Questions & Comments

The DEI committee reads on a weekly basis every comment and submission done through our anonymous form. The questions in this section have been grouped by subject and have been paraphrased to protect the identity of the people submitting them as well as to make the responses more efficient. If you feel that your comment, question or contribution has not been properly addressed or if you want to learn more about any of the questions of responses, we encourage you to contact any of the members of the committee.

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What structures/resources/strategies are used in and outside the classroom to promote students’ success, particularly to those from historically marginalized groups and reduce inequities among groups of students?

Some of the resources and programs available to students include Biomentors, ACE, CLAS, and the ONDAS student center. These resources are definitely useful and we strongly encourage students to connect through and use them. The BIOME courses for first year pre-Biology students and new efforts to assist Transfer Students are designed to create a sense of community and connect students to peer-peer resources that go beyond tutoring and more into engaged learning habits and a sense of community. The Biomentors program in Intro Biology and the use of undergraduate Learning Assistants are also being used more extensively. One thing we’ve learned is that we need better and more creative ways to inform students and disseminate information. We also rely on the efforts of the Undergraduate Bio DEI Committee in assisting promoting these resources.

We are aware of the inequities caused by the test banks created and promoted among certain clubs, webpages, fraternities and sororities. More faculty are now aware of this and are addressing the disparity by providing copies of old exams to the entire class. The remote learning environment as a result of the pandemic has provided an opportunity to reorganize courses and rethink some of the assessments, which may result in a shift away from the old style exams. We suggest that if you encounter situations where these test banks are being used at a disadvantage to a subset of students, please inform the instructor (anonymously if you prefer, or through an undergraduate DEI representative). We are currently developing channels of communication to promote student participation and hear student’s concerns, comments and ideas. There is now an anonymous feedback tab on the MCDB website that allows you to visit any time and leave suggestions and comments. We are looking forward to having the undergraduate and graduate student DEIW committees share suggestions as well. We are also coordinating with other STEM Departments to launch a climate survey in the climate survey in the near future that will also provide opportunities to give specific and general feedback. The MCDB Undergraduate DEI group also directly communicates with the MCDB Faculty DEI group.

We recognize that many biology students are first in family students and that the environment in the large introductory classes can be intimidating. We have heard this concern from many students and this challenge of large classes and inclusivity was a main topic of the training MCDB faculty received in the recent RISE workshops. The intent is to incorporate best practices for inclusive teaching into as many of our courses as possible. The BIOME courses for first year students and then the use of undergraduate Learning Assistants in other courses is also designed to help with this. We also see a need to pro-actively assist Transfer Students when they join our UCSB community and are working with the Transfer Student Center and ONDAS on best ways to do this. Finally, graduate students are now also receiving more training in how to create inclusive classroom environments when they TA. We also hope that first and second year Bio students will consider joining the undergraduate BIO DEIW group, engage in Bio Journal Club (a group of undergrad biologists who meet regularly) and join other student groups and clubs where they can find mentorship from senior peers. We look forward to working with students on this!

What are the ongoing efforts to address the need for classes or inclusion of material in existing courses focused on prejudice, inequities and diversity in STEM?

We now have a new course, Diversity in STEM, which launched last Fall and will be expanded and offered annually. Developed in consultation with the Director of the Center for Black Studies Research, Professor Sharon Tettegah, the goal is to engage undergraduate and graduate students in learning and conversation around racism and disparities in STEM and historical contributions of PEER scientists. An existing class, “Science for the Common Good,” a leadership course associated with the NIH MARC Scholars program, is also focused on issues of DEI in STEM and engages students in opportunities to learn about and address these issues proactively. Students organize events, host speakers, and work collaboratively to address identified challenges. Many faculty also are incorporating examples of diversity in science as well as pointing out disparities in their courses. Finally, more diverse speakers are being invited in the MCDB seminar series. The research theme of the 2020 MCDB/BMSE Departmental Research Retreat’s was Diversity in Molecular Bioscience (program HERE). Speakers were from diverse institutions and the retreat focused on conversation around diversity and inclusivity in STEM. This also included an online discussion, moderated by undergraduate students, on the importance of diversity in bioscience research. Furthermore, a number of undergraduate and graduate students and faculty have raised the issue of a required Ethics course. The Faculty DEI group is discussing the best way forward for this. In the interim, we are in discussion with colleagues across campus who offer BioEthics courses and encourage MCDB students to pursue these courses.

Student, Staff and Faculty Training

What are the ongoing efforts to train faculty and staff on diversity equity and inclusion?

95% of MCDB faculty and all MCDB student advisors have completed the Recognizing and Mitigating Implicit Bias series offered by the UC Learning Center. In addition, a significant fraction of MCDB faculty have participated in or signed up to participate in DEI workshops organized by the new campus DEI Office. These focus on Microaggressions, White Privilege, and Structural Racism. The department is committed to continuous training in regards to diversity, equity and inclusion. As noted elsewhere, many faculty also continue to participate in campus workshops and national trainings on inclusive teaching practices, equity and diversity in graduate admissions, and inclusive graduate student mentoring.

Undergrad Advisors Related

How can the biology advisors more effectively advise students, particularly those from historically marginalized populations?

The Bio advisors want all of our students to succeed. We understand that some students have had unfavorable experiences with advising in Biology and are working to ensure that this improves, including adding peer advisors and providing DEI training. In any specific case, the advisors are working within the constraints of that student's current academic record. They can be most helpful when contacted early in your career here. They can provide advice about mentoring programs and preferred timing for taking classes or sequences, such that prerequisites are successfully completed and workload is reasonably balanced. These strategies better prepare students to take on the extra workload of research, internships, etc. We also encourage students to seek out the Bio Peer Advisers for general consultation, especially early in their time here.

Need for Cultivating Inclusive Environment

What mechanisms are in place to report acts of racism?

We want all members of the UCSB community to feel safe and respected. Violence is not tolerated at UCSB. Should you experience or witness any acts of hate, bias, violence, or harassment, please report these incidents to:

 Please Note

In work environments, incidents of harassment or bias should be brought to the attention of the PI or the Department Chair. Faculty and administrators receive training on how to handle and report incidents of harassment and hostile work environments, and it is absolutely up to a PI to ensure that bias and hostile work environments are avoided in the laboratory setting. No one should feel intimidated or threatened with retaliation for reporting such situations.

What is MCDB doing to diversify the faculty and graduate students?

MCDB wants to increase the diversity of our faculty members and grad students. Many students indicate that this would be the single most important change to make. To increase the number of PEER faculty members is a process that requires support from all levels of campus. Some specific actions include the department’s participation in national efforts to promote and support the advancement and hiring of PEER scientists (iASPIRE and NIH FIRST grants). Our seminar program, thanks largely to our graduate students, is deliberately focused on diverse speakers. We are also working to ensure that all faculty that are part of a hiring committee and on graduate admissions have received training on recognizing and mitigating implicit bias. Our graduate program is part of the California Consortium for Inclusive Doctoral Education (C-CIDE) and we are working together with other programs and the Graduate Division on improving application numbers, recruitment, and admission of diverse graduate students. All of these efforts depend, however, on creating an inclusive, thriving environment at UCSB (see below). Specific details about these actions as well as others, including efforts to increase recruitment of PEER grad students are specified in MCDB Strategic Action Plan for Diversity Equity and Inclusion available here << add Link here >>.

What is MCDB doing to cultivate an inclusive environment within the Department?

In addition to working on improving inclusivity in the classroom and diversifying our seminar speaker series, (see above), we also recognize that office hours are also opportunities for improving inclusivity. Through listening to students’ concerns and continued training, many faculty are working to make office hours more welcoming and to foster office hour spaces as time for meaningful engagement with all students. We have recently created a set of videos (attach link) that will be shown to all incoming biology students where we emphasize the importance of office hours with the goal of engaging with first year students from the start. These videos - and resources - include faculty but also highlight peer advisors and our Bio Mentors program. We also hope that by having Town Halls and continued open conversations, though sometimes difficult, with undergraduates, graduates, staff, and faculty, the culture within the department will shift toward true inclusivity.

Some comments related serious concerns about microaggressions or actual racism between students and within research laboratories as well as in the classroom. Many BIPOC students report continuing to feel unwelcome and marginalized. We absolutely must fix this. We cannot afford to have our BIPOC students and colleagues continue to feel unwelcome and marginalized - we need and value your contributions. As a start, many faculty and TAs are participating in the teaching workshops devoted to this topic and are learning about allyship and taking extensive training in recognizing and reducing incidents of implicit bias and microaggression, as well as ally and bystander training. A number of MCDB faculty have been attending workshops to improve Office Hr experiences and we are sharing resources and advice on this. Similarly, many faculty are taking advantage of opportunities to receive training on how to create more inclusive classroom environments.