Statement on Diversity

These principles of community for the University of California, Berkeley, are rooted in a mission of teaching, research and public service and are fully upheld by the astronomy department. They reflect our passion for critical inquiry, debate, discovery and innovation, and our deep commitment to contributing to a better world. Every member of the UC Berkeley astronomy community has a role in sustaining a safe, supportive and humane environment in which these values can thrive.

  • We place honesty and integrity in our teaching, learning, research and administration at the highest level.
  • We recognize the intrinsic relationship between diversity and excellence in all our endeavors.
  • We affirm the dignity of all individuals and strive to uphold a just community in which discrimination, hate, and racism are not tolerated.
  • We are committed to ensuring freedom of expression and dialogue that elicits the full spectrum of views held by our varied communities.
  • We respect the differences as well as the commonalities that bring us together and call for civility and respect in our professional interactions.
  • We believe that active participation and leadership in addressing the most pressing issues facing our local and global communities are central to our educational mission.
  • We embrace open and equitable access to opportunities for learning and development as our obligation and goal.

For more information, visit UC Berkeley’s Division of Equity, Inclusion & Diversity page and Berkeley’s strategic plan for Excellence Equity and Inclusion.

The Berkeley Astronomy Department is working on a department-wide strategic plan for diversity, equity, inclusion, and department climate. This plan will merge the separate plans created by the different constituencies in our Department (Graduate Students, Postdocs & Researchers, and Faculty) as part of the Strike for Black Lives.

Diversity and Climate Initiatives

The Berkeley Astronomy Department is committed to increasing the diversity and improving the climate in our Department and the broader astronomy community. To this end, Berkeley Astronomy students, postdocs, staff, and faculty engage in the following initiatives (non-exhaustive list):

  1. Astronomy climate advisors
    Astronomy Climate Advisors help devise and implement solutions to climate problems not necessarily involving formal investigations, and to serve as pointers to campus resources for conflict resolution and emotional and mental health. More information and a list of the current climate advisors is given below.
  2. Berkeley Astronomy Scholars Program
    The Astronomy Scholars program aims to increase the retention of astrophysics pre-majors, by providing support during their first two years at Berkeley. The program offers weekly tutoring sessions, priority office hours, a buddy system, mentoring, workshops, and various other activities, and creates a community amongst our pre-majors. The program is geared towards groups traditionally underrepresented in astronomy and astrophysics. Contact Amber Banayat if you would like more information on how to apply to this program or if you want to get involved as a mentor, buddy, or help with the workshops.
    Contact: abanayat@berkeley.edu
  3. Respect is part of Research
    Respect is Part of Research is a peer-led sexual violence / sexual harassment (SVSH) prevention workshop for incoming graduate students at UC Berkeley. RPR is based on the idea that peer-led training is the most effective way to communicate social norms. By setting expectations about department culture and community early, we hope to mitigate potential climate problems before they rise to the level of SVSH complaints. We also aim to give everyone the tools to communicate about difficult issues and have productive discussions about department climate. Our goal is to create a respectful, positive working environment where everyone can do their best science.
    RPR coordinator contact email: info@respectispartofresearch.com
  4. AstroTech
    AstroTech is a national summer school on astronomical instrumentation hosted at UC Berkeley for upper-level undergraduates and early graduate students in astronomy, engineering, and physics. AstroTech aims to establish an inclusive and equitable community that supports the advancement of people from groups currently underrepresented in the field of astronomical instrumentation. AstroTech is developed by a combination of the Institute for Science and Engineering Educators (ISEE) and the Keck All-Sky Precision Adaptive Optics (KAPA) with Jessica Lu as the Project Scientist. Undergraduates and early grad students are welcome to apply. Senior graduate students and postdocs are welcome to participate as instructors and facilitators.
    Contact email, astrotech@ucsc.edu, jlu.astro@berkeley.edu
  5. AstroQ
    AstroQ is a social mailing list for Queer Astronomers at Berkeley. The purpose of this list is to connect members of the LGBTQ* astronomy community in a safe environment, while promoting visibility, fostering support, and engendering respect in the wider community. We welcome members of all / no gender identities and sexual orientations. Contact email: astro-q@astro.berkeley.edu
  6. Society of Women in the physical Sciences (SWPS)
    SWPS is a student group run by female graduate students in Physics, Astronomy, Earth and Planetary Sciences and Biophysics at the University of California, Berkeley. Their goals are to encourage women and minorities to study the physical sciences and to create a friendly and supportive environment in these departments for all students.
    Contact: https://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~swps/swps-contact-from/
  7. Cal-Bridge: A CSU-UC Physics and Astronomy Bridge Program
    The mission of Cal-Bridge is to advance undergraduate astronomy research and education among traditionally underrepresented groups in order to promote their participation and advancement and increase their numbers in PhD programs in astronomy and related fields. Cal-Bridge aims to accomplish this by increasing the number of California State University (CSU) students completing their bachelor’s degree and successfully entering a PhD program to study physics, astronomy, or a closely related field. Berkeley graduate students and faculty members serve as mentors, tutors, committee members, and help organize workshops for the Cal-Bridge program.
    Contact: https://www.cpp.edu/calbridge/about/contact-us.shtml
    Berkeley Astronomy contact email: mkriek@berkeley.edu
    Berkeley Physics contact email: ganor@berkeley.edu
  8. CAMPARE/CHAMP
    CAMPARE, including the CAMPARE-HERA Astronomy Minority Partnership (CHAMP),  is a summer research program for undergraduate students from the California State Universities and California community colleges. Berkeley offers CAMPARE/CHAMP research opportunities, as advertised annually on the CAMPARE web pages.
    Contact: campare@cpp.edu
    Berkeley Astronomy contact email for CHAMP: aparsons@berkeley.edu
  9. Cal-NERDS: A UC Berkeley program for undergraduates from non-dominant backgrounds
    The Cal NERDS Program consists of a suite of programs and initiatives that provide faculty mentored research opportunities, specialized tech training, graduate school preparation, career coaching, community building, and professional development to high achieving STEM undergraduates and graduate students. The community is made up of diverse NERDS that come from many non-dominant backgrounds including LGBTQ, low-income, first-generation, underrepresented, student parents, transfer, re-entry, disabled, foster, undocumented, system-impacted, and women. Berkeley Astronomy faculty advise Cal NERDS in research and postdocs/grads can co-advise. Undergraduates are encouraged to apply to these opportunities. Faculty are encouraged to serve as advisors.
    Contact: https://calnerds.berkeley.edu/contact  
    Berkeley Astronomy contact email: jlu.astro@berkeley.edu

Mental Health 

Berkeley provides a comprehensive Mental Health Handbook plus a helpful “Gold Folder” guide for helping people in distress.
For more information please visit: https://uhs.berkeley.edu/counseling/prevention-education-outreach/mental-health-handbook

Astronomy Climate Advisors

Definition of “climate”: Current attitudes, behaviors, and standards concerning the access for, inclusion of, and level of respect for individual and group needs, abilities, and potential.

The mission of the Astronomy Climate Advisors is to help devise and implement solutions to climate problems not necessarily involving formal investigations, and to serve as pointers to campus resources for conflict resolution and emotional and mental health.

Any member of the Astronomy Department can come to any Climate Advisor for help. We have come, individually and collectively, to the assistance of faculty members, staff, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates facing a variety of interpersonal problems. Our goal is to create and sustain an environment where everyone in Campbell Hall can do their best work. Information given to one Climate Advisor is shared with another Climate Advisor only on an as-need basis.

Although we will do our best to keep the information reported to us private, Climate Advisors are non-confidential: violations of the Title IX policy protecting University members against harassment, discrimination, and assault that are reported to us will necessarily be forwarded to the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD). The general rule is that if anyone wishes confidentiality, they should ask before confiding.

The current Climate Advisors are:

Faculty: Jessica Lu (chair), Gibor Basri

Staff: Maria Kies

Postdoc: Marta Bryan

Graduate Student: Fatima Abdurrahman

Undergraduate:  Michelle Lee

Equity advisor

The Equity Advisor helps ensure that diversity and equity are considered in all aspects of the academic mission. The Equity advisor plays several roles within the department:

    1. Strategic Planning: The Equity advisor participates in the strategic planning for diversity that is part of the Academic Program Review, making sure that diversity is a meaningful part of the department or school’s self-assessment and plans for future success. 
    2. Faculty Recruitment and Retention: The Equity Advisor serves as a resource to ensure equity and inclusion in faculty searches, support and success. 
    3. Graduate Student Admission and Advancement: The Equity Advisor consults with graduate admissions committees to ensure equity and inclusion in graduate admissions and fellowships. Faculty Equity Advisors also may be a resource for graduate retention and success.
    4. Climate of Equity and Inclusion: The Equity Advisors serves as a resource for promoting a positive department climate by contributing to policies and practices that support equity and inclusion, such as climate surveys and effective responses to identified climate issues.

The Astronomy Equity Advisor meets with the other MPS Equity Advisors, the MPS Dean, and the MPS Diversity Director every month, to discuss departmental updates, division-wide efforts,  university programs, etc.
Contact: aparsons@berkeley.edu

 

Anonymous Drop Box

An Anonymous Drop Box is available to anyone wishing to pass along a written (presumably anonymous, but it need not be) comment about anything related to the Astronomy Department (e.g., suggestions for improvement, or a sensitive issue). It is a black metal box hanging on the wall just outside the Remote Observing Room (Campbell 155).

The dropbox is intended to complement the Climate Advising system by providing an anonymous means of reporting. Anonymity is occasionally desired by students (undergrads + grads) or anyone with a supervisor. Note, however, that anonymity can also limit how effective the Department’s response can be.

The box can only be opened with two keys, held by two Climate Advisors, both of which must be present at the same time to unlock the box. Both Advisors have to be simultaneously present to open the box; they are entrusted with checking its contents every other week (2nd and 4th Mondays of every month) and exercising their collective good judgment on how to proceed with the information they find. They may forward the note to relevant parties; e.g., if the note concerns undergraduate student conflict, then the Head Undergraduate Advisor may be informed. Unless the note requests otherwise, every note is cc’d to the Department Chair. Notes reporting harassment, discrimination, or assault are by necessity forwarded to OPHD.

Reporting Harassment

The Department of Astronomy is committed to providing support to anyone who has experienced any form of harassment or discrimination that impedes on one’s right to a safe work environment. We have compiled a list of department and campus resources that are available to anyone looking for assistance with reporting any form of harassment. More information can be found on this campus website, intended as a place to start for navigating key information about support services and reporting options, your responsibilities as a part of the community, the steps the campus is taking to prevent and respond to SVSH, and how you can get involved.

UC Policy Changes 

On Oct 19 2015, members of the Astronomy faculty sent a letter to Vice Provost Broughton and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Steele proposing a number of changes as to how the campus can prosecute sexual harassment cases. On Oct 22 2015, this letter was also communicated to Academic Senate Chair Hermalin and Vice Chair Powell. The letter is available here.

University (“campus”) level policies have since been revised. Please see the Vice Provost’s website for Faculty Conduct. For specific procedures pertaining to sexual harassment cases and Senate faculty, see the this document (last updated Oct 10 2017) in addition to these details about the new Peer Review Committee system. The revised policies emphasize continuous communication between the University and complainants and respondents; opportunities for complainants and respondents to respond to case outcomes; the requirement that the Vice Provost for Faculty (VPF) consult a Peer Review Committee of Senate faculty before recommending sanctions; and the wide variety of “Early Resolution” recommendations available to the VPF, including, but not limited to, censure of faculty, prohibition from teaching, monetary fines, demotion, or resignation. 

Department Climate Surveys

Current Survey

In 2017, a Department Climate Survey organized by the Office for Equity & Inclusion (OEI) and the Astronomy Climate Advisors was circulated to residents of Campbell Hall covering issues of sexual harassment; discrimination along the lines of gender, race, and ethnicity; and supervisor relations. The survey results from OEI may be accessed HERE.  The Department response, including follow up actions, can be downloaded HERE.  

Past Surveys

The 2016 Department Climate Survey, together with the response from the Astronomy Climate Advisors, is here.

The 2015 Department Climate Survey summary report may be accessed here.  The Department’s response is here.

Responses to the University’s Title IX Investigation

The following letters were written in October 2015 by the UC Berkeley Astronomy Department community in response to the University’s Title IX investigation of Geoff Marcy.