October 2018

Dear Colleagues, 

As you have already heard from me, the leadership of NCAR, and the National Science Foundation, our organization is committed to increasing the diversity of our staff, and the diversity of the geosciences as a whole.

To do that, we know it is critically important to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels safe — no matter their race, religion, gender, sexual identity, political affiliation, or any other trait they identify with.

Our feelings of safety, however, are affected by the many events unfolding in the world that are well beyond the control of our organization. In recent years, there has been no shortage of events that have shaken many communities that were already historically marginalized or targets of violence — often the same groups that are underrepresented in our organization. These events include shootings in places of worship, like the horrific attacks at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last Saturday, rallies by white supremacist groups, hate crimes against black people and other minorities, and legal changes that affect immigrants or people in the LGBTQ community, just to name a few.

Part of creating an inclusive community involves reaching out to members of groups who are struggling in the aftermath of these events and letting them know that, at this organization, we value them even if they feel devalued by events in the world.

To do that we have often sent all-staff messages, either from myself or from Carolyn and Kristen, from our Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

With the number of upsetting events going on in our country and the world, we have been struggling with how often and when to send some of these messages. Recently, after a message about news that affected our transgender community, we received feedback: positive and negative.

We want all of our staff to know that we value your feedback and that we hear you. We remain committed to finding ways to let the people in our community who are underrepresented — often those who already feel most isolated — know that we support them. But we are still considering how best to do that going forward.

We are proud that we are a leader in implementing diversity and inclusion practices across the sciences. However, as a leader, it also means that we are feeling our way through this. We do not always have a tried-and-true script to follow when such terrible events occur. My approach has been to lead first with compassion but at the same time, I am challenged by the frequency of these events and just how much communication is the right amount.

In the past, we have tried to adhere to a set of guidelines in which we would send a staff message about events that have a direct impact on our institution or our member universities. I recognize that we have not always been as consistent with this approach as we could have. Going forward, my plan is to follow this guideline more carefully while also inviting your feedback on this or other approaches to these messages.

As always, if you are personally affected by an external event, please consider reaching out to the Office of Diversity & Inclusion or the Employee Assistance Program. We will also post reminders in Staff Notes Daily about resources for staff following major events.

Thanks to those who passed on feedback to us recently. I welcome an ongoing dialogue about these important issues. Please feel free to email me at president@ucar.edu, our diversity office, or anonymously.

Best wishes,