The Yale School of Nursing has an inspiring aspiration: to improve health for everyone. The system of racism is an enduring threat to achieving this goal, however, and that system must be defeated. We must begin by recognizing, acknowledging, and combating racism within our own school, even as we endeavor to eradicate it from our broader university, national, and global communities. As dean, I apologize for all the times when YSN did not effectively address racism that happened right here in our own environment. Many Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)members of our community were hurt and let down as a result.
Recent examples, among others, include incidents that occurred at a 2019 town hall with GEPN program faculty and students as well as a 2018 CNM/WHNP town hall meeting. We are committed to learning from these failings, addressing root causes, and becoming better prepared for difficult but important conversations so that harm is not perpetuated. Through YSN’s Commitment to Anti-Racism, we will prioritize the implementation of learning experiences that build our capacity to engage in dialogue about racism, decentralization of whiteness, and other crucial issues that impact health equity. We will be intentional and accountable in this area.
To achieve better health for all people,we acknowledge White supremacy as an insidious, toxic, and expansive system that must be renounced, including within our own school. We also acknowledge that race is not a biological category, but rather a socially constructed classification scheme without genetic significance.1,2,3We reject the use of race as a proxy to make clinical predictions and support racial terminology in the biological sciences only as a political or socioeconomic category to study racism and the structural inequities that produce health disparities in marginalized, underrepresented, and underserved people.
Our Commitment to Anti-Racism will help YSN tap into the true ethos of our school: the responsibility to engage and collaborate in intersectional education, practice, and scholarship that addresses the clinical, socioeconomic, and environmental issues—manufactured by racism—plaguing the health of people and the planet.
This commitment represents a re-planting and re-cultivation of this ethos to help YSN improve across a range of areas related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). One of the first topics that we will address is structural and institutional anti-Black racism, which we recognize as the most pressing public health issue affecting Black communities in the United States and an inextricable part of all complex social problems (e.g., transphobia, homophobia, misogyny) plaguing American society. To address institutional anti-Black racism, YSN administrators, faculty, and staff must first stand committed in decentralizing White supremacy. We do this by cultivating an environment that is safe, supportive, and equitable for all of our Black community members. We must recognize that without structural and institutional transformation, YSN will continue to perpetuate inequities and miss critical opportunities to fight against the health implications of racism and improve the health of all marginalized communities in the United States. Everyone in the school has a role and a stake in this work.
Even as we draw on our school’s foundations as a source of motivation to achieve excellence in DEIB, we must also look clearly at our history and acknowledge where we were not our best. There have been moments in our distant andrecent history where the environment at YSN did not support constructive conversations about racism. For these moments, I apologize and express remorse for the ways in which YSN did not live its mission for our learning community and the patient populations we serve in Connecticut and global communities.
YSN’s Commitment to Anti-Racism includes immediate initial actions that are outlined here. These actions are, and must continue to be informed by input from YSN students, faculty, staff, and alumni. In the coming days, prioritization and timeframes for these actions will be specified and an accountability system for monitoring barriers, lessons learned, and progress will be implemented.
We will take the following initial actions (in non-ranked order) in service of structuring an anti-racism academic learning and working environment at Yale School of Nursing:
1. Perform a curriculum review to ensure that course content is consistent with YSN’s stated commitment to anti-racism, the concept of “race” and its accurate use in nursing education at all levels (GEPN, MSN, and doctoral), and integration of an anti-racist perspective across curricula. Timeline: 2020-2021 academic year.
a. Identify a required core course sequence, including new course development, on principles and practices of anti-racism and justice that begins in the start of GEPN year and culminates in 2nd year specialty. The number of courses in the sequence TBD.
b. Ensure that principles and practices of anti-racism and social justice are included in doctoral (DNP, PhD) curriculum.
c. Continue to support the US Health Justice course at Yale and explore elective course credit..
2. Develop a plan for anti-racism education and capacity-skills building. Timeline: Next 6 months.
a. with customizations for faculty, staff, preceptors, and students
b. engaging partnerships with experienced anti-racism educators to implement short- and long-term strategies for faculty to incorporate anti-racism content/strategies in health professions education, practice, and research
c. communicating an anti-racism training schedule and setting expectations of engagement for all faculty, staff, preceptors, and students
d. actively collaborating with Yale Schools of Medicine and of Public Health for this work
3. Include anti-racism and DEIB metric(s) as evaluation criteria in course, faculty, and preceptor evaluations and as part of performance assessment and feedback for YSN employees. Timeline: To be integrated into annual reviews by 2021 cycle.
4. Perform a research portfolio review to ensure that current research conducted at YSN is aligned with the school’s stated position on anti-racism above, as well as NIH and other sponsor guidelines. Timeline: Fall 2020 and ongoing.
5. Establish a fundraising priority in the Office of Advancement for further financial resources dedicated to individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to issues facing Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students. Bolster support for the DEI office at YSN in support of building better working partnerships between faculty, students, staff, alumni. Timeline: Already initiated and ongoing.
6. Support the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity Action Solution (IDEAS) Council for leadership work/structural representation and its charge to help YSN promote diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and antiracism work at YSN. Timeline: 2019-ongoing.
7. Identify and implement measures that:
a. Improve BIPOC student recruitment and success
b. Enhance BIPOC faculty and staff hiring, retention, and promotion
c. Explore models for career progression at YSN/Yale. Timeline: Ongoing.
8. Contribute to university, local, and national conversations for anti-racism policy change. Timeline: Ongoing.
This outline of work is a beginning and will be improved by engagement of our community. I will say it again—everyone in the school has a role and a stake in this work. As we embark on these changes together, the YSN IDEAS Council in collaboration with the Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, will host multiple opportunities for community conversations regarding our commitment to an anti-racist learning environment. The dates/times for these conversations will be announced next week.
2. Foster MW, Sharp RR. (2002). Race, ethnicity and genomics: Social classifications as proxies of biological heterogeneity. Genome Research, 12, 844-850.
3. Bamshad M, Wooding S, Salisbury BA, Stephens JC. (2004). Deconstructing the relationship between genetics and race. Nature Reviews Genetics, 5, 598-609.