To our extended University of Washington Statistics Community,

These have been a challenging few months, for our department and for the country. We have watched as COVID-19 has transformed our university, our state, and our borders. We have struggled as COVID-19 has made it difficult to visit with our friends and families. We have been distressed to see COVID-19 stoke racism and xenophobia in this country. We have been frustrated to see COVID-19 disproportionately affect low-income people and communities of color.

In the midst of this pandemic, we have witnessed the continued oppression of the Black community in this country. We recognize that this oppression manifests in many forms, including through the ending of Black lives at the hands of the police. We are angry each time we learn of another life taken. We are saddened that members of our community must process so much violence amidst a global health pandemic. But we are determined to listen, learn, and be a part of a collective effort to break the cycle of racial injustice and police brutality.

As we reflect on the racism undergirding this country’s history, we have been asking ourselves what we can do to effect change. How can we, as statisticians, limit the reach of racism in our department, our field, and our society? How can we, as individuals, address the inequalities embedded in the very systems this country built? We accept our obligation to reflect on any ways we might participate in these systems, and we commit ourselves to continuing this reflection even if our nation’s focus turns to something new. But reflection is not enough. We offer the following concrete steps for effecting change in our sphere of influence.

First, we say the names of Black people killed recently by the police or by civilians acting as law enforcement — recognizing there are many others. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Tony McDade. Manuel Ellis. Rayshard Brooks. In doing this, we join the voices of many before us in honoring their lives and acknowledging that they matter.

Further, we affirm our commitment to promoting equality and inclusivity in our classrooms and to identifying and addressing barriers to equitable outcomes in our field for colleagues who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). As a department, we are making time to discuss how to do this best. Our current plans include the following: 

  1. We will work to make our undergraduate and graduate curricula more inclusive and well-rounded by better integrating the study of data ethics and the history of statistics into our courses.
  2. We will work to establish concrete strategies for our faculty to diversify our field and develop programs to ensure that all students and professionals feel welcome.
  3. We will continue to value the contributions of our students and faculty to local, university, and national conversations on issues of racial justice, equity, and inclusion, including on racial disparities in academia and through critical examinations of major honors and recognitions in our field.

We recognize that some of these plans will take time to implement well, and we commit to putting in a sustained effort to do so in the months and years to come.

In addition to faculty-led commitments furthering these aims, our graduate students have initiated regularly-scheduled, structured discussions to help our department come together and learn more about how statistical research intersects with issues of race and class. We are grateful to our students for contributing to these conversations, and for playing an active role in improving our department.

In having these discussions, we will remain cognizant of the fact that members of our international community have varying levels of historical context for the systemic racism in this country. We will therefore aim to ensure that each of these conversations provides opportunities for all to participate, listen, and learn together.

We also acknowledge that the field of statistics does not reflect the diversity of this country with regards to factors such as race, gender, and sexual identity — our department has much work to do in helping to address this. We therefore commit to increasing our efforts to recruit and support diverse undergraduate and graduate student bodies in order to prepare a broader set of statisticians to enter positions in academia, industry, and government. We moreover strengthen our resolve to recruit and retain faculty and staff from diverse communities.
 
As we join the nation in outrage at innocent lives lost, we commit to being proactive -- now and in the years to come -- in working to improve our department, our field, and our society.

Sincerely,

Daniela Witten, Interim Chair of Statistics
Abel Rodriguez, Incoming Chair of Statistics
Marina Meila, Graduate Program Coordinator
Ranjini Grove, Undergraduate Program Coordinator
Jon Wakefield, 2019-2020 Chair of the Teaching and Curriculum Committee
Adrian Dobra, 2020-2021 Chair of the Teaching and Curriculum Committee
Alex Luedtke, Chair of the Diversity, Inclusion, Community, and Equity (DICE) Committee
And the Members of the DICE Committee