucasian. And there was a question that was put to that photograph: how would it look today? I personally don’t know that it would look very different. That’s something that the U of R has to take ownership of and, as it was said earlier, we won’t change, you know, the appearance of, you know, the fellows or the leaders within the University either in the academics, or in terms of the faculty and the staff, overnight.
But realistically, there has to be some ownership of the fact that if we continue to work in the vein of establishing this separate city within a city, that says that you want to keep someone out. You send a message internally, whether you intended to or not, that it’s okay for someone within this city to verbally or otherwise assault or insult the people inside this city who look like those outside of the city.
So when the verbal assaults came down and there was a response, it was sad, but it was not a surprise because for so very long no one has really been willing to speak out as courageously as they needed to, to say that there needs to be a blending or some sort of acceptance of these areas that are on the fringe of this tower of academics, so that by doing that, you send the message both within and outside of the city that it’s not okay, and that your acceptance is across the board, and the diversity is real and it’s not just a word or requirement.
Paul Burgett: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Male Voice: I’m sorry. I missed your name. What was it again?
Bobby Rhodes: Oh I’m Bobby. Bobby Rhodes.
Male Voice: Bobby. Bobby, I’m very happy that you spoke before I will speak because I think it will help to make my point. Yours was more about the unwillingness to speak about these issues and mine is going to be the unwillingness to hear about these issues.
Because I’m not going to claim to be an expert on race or diversity. I mean look at me. I’m a white male. I’ve – I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know the answers to any of these questions because they’ve never affected my life whatsoever. I’ve never had to worry about these things. And if you look around this audience, I have become the minority because people like me aren’t willing to hear about these issues and actually take any actions to do anything about them. So I’m almost calling out people like me who are not here right now, you know, maybe you’re somewhere else and this is where – if we really want to tackle these issues we should be. So that’s the point I wanted to make.
Paul Burgett: We have a hand up top there.
Gabriella Woodard: Hello, my name is Gabriella Woodard. I’m a graduate student here in the Department of Psychiatry. I’m also the Graduate House Advisor of the Douglas Leadership House. So with that being said, I too was in the protest that happened in November. So to answer some of the questions, I think hearing from a lot of my residents in the house, what they really want to see is more of them on faculty and staff. They want to be taught by people that look like them. What that means is we need more minority staff and faculty to be teaching these students. All we have on River Campus is the students of color, organization, OMSA.
Paul Burgett: And MSAB.
Gabriella Wooded: Yes, and MSAB. Right, right. So with that being said, they want more of that and they feel uncomfortable because that’s all they do have to turn to. So with that being said, I think that’s one of the things.
The other thing does pertain to Yik Yak. Whether it’s banned or whether it’s not banned, a lot of the racial slurs that are happening amongst campus are coming from this anonymous site, so having that off campus is beneficial to the students of color because they are the ones that are being offended by it. With that being said, I know it doesn’t eliminate racism on campus as a whole, but at least it kind of hides it so it’s not apparent in the face of minority students. So that’s all I have to say. Thank you.
Chris Wong: Hello, my name is Chris Wong. I’m a second year medical student and I just wanted to echo some of the things that have been said about being taught by professors or faculty of color and apply those to the Medical School.
So the first time that my class of medical students saw a black lecturer was in – like several weeks into MBB and then that was the first black woman that we saw. It wasn’t until several weeks into our second course of second year, Disease Processes and Therapeutics, that we saw our second black lecturer – a black male. Aside from that, in our entirety of our first year we weren’t taught by a black person.
Male Voice: Actually, can I – I do want to ask a follow up question. So you mentioned – you talk about the experience of not having been taught by a black person until the second year. So what did that – what did that mean for you to have that happen? Like what was the significance of that for you? Sorry I took the mic.
Chris Wong: I think everyone – it was in the back of a lot of people’s minds that there was a really noticeable lack of diversity in the faculty. But then the fact that it took us that long and we were able to finally mark it and give a date gave something – gave, I think, our class – or at least in my mind, a tangible fact that spoke a lot to what previously before was a vague feeling. So at one moment it was a moment of relief to think we have a professor of color teaching us who gave a fantastic lecture. At the other time, it was very upsetting because it gave us something very concrete to understand the climate of race as a medical student in this institution. Thank you.
Sidney Simpson: Hi, my name is Sidney Simpson. Push this down? Okay. I was an undergraduate student here and I’m now happy to be a graduate student here. I just wanted to say that I think part of an issue would be that – I’ve spoken with undergraduates now that I’m somewhat mentoring a few of them in my lab. And a lot of us, or a lot of undergraduates, I feel, come here having been sheltered. They’ve never been exposed to diversity. And then they don’t learn about it. In undergraduate I felt like we all kind of had cliques. After we all got to decide – after freshmen year, when we decided where we were going to stay in different resident halls, it was all divided.
And similar to what Bobby said, we were a city within a city. There were always these different rumors going around of “well, you can’t run on the river trail after night because that’s when the people from the city come in and they will rob you.” Or there’s just this fear of it. It was ‘us’ and then there’s ‘them.’ You can’t go over into ‘their’ territory after night.
And now as a graduate student I’ve been hearing some racist remarks from some of my undergrads who have never experienced people of another color. And then they get here, and they seem to feel like it’s still ‘push them away.’ We have ‘us’ and then there’s ‘them.’ So I feel if there was some way to educate people about other cultures of – that make up Rochester, particularly right now, after the issues with ISIS in Paris, I’ve heard a lot of things against Muslim people.
Paul Burgett: ((inaudible)) oh wait here.
Marissa Adams: Sorry. Hi, I’m Marissa Adams. I’m a – like you I was also an undergrad here at U of R and now I’m a grad student in the Physics and Astronomy Department. So Physics has, like, a lot of kind of diversity problems in general with regard to women and underrepresented minorities and people of color. And I – my question kind of echoes everyone else’s, which is what sort of initiatives are – is the University taking with regard to hiring more people of color and more underrepresented minorities into faculty and staff?
And like, for instance, there’s no faculty in the department who are of an underrepresented – who are underrepresented minorities. There was one graduate student who was of Kenyan descent and I think I know of one undergrad who is African-American. And I feel like this is clearly a huge problem that might also be an issue in other departments as well, but it’s certainly one in Physics, and I know this is kind of a local question, but I want to know in general what sorts of initiatives the University wants to take with regard to hiring more faculty and staff. Like, is something being done? Rather than telling you this is what we want, like, are you actually doing something about it or? That’s my question.
Paul Burgett: Is Vivian Lewis here? Yeah, Vivian Lewis is Vice-Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology here in the Medical Center. So she can talk on the comment.
Vivian Lewis: Yeah, I’d be happy to offer those comments. You’re right. That’s a huge problem and especially in some of the STEM fields it can be especially difficult to recruit professors in – who would meet the needs of our faculty. So there – let’s see, I guess, 2007 or so, the President started a – our office, the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity, to bring together representative faculty from each of the schools to talk about ways that they can address hiring of a more diverse faculty, retention of a more diverse faculty, from around the schools.
Now there’s also a centrally available fund to help support hiring people when there aren’t funds otherwise. We do some recruitment efforts of our own, looking even to help boost graduate recruitment.
In fact, right here is sitting a faculty member who attended one such meeting about math and statistics, and many of the professional societies have their own outreach. We have our own as well.
It’s a difficult issue. We aren’t the only ones struggling with this. And when you think about how long faculty are here, they’re here for a long time, so it’s also that we don’t, like, turn over the whole faculty every four years the way the undergraduate classes do. So it’s something we’re struggling with.
If you want to help, you can encourage your colleagues to go into academia and be very sensitive to the students that they help and the – as a teaching assistant as well. So I don’t know if that helps to answer it. Really our office doesn’t hire any of the faculty, but I know that it’s a very important initiative in the college, and we do everything we can to help complement their efforts.
Female Voice: ((inaudible))
Vivian Lewis: They have been hard at work on.
Linda Chaudron: I’ll say something about the medical center
Paul Burgett: Rich, Mike wanted to say something.
Female Voice: Thank you.
Mike: I’ll just speak very briefly about Arts, Sciences and Engineering, and then perhaps others want to speak about what happens elsewhere.
In Arts, Sciences and Engineering we have faculty, or two faculty diversity officers, who work with Vivian and the main – a main focus of their effort is to make sure that every search for a new faculty member – that the search committees are actively seeking out candidates. That they diversify their pool.
They have programs that make the faculty members on the search committees aware of issues of hidden bias or unintended bias that can affect searches and do everything they can to encourage the appointment of underrepresented – of inclusion of underrepresented minority faculty in the searches.
And the data its – as Vivian said, I mean, it’s a difficult thing. I think I’m right in saying that in ASNE, last year 20% of the appointments – I think it was – it was high, but it was a high number, but it’s of a small number of appointments that are made, so it’s very hard to make it change the overall numbers in any rapid – in a rapid way. But, so, I think we’re all working very hard, but it’s a tough issue, and we’re competing against universities around the country for the candidates. And so it’s difficult, but it’s certainly a major effort within ASNE and I think it’s true elsewhere around the University.
Linda Chaudron: Let me just – I just. I don’t know anything about the Department of Physics, but in the Medical Center, I just want to just briefly give you an overview of some of the approaches we’re taking. The – my office is the Office for Inclusion and Culture Development. And that is an expansion of an office that originally started with Dr. Lewis. It focused on diversity and faculty development. It was expanded then to focus on the Medical School and that entire pipeline, which is what you’re talking about. We have a long term view of expanding our diversity. Not – you can’t just focus on the faculty and in the Medical Center, in particular, we have clinical faculty as well as basic science faculty and so we have to look across the board.
Today there are a lot of grad students here, medical students, residents, and we have been working a lot at all of those points to work with our residency directors because the residents are the clinical postdoctoral fellows who then – many of whom stay here as faculty, and so as we look at our residency programs and help to encourage looking at diverse pools and recruiting even broader geographically from where we might have historically – our hope is to also impact the diversity ultimately of the faculty through some of those mechanisms.
I think also the entire approach of the Medical Center in terms of looking at inclusion and culture across the institution, similar to what the Commission is thinking about more broadly for the University, is an important component of having an inclusive environment to then engage those people who are coming to interview, but also those who are here to say this is a great place to work. That this is a – I’m sorry to hear it’s a city within a city. We are a city within a city, but I’d like there not to be the walls that you’re talking about.
So how do we get there and how can we help with – that is why we’re here today. To hear what your experiences are and what your ideas are as well. I think one of the things I say, and I met with the affinity groups, Dr. Taubman and I met with the Medical Students affinity groups today to hear their perspective somewhat on what are the issues that they’re experiencing and how can we help improve it because I can come up with things from my perspective, but that’s a very – I know that I have a lens and everybody else has a lens that we need to hear from, and that’s what we’re hoping today, to hear from those different lenses. So I don’t know if that answered – I know it doesn’t answer your question about Physics but I hope it answered.
Dean Taubman: I mean I would – I would secondly say that one of our strategic goals is really to increase diversity throughout the entire system. It’s not just faculty. It’s faculty, it’s trainees, it’s this – this should be on it. It’s staff, it’s – and I think that’s important because for us to really present ourselves as a diverse and culturally friendly institution it’s got to be at every level.
Each area has specific issues and specific opportunities. For example, on the clinical side, we have a greater opportunity not only because there’s significant turnover because we have a faculty that is 1700 of which 1200 are clinical, but also a substantial part of that faculty comes from our residency and fellowship. And since our residencies and fellowships turn over in a two, three-year period, there is where I actually feel a very great emphasis has to be placed because there we can make changes quite rapidly. Because people decide to come here as residents and fellows because they are assuming that a substantial part of them will then stay in town and live here. And that’s a major issue for why people choose it.
So there’s an example of an opportunity where if we focused particularly on trying to create the right environment to attract more underrepresented minorities in those – in those programs – that will translate very, very quickly to a change in the faculty.
Marissa Adams: I think that’s a great idea. I really appreciate everyone’s response. This kind of got me thinking because I suppose that my question in total was sort of like a long term, like what are our goals for hiring more faculty. And I think that a great turnover, like every three years. That sounds like a better way to start introducing more diversity into our current, like, community.
I guess another question that’s got me thinking more locally and at a faster pace with, like, interactions one on one with people. Of course, I guess we could say this kind of relates back to Affirmative Action and how that, like, relates to hiring, to getting students into, you know, our school, everything like that. But what I’ve noticed, especially with white people, when discussing Affirmative Action is they consider it to be, like, a hostile – this is hindering my chances, you know, where it’s like actually – like, I’ve actually encountered this.
So I’m a female Physics major. I’m using me as an example because this is my experience. There’s, like, seven of us in a twenty-seven year or twenty-seven – there’s twenty-seven of us – seven of us are female. And some comments made by some of the dudes were, like, oh well, it must have, like, been easy for you to get in because you’re a girl. Or, you know, they make statements like that. They’re so insecure about, like, getting a job or getting into grad school because they’re a white male and they feel like they’re the ones that are disadvantaged nowadays because there’s these Affirmative Action, like, initiatives. Where it’s, like, no, you got into grad school. What the hell are you talking about? Like, no – you didn’t not get into grad school – like, you’re here right now and, like, you know, if anything, like, it’s a good thing because it increases diversity and we all know that the more diverse a group, the better ideas and more creative ideas come out of it. So we should all be working together to sort of, you know, like, help make a more inclusive and diverse group.
So how do we combat that kind of attitude that I see really pervasive in the white male community? I don’t know if, like – I know, I’m, like, a white woman saying this, but it’s just kind of – I don’t know how to really handle that other than try to correct them, and then they get defensive. You know, so is there any way the University could perhaps, like, address that sort of attitude? Maybe workshops or something? I don’t know, but that might be a more short-term sort of goal to combat the current campus climate, but, yeah.
Paul Burgett: You raised a big – a huge question which is certainly deserving of our attention. We may not answer it here, is unlikely, but the fact that you raised it deserves our applause.
Male Voice: So just to echo what Dean Burgett is saying, much of what we’re trying to do here is get information, and then what the Commission plans to do is to really think about what’s been proposed here and think about ways to address it through recommendations that the President has asked us to provide to him. So we’re not blowing off questions or it’s that you – but we are – our goal is to hear more from you. There also was a queue, so I know you don’t see people standing up. There are other people who are waiting to speak, so we’ll call you when it’s your turn, for sure. And I think the first person is up here, yes.
Antoinette: My name is Antoinette. I’m a first year medical student and I’m also an alum of the River Campus. I want to reiterate the importance of having a diverse faculty and students, but for my limited perspective from one semester of medical school as well, I think it’s important to also look at the types of – I’m just speaking from a medical student’s perspective, and this seems kind of small, but the types of patients we get to see in lecture and the pictures on the slides.
A kind of a poignant example is we had a lecture on hands last semester and there are about ten to twelve case studies of just white hands. And I think part of the problem, too, is obviously that I don’t know how many people noticed that because the majority of our class is white, but it’s going to make all of us – there’s an urgency, too, not just because of the campus climate, but because it’s going to make a better doctor or worse doctors to have only seen white hands. And I think that that’s a small thing to look at in the meantime while we’re also trying to increase the diversity of people who see, but to change half of the pictures in a slide show to show black hands and brown hands and all types of hands is quite simple, and I think it will make a larger impact than a lot of us don’t notice or don’t see, so.
Chris: Good afternoon everyone. My name’s Chris. I’m a fourth year medical student and is ramping the ((inaudible)) to try to get some time in here because I really value this Commission. I think it’s important to bring up a lot of important issues. So because there aren’t that many medical students here today, and I know a lot of people are busy, this is a difficult time. I just want to bring up some things that my colleagues and I have discussed, and that I’ve heard and that I think are important.
So one of the most concerning things that I have spoken to my colleagues about were actually instances that I’ve heard from multiple of my peers where they feel like the grades they receive on their clerkships were lower than their colleagues who were white or male or, you know, definitely not necessarily underrepresented minorities. And I think that that’s extremely concerning for two reasons. Either, one, there’s a perception that they’re receiving – they’re having different interactions with the people who are grading them – their superiors. Or, and if that’s not true, the more concerning aspect is that they actually are getting worse grades from their superiors, which is really an issue.
And I think following that up is the issue Dr. Schwartz spoke about is fear. I think there’s really – I definitely agree with him that there’s a pervasive sense of fear among many medical students to come up – to bring these issues to our superiors. Especially when we’re on rotation. We don’t want to say that we disagree because it’s considered unprofessional. Yet we’re receiving feedback all the time. So I think that this, you know, issue of trust is, definitely needs to be considered and explored.
So that’s another thing. In terms of our training on racial disparities in medicine, we’ve received two trainings throughout my entire period of medical school. Two trainings. So that means that maybe I’d say six hours total. I think that is grossly inadequate for the amount of times that I come in contact with patients who are underrepresented in terms of a population who are African-American or Latino, who are immigrants, and I think that I felt unprepared personally for addressing the needs of those patients.
I also think that the training – the clinical training from my superiors, from attendings, from residents was also inadequate to prepare me for the most part. I think there’s some attendings who are wonderful, who are either represented or underrepresented minorities or not that get it but I think a lot of attendings don’t. And I think that’s a real issue, when, in terms of learning how to become a physician and treat our patients properly. There’s so many times when I would walk in a room and, you know, I would – just before I even start the interaction there’s a huge barrier of fear, of – that the patient has in regards to me just being part of the medical system and being part of – frankly being part of U of R. And I think that that’s something that really needs to be addressed.
I also think that one of the issues that’s been brought up a lot and along clinical rotations is the way the patients are spoken about in private, I think, is really concerning. I know that there is a lot of times when, you know, attendings and residents are overworked and they’re exhausted and they’ll meet a patient and they’ll come back and discuss it and they’ll either think that they’re lying about the presentation, that they’re unhelpful, that they don’t – that they haven’t fixed their problems before they came to the hospital. And these are people who are extremely vulnerable. They’re coming to the hospital literally at the most vulnerable time. And I think judging them and, like – it’s incredible how frequent these same patients are also, you know, patients of underrepresented communities, you know, African-Americans and Latinos and other minorities. And that’s a real, you know, it’s a very subtle kind of nuanced way that raises and exists in our culture of medicine but it’s very, very pervasive and I don’t know the exact way to deal with that but I think that it’s present.
I also want to speak to the city within a city issue that was brought up. I know that a lot of the reason why there’s fear that patients – when patients to the ED or present to Rochester is because I think there’s a perception within the community that Rochester doesn’t care about the poor or University of Rochester doesn’t care about the poor and the sectors of the city that are predominantly African-American. And I think this is supported by and since this is, for example, with, you know, brand new beautiful buildings that are built sometimes with Federal money, with Housing and Urban Development money that people considered should be earmarked for the poor communities and communities that are extremely marginalized.
And also existing in a county where there’s an incredible amount of segregation in terms of the education system. The fact that the graduation rate for black males is nine percent in Rochester – in the city of Rochester and in the surrounding community it’s completely different. So I just – there’s a couple comments. Mostly I just want to present some things that I’d heard from my colleagues and things like that. So thank you.
Terry Platt: So I want to call people’s attention to a pressure point that I think may have an effect and is overlooked. And that is that although faculty change itself in the ranks is very slow, virtually every department has a seminar program. And I’ve looked at seminar programs in the STEM fields that I’m familiar with, and it’s pretty striking if you compare one department to another. I particularly looked at gender because gender parity is one of my – one of my hobby horses.
But some departments do really, really well and half of their seminar speakers in a given year are women. And other departments, almost next door, are not. And I don’t think it’s deliberate exclusion. I think it’s nobody’s thinking about it. And so I think an effort from the top to have somebody or a small group go to every chair and say, “By the way, we need your help in expanding the visibility of underrepresented minorities at the University.”
And there are surely plenty of minority people in all of the fields that every department is represented when you have a nationwide pool to choose from. And most faculty who come from outside are, you know, faculty – they, themselves are, you know, interested and they’re competent and so forth. So I think that’s also a place where postdocs and grad students as well as undergrads and, you know, even junior faculty can pressure their own departments. Let’s see more people of this sort.
Charity: Hi, my name is Charity. I’m a third year Med Peds Resident and started the Minority of Residency Organization. I really liked all of your comments. I feel like I have a billion things to say about it, but one of the most valuable things that I realize some of the interns got was when I was on the clinical rotations with them.
And one particular example was – this is an elderly woman. She looked like she may be passing away soon and so they needed to have a Goals of Care conversation with the entire family. And African-American families tend to be very close-knit, it’s big, you know, big families that are – it’s – the conversation is much different than you would have with a common white family. And so, you know, my intern was kind of scared to have this conversation with like fifteen family members in the room, them being very angry and didn’t understand that they’re not angry at you. They’re angry at the situation and this is just the way that they express themselves.
So I had my medical students, I had my interns come in and watch me have this Goals of Care conversation with this whole family. And they took – they said that was one of the most powerful things they took away from that elective and it really just – just emphasized the importance of just having more African-American residents that can kind of teach the white students, you know, this is – you’re going to have. This is a common thing that you see all the time. And when these medical students become residents they’re going to have to do the same thing that I did. And so at some point for them to see – see me do it. I can’t explain. There’s something I can’t teach them. I can’t explain it to them but they just need to watch me do it. And so – and I think that in other areas that’s kind of what they need.
So one of the things that we work with, with Linda, is we’re really trying to recruit a lot more medical students to come into our residency programs and the diversity program is doing a very good job of just funding us to actually go to the minority conference to actually recruit more African-Americans because, you know, we can’t expect to get it internally. You know some students may stay but honestly there’s not a lot of black people in the medical programs anyway, so we have to go outside, which is what I think a lot of the other programs — the Physics Department and some of the other programs may want to do is look outside and actually let them know that we are visible.
And I had some of my other resident counterparts in Chicago – so many other residency programs – they go to these conferences and they – and they’re program sends them to go and tell people about their program. And say, “Hey, we exist.” And so, you know, Linda was like why don’t – why don’t we do that too, which is why –which is what we’re doing as well.
The other thing that I thought was very useful was the – in the Pediatrics program – I do internal medicine in Pediatrics. And so in the Pediatrics program it’s mandatory every resident go through Pediatric Links to the community. So you spend two weeks doing a community project and doing – and just being exposed to the community. And part of that is going to the Boys and Girls Club and going to different, like, womens’ shelters. You really get into it and you see exactly what’s going on in the city. ‘Getting to the other side of the bridge’ is kind of what people say. And so – and I noticed that this was helpful in some of my white colleagues that when that shooting happened with the Boys and Girls Club, they were aware and they knew the people. They knew – they were concerned and they actually cared about what happened because they were exposed to these people already. And some of the names, you know, trying to see. Is this someone that I knew?
And so I think it’s important that they probably could expand it to other residency programs or I don’t know how easy that will be because we’re residents. There’s a lot of mandatory things we have to do, but I think something similar to that, even if – it doesn’t have to be two weeks. It could be a day or, you know, something that will expose the residents to the community. And it will increase their sensitivity so you don’t have this problem where they can’t empathize with their patients, and going into the resident rooms and start talking trash about the patient because they don’t understand the struggle that the patient is experiencing. So, you know, the answer to that is they need to understand, you know, they need to be empathic, whatever. They need to empathize with this patient more so that they don’t just assume the patient is stupid or anything. So there’s a lot but.
Linda Chaudron: I want to – I just want to say thank you and I want to say that the kind of collaboration between our students and our administration – the kinds of things that Charity came to me and it’s been phenomenal. I can’t – we can’t do this alone. I can’t do this alone; the administration can’t do this alone. Like I said before, we need these collaborations to understand what we need to do because we don’t always know. So it’s been a great opportunity for me to learn and for me to understand what we could do differently. And we have to be open and have those – we have to have those conversations. So thank you. Ann wanted to just comment.
Ann Nofziger: Just a couple quick comments about curriculum and thank you so much because one of the things that I think – I work in Family Medicine practice doing primary care and I learn all the time from my staff and my patients who live in Rochester how to respond better to people who have different experiences than I do. And I was struck, as I had been, during your comment I was struck because that happened many times by the really deep power of positive stories.
Examples that really demonstrate for everybody the value of having a diverse team to be working on because we grapple with all kinds of problems and it’s usually somebody, you know, somebody on the team knows what to do about that and nobody else did. And unless we have a conversation already established and a trust with a diverse team, we just don’t do as good a job with those problems. So I think that was a great example of stories that I think it will be good for people to read and remember that you’ve got resources besides just yourself when you’re frazzled and you have a problem you’re having trouble with.
It also strikes me that in clinical medicine we have a really specific opportunity to address this community division, the University community division. And I happen, just yesterday, to have learned that one of the things the Medical Center is working on – I hope I can say this because you said it to MFC – is an expansion of the ED. I think some of our clinical locations where patients have really difficult experiences sometimes, one of the things the Medical Center is doing is looking at how care is given in those places, so I’m really pleased about that.
And then, finally, I wanted to say too that curriculum changes about disparities in healthcare are moving at a pretty fast pace right now compared to anything else that’s being sort of increased in the community, and that is largely through the intervention of students and the participation of students in creating really good content, interdisciplinary content. We have a whole day in the first year now that includes medical and nursing. It’s going to be social work this year as well as somebody else.
Female Voice: Pharmacy.
Ann Nofziger: Pharmacy, thank you. Really specifically focusing on addressing disparity in healthcare. And one of the things I always notice is that when you get different professions in the room there’s not just diversity of perspective but sometimes more racial diversity as well, which is really awesome. Okay, that’s plenty from me.
Male Voice: ((inaudible)) So trying to build on successes and where they are. One of the programs that I see really, really working and I don’t even believe it’s a diversity program or my data may be wrong. But at engineering commencement when Ed Hajim says that’s one of mine, that’s one of mine, that’s one of mine. I – he points to our best students and it’s just a crowd that’s incredibly diverse and they’re his Hajim scholars. And he brings them in. I don’t know who finds these wonderful students but he identifies them, he meets with them periodically, he champions them through, and I think it’s just a wonderful program. It’s not meant to be a diversity program, but I think it’s very successful in trying to keep our campus diverse.
Elisa Flores: Hello.
Female Voice2: You’re on.
Elisa Flores: Hi, Elisa Flores, and I’m a grad student through the SMD. And.
Male Voice: ((inaudible))
Elisa Flores: Oh, okay.
Male Voice: Thank you.
Elisa Flores: And speaking on information about that doctor story said, oh we don’t have any postdocs that are minorities, right. But as soon as you hire one, people are going to whisper, “Oh, they’re only here because they’re minorities.” I’ve had faculty members and fellow students directly say to my face and/or insinuate that I’m only here because I’m a minority. And I don’t know what to say back to them, and I don’t confront anybody, but it’s an awkward situation, and when you hire more faculty here people are going to be like, “Oh, there was a more qualified person to do that.” And as a minority I don’t want a job just because I’m a minority. I want it because of merit, and I want it because I earned it. And I think there’s a stigma, and there’s people that just think that way, and it’s hard to combat, and I think minorities gravitate towards jobs and areas where diversity is tolerated, right.
Because I’m originally from California, and people view Mexicans very differently over there versus people – how people view Mexicans in New York. So it’s not just a campus theme, it’s a cultural and regional thing. So more people – maybe minorities are not coming here because they think, “Oh, maybe the climate for diversity isn’t right.” And I think there should be more workshops about it, even sending more emails like what’s appropriate, what’s not appropriate, because I think not everyone is racist. I think it’s just people are lack of knowledge, right, like ignorance. And I don’t think they mean to be racist or mean to say things but it’s more, like, inappropriate.
Male Voice: So yet again I was set up perfectly. The point was raised before by the young woman from Physics – how do we get the young men around here to not see things like Affirmative Action initiatives as things like reverse racism or reverse discrimination. How do we get them to understand that they need to be here, they need to understand what you go through and, of course, you know, I have friends – the first people they blame if they don’t get jobs are either a minority or a woman because they seem to think they would have gotten the job had it not been for them. So the only way that we get these discussions moving is for those people to be represented here and to be able to hear these voices in, from a primary source, and understand that this is a real issue.
Paul Burgett: ((inaudible)) please.
Precious Bedell: I’m Precious Bedell and I work in the Department of Psychiatry, and I just want to address the last question with regard to what are the recommendations to improve our community, and what’s really missing is the voice of community people. It has been alluded to that the people in the community feel that the University of Rochester is this ivory tower. And I’m a community person, and I work in the community a lot, and I just feel that while we have these challenges – I went to a conference in Florida and it was called the People’s Scientific Conference. And the people from the community were invited in to talk about why they don’t participate in research, you know, and it was issues discussed such as consent forms, such as mistrust, some of the clinical errors, and just brutalities, that have been committed on people of color.
So when we talk about improving our community we have to have the voice of the people. The voice of the people. The people should be invited to the University. The University – when I tell people I work here, I’m proud to work here – they tell me why those people there and this and it’s us against them. And a lot of the statements that they make are really true. We are embedded in old racial, institutional, systemic problems that we have to address. And I think by having a meeting like this, I think, that we are acknowledging that we have problems here. And that we want to help resolve them.
So we do have to take responsibility for it but we also have to draw from the strengths of the University as well. We have a lot of protective factors here. We have a lot of educators. We can do a lot more with being inclusive of our community. Thank you.
Michelle Sanders: Hi, my name is Michelle Sanders. I’m a graduate student in the Department of Public Health Sciences. I just wanted to piggy back off something that Dr. Lewis had mentioned in terms of teaching assistants. I think there’s a real opportunity to do some professional development with some of the graduate students that we have here so that academia becomes more attractive. I’m actually conducting a study myself, so I’d be happy to share some of those results. I think it’s a missed opportunity, especially when there’s not a lot of underrepresented faculty. I think this may be a way to retain. That’s it.
Jamal Jefferson: Hi, my name is Jamal Jefferson and I’m a first year medical student here. And the reason I’m up here is because you talked examples, talked about stories, and I guess I wanted to share a quick one from today.
First of all, background – so I just returned so I’m entering into a new first year class and so I was introducing myself to people and I was in the bathroom and washing my hands and introducing myself to someone and the person said, “Oh, do you work here?” And I was kind of wearing this whole thing right here and if they took a second to observe, I had my badge and all that stuff. And I’ve heard stories like this before and so I wasn’t offended by it but as, you know, as an African-American male in a predominantly white institution I understand that those things are going to happen and I kind of expect that they’re going to happen but – and I’m not sure where the education starts.
We talked about hiring people and we also talked about education. But I just – I share that just to say that those things happen almost every day and they go unspoken. And that’s just a reality that I live in and I hope that by, you know, more stories like this and more forums happen like this so people can, you know, put people – put yourself in other people’s shoes and understand, like, how sensitive that kind of comment is. And it’s kind of – and it piggybacks off the sort of the segregation era when people of my color were working here and that’s all they did, you know, they weren’t able to be physicians.
And the second thing I’d say is an active thing that we all can do and is the city within this city and that’s the custodial staff that is mostly minority is to say hello to them, say hi, and I make an active effort to do that because – because they look like me, but we all should do that, and because they are here night and day and working here. And that’s just something – a little tiny thing that we can do every day to make everyone feel more welcome.
Paul Burgett: If I may be permitted just a comment to your brilliant observations. We’ve actually termed a coin, coined a term, and the term is micro aggression. These are these little things that happen almost unbeknownst. They go almost unnoticed except to the person like yourself or like me.
And I just want to tell you very quickly – how many of you are familiar with WEB DuBois? And you know who he was? One of the greatest in the likes of American culture and American history. Grew up in Great Barrington. He was the editor of The Crisis and one of the founders of the NAACP in 1909, and he told the story of Great Barrington where the despised class, by the way, were the Irish, not the blacks, because there were so few blacks at the time. But he tells a story about how one day in a wee wooden schoolhouse on the shores of the Housatonic, the children got it into their heads to exchange visiting cards. Sort of like Valentine’s Day cards. We all remember Valentine’s Day cards. And he said the children came to school on this day and there was a new girl in the class – a tall and a tall, blond, white girl. And he went to exchange a visiting card with her.
Now this is where this story appeared in his book – Souls of Black Folk – in 1903, so this happened in the 19th Century. And he said he went to exchange a visiting card, and she refused his card with a “peremptory glance.” Not a word, but a peremptory look. And with that look, he said, “the veil descended forever creating a rift between them and me.” That’s what happened to you, in fact. That’s the micro aggression I’m talking about. And getting at that issue in our wonderful University is one of the thorniest and most difficult challenges. It is an issue which I had to deal with nine hundred and fifty-seven years ago as a student at the University of Rochester. [laughter] And my predecessors had to deal with a thousand years before that and you, who are our pioneer, have to deal with today. But an issue for which all of us in this room have responsibility. I appreciate you.
LaRon Nelson: Let me just say we have four more questions or comments that we’ll take and I think we’ll be at our time. So please, if you don’t get a chance to make your comment utilize the forms that were passed around. And who should they submit them to? Where should they take them?
Paul Burgett: They can submit them to any Commission member here. Ann is here, Linda’s here, Rich is here, I am here.
Female Voice: I’ll be here afterwards.
Paul Burgett: And Guylda’s.
Female Voice: Guylda’s here.
Paul Burgett: Richard is here. Vivian Lewis is here and you can even give them to the President if you want to because he’s here too.
Male Voice: Okay. Thank you.
Diane Morse: I’m Diane Morse. I’m in the Department of Psychiatry. I’m an internist. And I employ a number of people on my research team and I want to suggest – I agree with a lot of suggestions, but I just want to say that a lot of the potential future faculty and high level staff are working here now and are underutilized. And it is very, very – I think that it’s really important to look at how very, very difficult it is to promote people here in our Human Resources. That, you know, just to promote a person who is incredibly talented and intelligent like the person who was sitting behind me, who had to go take a class, is incredibly difficult and it really needs to be addressed.
And the other issue is that, you know, think about all the people that we heard about who are working parking our cars and keeping our place clean could be educated. We are – we are an educational institution. We could educate them and they could be our future leaders here. And I think that, you know, we could potentially say have this person have a scholarship, have this person get a PhD here and be potentially one of our future faculty and high level staff. Thank you.
Stephanie Corbett: My name is Stephanie Corbett. I work in graduate education and I just want to kind of piggyback off of what Elisa said about her feeling, being a minority student. I’m a staff in the office and students tend – of color – tend to come to me to just have conversations. And I’ve heard that repeatedly that they don’t feel welcome because they feel that they were just, you know, selected for the program because of their color, not on their academic ability. So I understand and I’ve heard that repeatedly. It’s not the first time. So that is something that needs to be addressed. Not only do they not feel welcome, and there’s an atmosphere in the lab, too, that students make comments to students of color that are very insensitive, again, giving them that feeling that they’re not welcome based on their ability.
I’ve had a couple of male students come to me who have even had bikes out in the rack and were getting their bike or unlocking their bike, and come to me and explain that they were approached by peace officers as if they were maybe assuming that they were stealing the bike when it was just their bike that they were handling. Again, because of their color they felt that they weren’t welcome. And this is the feeling they have the first week or two that they’re here and it continues to grow. And they talk among themselves because they don’t, again, like Dr. Schwartz said, they don’t trust anybody else or don’t know where to go to have those conversations. So we have it among ourselves. Where do you guide them to address these issues? So I appreciate the Town Hall Meetings so students can make these comments and make you guys aware of what’s going on internally.
Timothy Hong: Hello. My name’s Timothy Hong. I’m a third year medical student. There’s been a lot of conversation or a lot of comments about how we can promote a good conversation. I echo Chris’ comments that I – we in the medical school, thus far for me, I’ve only had one or two organized sort of school sponsored conversations surrounding race. They’ve gone extremely poorly for – it’s the safety of the students to make comments openly has – was never established. I just think that to put on a more positive note that there are people who get it and people who don’t get it. And for – there are a lot of people who don’t get it who want to understand, but there’s not a good forum to help bridge that understanding.
I just wonder if the Commission would be able to dig in the literature or find through other universities best practices surrounding how to have those conversations. Whether they be in a small room or in a large group. There has to be someone who’s written something about how to have these conversations to bring people together.
Colleen Snyder: Hi, my name’s Colleen Snyder and I’m a third year MD PhD student here at the University of Rochester. And I’ve got a couple of comments. First I really wanted to echo your comment about not having a lot of encounters with patients of color and minority – minority patients. During our first and second years – especially in the first year that’s the time when we’re learning how to interview patients, and we don’t have access to a diverse population of patients to interview – even though I know this city has a diverse population of patients. So something as simple as when a lecturer brings in some of their patients for us to get to know and interview – making sure that those lectures aren’t just selecting white patients. I can’t think of a single patient who’s come in who was not white in the first two years of medical school. So that’s a big issue.
Also, you know, changing the photos on the slides, but also there’s a lot of racial profiling that happens when you establish a differential diagnosis. You know when someone has sarcoidosis everyone immediately thinks that they’re African-American just because that’s what we’re taught. Those are the links that happen and those are, you know, racist links even if they are maybe based on statistics or something like that. So, and then the other thing I wanted to say was that I know that the medical school – actually we just got an email today about an elective course on African-American history, but I think that’s only offered for third and fourth years, and I don’t really understand how that fits into a third or fourth year’s very busy clinical rotation schedule. So I think it would be much more useful to have something like that during the medical community offerings that happen in first and second year. There’s – I don’t think there’s any specifically racial disparity course offered as a medical community’s option. So those are my two concrete suggestions.
Joel Seligman: I just want to express my gratitude to all who have spoken. I really appreciate the candor. This is a project that will never be completed. The topic of race and diversity is the greatest challenge this company has faced but take a look around this room. It’s very different than it would have been fifty years ago or a hundred years ago. And recognize it’s in transition. And our job, in a sense, is to both be honest about how we can improve now, but to recognize that we’re pioneers, if you will.
There’ll be more and more cultures represented throughout, not just the Medical School but the University in the decades to come. And our challenge is to find a way in which there’s mutual respect, mutual trust, there’s not fear. There’s a sense of inclusiveness. Now we’re not capable of magic. People sometimes harbor evil thoughts, horrible thoughts, and we don’t have total ability to change this. But there are so many suggestions today and I know at other contexts as to how we can move forward and my role, more than anything else, is not just to encourage this Commission but to basically say we’re listening and we’re determined to improve.
The tone at the top is sometimes said it’s important. But I want to highlight. There’s something all of you in this room should think about. And I’m going to close with a – just a very simple story.
The current framework for admissions at public universities was set by a case in the University of Michigan Law School called Grutter versus Bollinger. And it is one where the Supreme Court gladly says you cannot have race preferences but you can grant diversity a plus factor. And it is one which is under assault this year and might or might not be reversed in a case called Fisher versus the University of Texas. I was fascinated by a story, I believe, in yesterday’s New York Times about what has happened at the State of Michigan and, in particular, the University of Michigan.
One of the horrible results of the Grutter case was that the State of Michigan adopted a prohibition of even taking diversity into account. That is, they outlawed the kind of standard we use here and elsewhere. And the response, to the University of Michigan’s credit, was to hire a woman to be in charge of admissions who is determined to have as diverse a pool as legally appropriate. And her basic mechanisms – at least as I understand them – in the New York Times is intense recruitment, sitting down, talking to people, popularizing the idea, which I know is true, having spent nine years at the University of Michigan, that they want to be a diverse community. They’re proud to be. And this is something for all of us.
It’s both important to be honest and candid as how we can improve, but we only improve if we attract more people of all races and obviously genders to our school. And if we become part of the solution as well as highlighting the challenges. And I guess I’m grateful, so grateful for those who have spoken here and elsewhere to being honest that we do have challenges. This is not a shock, not a surprise. We’ve made some progress in various ways, and I won’t try to recite those, but we’ve got a long way to go and I’m looking forward to not only the Commission’s – I think you’re calling it preliminary report or initial.
Paul Burgett: Preliminary assessment.
Joel Seligman: Preliminary assessment end of January and further reports later. But most importantly, I’m going to encourage all of you to stay committed to this, not just here but throughout your lifetime. It’s the right thing to do.
Female Voice: Thank you.
Male Voice: Thank you.
Paul Burgett: Virtually, almost always, the President has the last word, but today – but today one of your own, a member of the Commission, Guylda Richard.
Guylda Richard: Hi.
Paul Burgett: Has the last word.
Guylda Richard: Hi, yes. So I am a second year medical student here and I wanted to end this forum because I wanted to challenge all of you sitting here today. So you heard from a lot of different people with a lot of different perspectives and personal anecdotes and one of the things that you heard was that for minority students you mentioned about Affirmative Action.
You have now learned, if you didn’t already know, that minority students come into these prestigious universities with the knowledge that we have to work twice as hard because we’re not only in medical school and have to deal with medical school or graduate school or whatever it may be. But we also have to work hard to challenge these stereotypes, to challenge the stigma, to challenge the idea that we only are here because of the color of our skin.
And so after hearing this – and if you didn’t already know I want to make sure that, you know, the people in this room that are here it’s because you are interested. You’re committed to learning more. You mentioned this before. The people that aren’t here are the ones that need to hear this.
So I challenge those of you that are here to go and be the pioneers. Ask yourself how you contribute to the climate here. How you interact with people who don’t look like you. What ways do you contribute to a negative climate? And ask yourself on a daily basis, you know, check your language, check your bias, check your ideas and – about people. And you know before you go and have – talk about that person, that patient who didn’t look like you – ask yourself, “Why am I doing that? Is that really helpful?” And if you hear your peers or your colleagues doing it, check them on it. Say, you know, is that really helpful? Does that help anybody? And you are the people who are going to now go – because this burden that is on our shoulders I’m putting it – a little bit of it on yours. So I hope you leave here today knowing that, you know, you need to be a pioneer every day of your life as well. So thank you.
Paul Burgett: Thank you. And thank you all for coming.
Female Voice: Reminders.
Guylda Richards: Oh sorry, reminders. There’s two more meetings here in the Med Center.
Female Voice: Thank you.
Paul Burgett: Nicely done.
Female Voice: Nice job.
Female Voice2: Thank you.
Paul Burgett: Nicely done. It was a perfect ending.
Female Voice: That’s right, no, I agree.
Paul Burgett: Linda, thank you so much.
Female Voice: You did it. I’m going with you from now on, Paul.
[END OF RECORDING]