Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The Department of Astronomy at the University of Virginia is committed to creating an environment where students, faculty, and staff may work together to advance, preserve, and disseminate knowledge in astronomy and astrophysics.
Statement of Values
As a community, we share a common set of values:
- We value our colleagues as researchers, educators, and individuals.
- We value the diversity of experience, identity, and beliefs among our colleagues and recognize that this diversity fosters better scientific collaboration and a vibrant community.
- We value inclusion. We will actively work to create a community in which all members are free and safe from discrimination, are valued for their unique perspectives, and can participate to their full potential.
- We value constructive feedback. We recognize that, in the spirit of learning, this is a space in which it is safe to share concerns, and equally safe to speak out against detrimental behavior.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee
The Astronomy Department has formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. The initial members of the committee, and the areas that they represent, are listed below:
- Faculty: Remy Indebetouw
- Faculty: Ed Murphy
- Senior Professional Research Staff: John Wilson
- Postdocs: Allie Costa
- Staff: Barbara Johnson
- Staff: Peter Dow
- Graduate Students : Yiqing Song
- Graduate Students: Connor McClellan
- Outside Department: Ricky Patterson
- Undergraduate Students: AnnMarie Kelly
- Undergraduate Students: Efrain Perez
Initial members were selected to represent the different areas in the department; input on composition of the committee and selection of members moving forward is welcomed. If you have any suggestions for additional members of the committee, or concerns about representation in your area, please contact one, or more, of the members of the committee. We welcome your suggestions for improving representation on the committee to ensure that everyone in the department can be heard.
The DEI Committee will focus on the following areas this year:
- Department climate - the committee aims to assess and address concerns about the climate in the department
- Education and awareness - the committee plans to host a few department meetings and discussions each semester around issues of diversity and equity
- Department policy and procedure review - on an ongoing basis, the committee plans to review department policies and procedures to ensure that they are equitable and fair and that they promote diversity and inclusion
- Disparity in the classroom - the committee plans to host additional conversations about diversity in our teaching and disparity in the classroom
- Mentoring - the committee will consider current mentoring structures in the department and how they can be improved
Code of Conduct
The Department of Astronomy at the University of Virginia is committed to creating an environment where students, faculty, and staff may work together to advance, preserve, and disseminate knowledge in astronomy and astrophysics. To further this goal, we will provide an environment that is free from all forms of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation for all members, regardless of age, color, disability, gender identity or expression, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status, and family medical or genetic information, as well as other forms of sex discrimination . Students, staff, and faculty have the right to conduct their learning, research, and scholarship in an environment free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.
As members and stewards of this community, we have a responsibility to hold ourselves to the highest standards. Each member of the community is asked to think proactively about what they can do to create an environment where everyone feels respected and included. The whole community, and each of us individually, are responsible for maintaining a work environment free of harassment and discrimination.
Faculty, staff, and students should familiarize themselves with the University’s policies, especially HRM-009 Preventing and Addressing Discrimination and Harassment (PADH), HRM-041 Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence, and HRM-010 Preventing and Addressing Retaliation (PAR). These policies provide details on prohibited conduct, resources and reporting options, procedures, prevention and awareness programs, and training resources.
Faculty, staff, students, and visitors are responsible for appropriate professional conduct and behavior, and for cooperating in the enforcement of University policy.
Definition of Prohibited Conduct
- Enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment or participation in employment, academic, or program activities; or
- The conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
Although less severe or pervasive behavior may not rise to the level of legally prohibited conduct, we recognize that many behaviors can lead to the creation of a hostile environment. As such, they may still be inappropriate in the Department environment and be inconsistent with other Department conduct expectations. As a community, we reject the following, non-exhaustive, list of behaviors as inconsistent with our values:
- Humor that is lewd, obscene, racist, sexist, or contains ethnic stereotypes;
- Communications containing inappropriate images or content;
- Offensive or inappropriate comments;
- Obscene gestures or leering;
- Bullying, whether professional or personal; and
- Unwelcome, unwanted physical contact.
Faculty and advisors have a special responsibility to foster the research, educational, and professional development of students. They should be careful of unrealistic expectations and prioritizing work over students’ physical and mental health.
In the spirit of valuing constructive feedback, and with an understanding that science is by nature a community endeavor, we agree to hold ourselves and each other accountable when harmful behaviors are brought to light.
Reporting an Incident to the University
The Department is obligated to comply with all University policies regarding reporting and investigating incidences of prohibited conduct. These policies and procedures are enumerated in policies HRM-009, HRM-041, and HRM-010, discussed in the first section of this document. In brief, any person can contact the Title IX office or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (EOCR) directly to report instances of prohibited conduct. Potential complainants should familiarize themselves with Title IX investigative policies and procedures prior to making a report. Anyone who does not feel comfortable discussing the issue within their immediate chain of supervision may use the Just Report It system at http://justreportit.virginia.edu. This system is not anonymous. To make an anonymous report, use the Just Report It form and transmit it to the appropriate office listed on the Just Report It website. Responsible Employees may not report anonymously.
The Department will be supportive of any person who makes a complaint. This means that faculty, supervisors, or any persons acting in a capacity that makes them a mandatory reporter must disclose their status as a mandatory reporter before any allegations are made to them. All persons who have been the target of prohibited conduct have a choice in reporting said conduct, so mandatory reporters have a particular obligation to disclose that they will not be able to keep such allegations confidential. If anyone who has been the target of prohibited conduct wishes to make a confidential disclosure, Department members are encouraged to direct them to the following confidential resources within the UVA community: Student Health Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Health General Medicine, The Women’s Center Counseling Staff and Confidential Advocate, or the Faculty and Employee Assistance Program.
The Department will protect the privacy of individuals and the confidentiality of information related to allegations of harassment to the extent possible. Information will be provided only to those who have a need to know to carry out their responsibilities.
Supervisors, including the Chair, must take every concern and complaint seriously. They must:
- Be available, open, and receptive to concerns of prohibited conduct, and they should encourage students, staff, and faculty to report all possible instances of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.
- Know and be able to explain University’s policies, procedures, resources, and to explain the complainant’s options.
- Report all alleged instances of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation even if doing so is contrary to the complainant’s wishes.
- Ensure that individuals who raise concerns of discrimination and harassment are not subject to retaliation.
- Monitor situations that have been addressed, follow up if necessary, and document everything they have done.
The Department will make every possible effort to provide a non-threatening environment for Department members who have accused other Department members of sexual or other harassment, to the extent allowed by law and University policy. Every effort will be made to separate the accused and accuser, consistent with maintaining the educational and employment rights of all involved. The Department recognizes that we function not only in a classroom environment, but also within a work environment. We will take every allowable step towards ensuring that all parties involved in a complaint or an investigation retain equal access to both educational and research related resources, spaces, and events. Any such remediation will be undertaken with consultation with the U.Va. Title IX Office or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights. If necessary, that office may issue a No-Contact Order.
Retaliation is Prohibited
The University is committed to promptly and equitably addressing and resolving complaints of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Retaliation against individuals who file a complaint or participate in the complaint resolution process is strictly prohibited.
In general, retaliation is illegal when the action would deter a reasonable person in the situation from making a complaint. Nevertheless, the Department recognizes that retaliation can take many forms, some of which may be circumstantial. The Department will report any cases of retaliation to the Title IX Office or the Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights.
This Code of Conduct is intended to be a living document. As the department continues to grow and evolve, new additions or improvements to the code may be needed, and we welcome and encourage these changes.
The Astronomy Department is committed to being a welcoming, inclusive, and safe place for all. We will never waver from that commitment. Each member of the community is expected to create a positive and inclusive environment where everyone is free to perform at their highest capacity for the betterment of our mission.
A code of conduct was first proposed by the graduate students in the department. The code presented here was drafted by a group of graduate students and faculty and was adopted by a vote of the faculty on March 4, 2020.
Statement on the Summer of Hate Rallies of August 11&12, 2017
We are constantly reminded of the racist history of the making of the University and the City. In August of 2017, the “Unite the Right” rally only added to our community's struggle with racism and bigotry. The impacts of that horrific event are still felt today. The Astronomy Department stands with all the counter-protesters, including some of our own members, who took heroic actions against white supremacists at the rally to defend our community. We acknowledge the vastly different lived experiences among our colleagues, especially the challenges faced by under-represented minority members of the community, not only in the wake of the hateful rallies but also in everyday life. We are actively looking for ways to ensure we provide a safe, welcoming and nurturing environment for the most vulnerable members in the department. Many of our current departmental advocacy efforts can be found on this page, and we are also currently working together with a professional DEI consultant to fully assess and evaluate the department climate and areas of improvement. Additionally, the University has assembled the Racial Equity Task Force to collect recommendations and promote campus-wide engagement for combating systemic racism. We will continue to fight for the safety and wellbeing of the under-represented minority members in our community.
Creating a truly diverse and inclusive environment is a challenge for any institution. At UVA, this challenge is particularly acute because of the University’s specific history.
The University was designed to educate southern white gentlemen. It was built by enslaved laborers, on Monacan tribal land, and enslaved and free Black people provided the labor and capital that supported the students and faculty through the Civil War. In the twentieth century, the University was a pioneer in the eugenics movement and supported segregated schools. The education denied to Indigenous nations was publicly acknowledged by what is now recognized as the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2007, yet few institions have made significant progress on increasing the representation of Indigenous students.
We at UVA will continue to seek opportunities to engage in meaningful relationship building for our shared futures and acknowledge with respect that we live, learn, and work on the traditional territory of the Monacan Indian Nation. We pay respect to their elders and knowledge keepers past, present, and emerging. As we engage greater care and sustainable actions in our relations with many Indigenous nations, we invite you to learn more about the Monacan Indian Nation and encourage you to visit the Monacan Ancestral Museum, located just 50 miles from Charlottesville.
Bridge Program in Astronomy
The University of Virginia Bridge to the Doctorate Program in Astronomy will provide students an opportunity to prepare for admission to a graduate program in astronomy, astrophysics, or a closely related field. The Bridge Program will support post-baccalaureate students from groups that are underrepresented in astronomy and astrophysics and who have not had sufficient training and research experiences to prepare them for admission to a doctoral program.
Research Experiences for Undergraduates
The Astronomy faculty is committed to mentoring a diverse group of students. We participate in several research experiences for undergraduate student summer programs, including the UVa-Spelman Summer Research Program (http://astronomy.as.virginia.edu/research/near-field-cosmology), and the VA-NC Allicance summer programs (https://lsamp.virginia.edu).
UVA Associate Professor Nitya Kallivayalil (center) with UVA-Spelman REU program students Zaniyah Dock (left) and Temi Olatinwo (right).
Dark Skies, Bright Kids!
Dark Skies, Bright Kids (DSBK) is a non-profit program designed to enhance science education for elementary school students. We seek to foster the natural curiosity of children by helping them to explore the Universe in a social setting with fun, hands-on activities.
Rapid Response Robotic Telescope
The Norfolk State University Department of Physics owns the 24-inch Rapid Response Robotic Telescope at the University of Virginia's Fan Mountain Observatory. The telescope is maintained and operated for NSU by the UVA Department of Astronomy. The telescope is used by students pursuing an undergradate Minor in Astronomy at NSU and is used by both departments for undergraduate education, outreach, and research.
Girls Exploring the Universe
The Girls Exploring the Universe (GETU) program offers a free, exciting, on‐campus summer experience at the University of Virginia for middle school girls designed to increase their interest and curiosity in astronomy and science. This camp is funded by a grant from the Directors of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Virginia.
Building Leaders for Advancing Science and Technology
Each summer, the Department collaborates with the Virginia Space Grant Consortium to offer the Building Leaders for Advancing Science and Technology (BLAST) program at UVA. The program brings 80 rising 9th and 10th grade students from across Virginia to Grounds for 4 days and 3 nights of programs and activities with the goal of increasing student interest in STEM careers. The students experience living and working in a universtiy environment, and meet faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students from a wide variety of STEM fields.
If you have comments, questions, or concerns, please contact the Astronomy Department's Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Ed Murphy, at email@example.com.