Below is a letter from Fischell Department of Bioengineering Chair John P. Fisher to the students, staff, faculty, and wider BIOE community. This letter was written and disseminated on March 25, 2021.
Dear BIOE Students, Faculty, and Staff:
Over the past year, our nation has witnessed a horrifying rise in acts of violence, hatred, and discrimination. Last week’s tragedy in Atlanta served as yet another grave reminder of our nation’s long history of racism and prejudice targeting the Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander communities.
Echoing the sentiments of University of Maryland President Darryll J. Pines and Clark School Dean Robert Briber, we – as both a department and as members of the wider community – must stand together in condemning hate incidents of any kind. For those of us who do not identify as part of the AAPI community, it is our collective responsibility to work together – to speak out not only against blatant acts of violence or hostility, but also against microaggressions and bias that are all too commonplace.
I am enormously grateful for our BIOE and university communities. Over the past several months, our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and board members have banded together to formalize our department’s commitment to social justice and equity. If you have not yet already done so, I strongly encourage you to visit the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion section of our department website, where you can find links to department- and campus-wide resources, as well as recommended resources for learning about and addressing racism and bias in the STEM community, specifically.
As we continue to take part in critical conversations about race and social justice, I invite you to share your feedback, ideas, and concerns – anonymous feedback is always welcome.
If you are ever the target of bias or a witness to a bias incident, I urge you to submit a report to the University of Maryland’s Bias Incident Support Services team.
Together, as one, we stand committed to social justice and a better future for all.
Below is a letter from Fischell Department of Bioengineering Chair John P. Fisher to the students, staff, faculty, and wider BIOE community. This letter was written and disseminated on June 11, 2020.
Dear Maryland BIOE Students,
Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed horrific acts of violence and racism targeting the Black community. In feeling shock and grief, we are also painfully reminded that inaction is not a response.
For those of us who identify as white, feeling shock means recognizing that we come from a place of privilege – a place where racism and discrimination do not directly impact our daily lives. As University of Maryland undergraduate Taylor Wilson beautifully wrote earlier this week, it is now time for us to “get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Over recent years, BIOE faculty and staff have had initial discussions about how to better engage diverse groups as well as better reflect diversity among our faculty and staff. However, we acknowledge that difficult, critical, discussions remain to be had about what actions we need to take – as individuals, as educators, as colleagues, as friends, as engineers, and as members of a wider community with a responsibility to stand up for racial justice and equality. Even more, I am immensely proud of our students and alumni who have reached out to us and to one another to ensure such discussions lead to real change. We hear you, we stand with you, and we acknowledge our department’s collective need to learn, grow, and carry the momentum moving forward.
In the coming weeks, we look forward to engaging in open dialogue with you, the students, as well as other members of the BIOE and university communities. Out of these conversations, we aim to put forward a formalized commitment to social justice and equality that addresses – but, is in no way limited to – the following:
- The establishment of an online portal to provide BIOE faculty, staff, and students with access to tools and guidance for facilitating conversations on race, anti-racism, and unconscious bias. This portal will include resources on how to advocate for greater diversity in STEM and, specifically, in bioengineering, and will also allow students, faculty, and staff to anonymously put forth concerns and ideas.
- Outreach to both on- and off-campus organizations and societies with whom we will partner to host open conversations about race, as well as discussions on how institutional and systemic racism impacts Black STEM professionals. This effort will include outreach to both BIOE and UMD student group leaders regarding these discussions, particularly as we build on the ideas presented through this week’s #ShutDownSTEM movement. In addition, we commit to addressing the importance of prioritizing marginalized voices within the greater scientific community, including throughout scientific publications as well as across society/organizational leadership.
- A reevaluation of our academic programs, outreach, and recruitment efforts, to incorporate new perspectives on increasing underrepresented minority student enrollment as well as faculty recruitment. In addition, we will address race bias in engineering design, in part, by incorporating this discussion into required coursework for BIOE students. Furthermore, we are working to establish a formalized mentorship program for underrepresented minority undergraduate and graduate students.
We look forward to sharing updates on these and other actions we plan to take to foster change. In that same time, we will reexamine how diversity and inclusion initiatives are incorporated in our department’s strategic plan to ensure that such efforts are further elevated throughout our next strategic planning process. Before then, I invite your feedback, thoughts, and ideas.
Now, more than ever, it is critical that we, the faculty and staff, work closely with you, our students – as well as with the wider community – to engage in self-examination, learning, healing, and support.