Community Agreement and Commitment to Anti-Oppression and Equity
“As a professional community, we are committed to rejecting assumptions, both conscious and subconscious, and to dismantling barriers that disproportionately burden members of our community.”
The ‘Potts Group’ (Supervisor: Matthew D. Potts) at the University of California, Berkeley is committed to creating a just, equitable and inclusive community that allows individuals to thrive in their personal and professional lives. This community agreement affirms the expectation that all lab members, including faculty, students, and visiting scholars, conduct themselves with respect and mindfulness regarding their impact on others, both within and outside of the Potts Group.
As members and affiliates of the Potts Group, we acknowledge the varied life histories and experiences that shape who we are as humans. For all of us, our experiences result from others placing us, as individuals, within racialized or other socially-constructed groups. The effects of this are bidirectional, including both benefiting from privilege as well as facing barriers that others do not have to overcome. These experiences set the stage for how we, as a group, are taking action to dismantle systems that both are founded upon oppressive policies and perpetuate inequity in opportunity and power.
We share understanding that the experiences and identities of individuals do not reflect those of others, nor do assumptions made about socially-constructed groups reflect the experiences or identities of individuals. Extending from this, we will strive to always conduct ourselves in a mindful manner, being cognizant of how our thoughts, actions, and interactions may differentially impact one another. As contributing members of the Potts Group, we believe that all people deserve opportunity, agency, and meaningful connection to community.
In the sections that follow, we outline both our shared understandings as well as actions to be taken across three activities in which we all engage: mentoring, teaching, and research. This agreement, a living document, represents our ongoing commitment to creating communities in which all individuals have equal opportunity to thrive.
Deconstructing thoughts, behaviors and institutions that are founded on centuries of prejudice require constant learning and self-reflection. Educating ourselves on how our society (both past and present) has perpetuated the discrimination of socially-constructed groups is fundamental to our improvement. Here, we provide shared definitions and understanding of key concepts that shape our understanding and action.
- Racism: Assumptions made about individuals based upon their perceived membership within socially-constructed groups. These assumptions are often expressed as prejudice, discrimination or antagonism and result from centuries of oppressive thought designed to benefit white supremacist systems. Being “racist” is not an identity but rather the quality of an action, thought, or policy. That is, as caring individuals, we are not immune to holding or perpetuating racist thoughts, actions, or policies.
- Anti-racism: The proactive belief that nothing is wrong, right, inferior or superior about an individual on the basis of their perceived membership in a socially-constructed group.
- Diversity: The presence of differences that may include race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, (dis)ability, age, religious commitment, or political perspective.
- Equity: Promoting justice, impartiality and fairness within the procedures, processes, and distribution of resources by institutions or systems.
- Inclusion: The creation of environments that foster a meaningful sense of belonging and support for the personal and professional development of individuals.
- Respect: Admiration felt or shown for someone on the basis of their humanity and their rights to a fulfilling existence.
Mentoring plays an important role in the success of students and in the development of an equitable and inclusive community. We recognize that biases towards racially constructed groups, conscious or unconscious, may impact the quality of mentor-mentee relationships. As a lab group, we are committed to positive mentoring experiences that focus on the personal and professional success of the mentee. These mentor-mentee relationships take a variety of forms, and commonly include:
- Lab PI (Dr. Potts) and graduate students (Ph.D. and Masters)
- Lab PI and postdoctoral scholars
- Lab PI and undergraduates
- Postdoctoral scholars and graduate students
- Graduate students and undergraduates
- Graduate students with one another, in and outside of the lab group
Our roles as mentors and mentees within the lab group directly affect our personal success, the success of others, and the satisfaction that we derive from our endeavors. As mentors, we will make expectations of our mentees explicit and will create safe spaces for our mentees to make their expectations of us explicit. Namely, we will ensure that all parties are (i) aware of others’ expectations, (ii) communicate their expectations, (iii) make expectations realistic, and (iv) agree upon the stated expectations.
For additional details on the actions we are taking to improve our mentoring, please see our mentoring resource page.
Integrating and honoring a diverse set of experiences, knowledges, and histories is essential for a comprehensive understanding of environmental science, policy, and management. Scientific research and the process of science can also contribute to a more equitable and just society when pursued intentionally. Thus, in formal and informal teaching, we commit to discussing, practicing, and critically evaluating diversity, representation, and equity in teaching about historical and contemporary issues in the environment.
With an understanding that systems of privilege and oppression have influenced all of us and may appear in the classroom, we commit to the to creating learning environments for all students that supports a diversity of thoughts, perspectives and experiences as well as that honors student identities (including race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, and ability).
Our on-going efforts are focused on (i) building a representative class environment, (ii) enhancing class structure, (iii), creating a positive learning environment, and on-going self improvement. For details on specific actions being taken in these areas please see this teaching resource page.
We view science as a way to investigate our world and ourselves, produce knowledge, and shape the trajectories that our communities will follow in years to come. Science is certainly not the only way that these inquiries and learning can happen – other ways of questioning, imagining, and knowing are not only possible but are worthy and powerful in their own right.
We also recognize that science is a subjective and socially enmeshed enterprise; our science does not exist independent of the political and relational spheres we inhabit. Therefore, the pursuit of scientific knowledge is inherently a political and social endeavor. Science has a history of underpinning racism, eugenics, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and other oppressive projects. However, we do not believe science to be inherently oppressive. Rather, if scientific research – both process and outcome – is conducted accountably and conscientiously, it can challenge oppression and advance justice. This is the science we wish to conduct.
For additional details and strategies that we will take to make our research more equitable, please see our research resources page.
As part of the Potts Group, we will take the following core actions to create a professional environment that aligns with our values.
- In acknowledging the need to continuously improve our understanding of and actions against oppression, we will revisit this document at the beginning of each academic semester.
- We will consistently work to change lab culture to one in which harmful behaviors are addressed rather than ignored, and difficult conversations are understood to be driven by care rather than reprimand.
- We will maintain several procedural mechanisms (detailed in the following section) that facilitate our progress towards improved lab culture:
- Anonymous feedback forms that will periodically be monitored to receive feedback.
- Periodic self-assessments (e.g., Harvard’s Implicit Bias Test, https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html) or readings on anti-oppression.
- Conflict reporting and resolution mechanisms to address thoughts, behaviors, or interactions that do not reflect our values or are damaging to our progress.
Accountability & Reporting
Anyone who is experiencing negative treatment because of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, or ability is encouraged to connect to support. In addition to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the campus has many programs and resources dedicated to supporting students and creating an atmosphere free of discrimination, harrassment, or intimidation.
We recognize that there are myriad disincentives for reporting instances of oppression. We are committed to developing a safe environment for individuals to come forward with their experiences so that we may address and rectify discrimination, including both overt and subtle. This means that anyone reporting or discussing harassment will be listened to without judgement and protected from retaliation or victimization. All perceived harassment is considered seriously and will be addressed in a manner that is fair, urgent, and consistent. We encourage these situations to be viewed as an opportunity to “call in” one another, acknowledging that while we all make mistakes, it is important to hold each other accountable.
For instances that cannot be handled within the group, we will use conflict resolution resources on campus. There are a range of resources available through campus and the relevance of each will depend on the particular nature of the instance at hand. Key resources on campus include:
- The ASUC Student Advocate’s Office (http://advocate.berkeley.edu/)
- The Restorative Justice Center (http://rjcenterberkeley.org/)
- The Confidential Care Advocate (https://care.berkeley.edu/)
- Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (http://ophd.berkeley.edu/)
- Gender Equity Resource Center (http://geneq.berkeley.edu/home)
- Ombuds Office for Students (http://sa.berkeley.edu/ombuds)
- Sexual Violence Prevention and Response (Survivor Support) (http://survivorsupport.berkeley.edu/)
- Student Legal Services (http://sspc.berkeley.edu/)