“…You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”
In early June, I stepped into my once-in-a-lifetime role of father of the bride and enjoyed the traditional father-daughter dance to “Imagine” by John Lennon. It was a magical day, filled with joy and happiness.
But peace doesn’t seem to be a priority. The grim realities of stripping people of their rights and criminalizing the support of others affect us all, e.g., overturning Roe v. Wade and passing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. These destructive decisions will have the greatest consequences on Black, Indigenous, and other people of color and further the severity of systemic racism and health disparities. I encourage you to register for the July 8 town hall, After SCOTUS: The Future of Abortion Access, and watch the recording of the June 17 town hall that featured a panel of LGBTQ+ leaders at UCSF.
Regular Expresso readers know that I have a deep commitment to combating discrimination and racism in all forms, whether overt or unconscious. This insidious scourge has had a terrible impact over generations and has prevented too many people from pursuing their dreams, achieving their full potential, and making the contributions that everyone deserves the freedom to make.
In this month’s Expresso, I’ll share with you the story of a vitally important task force that has made excellent recommendations on steps we can take to fight racism in our research enterprise. When the task force first sought feedback from the UCSF community, its members found that here at UCSF, some people dismissed and even opposed their work, considering it an unnecessary use of university funds.
While disheartening, those comments only added to the need to adopt the task force’s recommendations and take action. I look forward to continuing the dialogue.
In addition, you’ll learn about the current state of UCSF parking and get an update on NIH policies and recommendations under the rubric “Supporting a Safe and Respectful Workplace at Institutions that Receive NIH Funding.”
This month’s topics:
- Anti-Racism in Research: A road map toward diversity and excellence
- The NIH Supporting Safety and Respect in the Workplace: Impact on UCSF
- Where to Park: New commute habits upend transportation
With the Fourth of July holiday weekend around the corner, I hope we are motivated with new resolve to continue the struggle for true freedom for all.
Anti-Racism in Research: A road map toward diversity and excellence
Amid the nation’s racial reckoning in 2020, Lindsey Criswell, former vice chancellor for research, announced the appointment of the UCSF Task Force on Equity and Anti-Racism in Research. The task force recently completed its work and issued a final report that should serve as a launching pad for many long-needed initiatives to ensure that all research at UCSF is just and equitable.
I wrote about the task force’s work in February, and want to reiterate the four key recommendations that we’ll now adopt:
- Establish a system of accountability on anti-racism and equity for the UCSF research enterprise
- Promote and support UCSF anti-racism scholarship
- Create and support a more diverse UCSF research workforce
- Promote and support community-engaged research
Within those categories, the task force drafted 164 recommendations. You can download the Task Force’s executive summary to its final report. Most critically, the authors emphasize that a small task force that met for less than two years can only achieve so much and that we need to establish a permanent body charged with implementing these recommendations across the institution over the next few years.
Based on this important feedback, we’re appointing and fully supporting a new post, the associate vice chancellor of Research – Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Anti-Racism (IDEA), with a joint appointment in the Office of Research and Office of Diversity and Outreach. I am looking forward to announcing the inaugural selection very soon in an upcoming issue of ReSearch ReSource – with a link to the full report. In addition, the task force will transition into a standing committee within the Office of Research, reporting to our new associate vice chancellor.
In seeking to focus its scope, the task force chose anti-Black racism as a priority, with the intent that the longer-term solutions will address the racism and bias endured by other communities. Their findings call for creating a Black Health Center of Excellence, with visible leadership of Black faculty and staff, to address the absence of a campus-wide program focused on Black health and research partnering with Black communities. (Currently, UCSF has a Latinx Center of Excellence. The task force members say centers of excellence for other minority groups should also be supported over time.)
While the work was emotionally exhausting, task force members agree that the time spent was highly rewarding. The group quickly became a close-knit community in which members supported each other. “In order to be successful in doing this work, we had to build a foundation of trust, respect, openness, and honesty,” says Sun Yu Cotter, deputy director of the UC Global Health Institute and a co-chair of the task force alongside faculty members Monica McLemore (now at the University of Washington School of Nursing) and Tung Nguyen, professor in the Department of Medicine, two of our leading voices in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Recognizing the multiple traumas happening in the country and globally throughout 2020 and 2021, Sun explains that the group always made a point to start its meetings as fellow human beings recognizing that the effort was coming together at intensely painful times. Acknowledging the feelings individually and collectively sitting virtually with the people in the room was refreshing and very necessary to do this type of work, and not something she had typically seen when serving on other task forces.
That supportive environment proved important when the group sought public comment on its recommendations. “There were things that were really hurtful to review,” says Jen James, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing and a task force member. “There were people in our community … who were very, very negative and very against anti-racism as a concept.”
People called the anti-racism effort itself discriminatory; one commenter said the endeavor was a waste of resources; some said they had never seen evidence of racism at UCSF; some expressed concerns that UCSF was sacrificing excellence in the name of equity.
“It was hard for many of us to be confronted with the reminder that we didn’t necessarily have consensus from everyone on campus that this is an important thing we should be doing,” Jen says. “At the same time, many people were incredibly supportive, saying, ‘I think that this work is critical’ and ‘I think that money should be invested in doing this.’” Sun adds, “The Leadership of the Task Force held space for us as a group to be present, sit with the pain and hurt, wipe our tears, take a deep collective breath, embrace one another, and keep going because we knew we couldn’t give up.”
Excellence and equity are not mutually exclusive but are intrinsically linked, and perceptions that anti-racism work is unnecessary and costly reveal the extremely high degree of our national discord and divisiveness and the challenging work we have ahead of us. The journey has been rugged and will be long and difficult with highs and lows.
“We can’t advance health if we don’t engage people who study different things, who have different lived experiences, who have different approaches to our health,” Jen says. “Diversity is excellence.”
I love it when people can distill a complex subject with such eloquence. Diversity is excellence. UCSF is all about excellence. And UCSF is all about achieving and appreciating diversity. The task force gave us a road map to keep striving for both.
The NIH Supporting Safety and Respect in the Workplace: Impact on UCSF
February 2022 brought news that “UCSF Is Top Public Recipient of NIH Funding for 15th Year.” It’s easy to become a bit complacent about such a remarkable, repeated achievement, but it really is something of which to be very proud – a true testimonial to the awesome creativity of our research community. But I want to highlight a vitally important responsibility intertwined with our research activities, and that is the need to maintain a safe and respectful environment in carrying out this work. This has recently been reinforced by the NIH when, last month, they issued updated policies and recommendations under the rubric “Supporting a Safe and Respectful Workplace at Institutions that Receive NIH Funding.”
What does a supportive and respectful work environment have to do with NIH funding? NIH is making it clear – if you’re receiving their funding, there is no tolerance for individuals identified as principal investigator or other senior or key personnel to harass, bully, retaliate against, or assault people with whom they work or supervise. None of this is foreign to us – UCSF and the University of California have many policies governing workplace behavior, including the UC Statement of Ethical Values and Standards of Ethical Conduct, UCSF Principles of Community, UCSF Pride Values, Faculty Code of Conduct, UCSF Integrity of Research Policy, and UC rules about discrimination, harassment, and affirmative action in the workplace. Substantiated violations come with serious consequences for offenders.
Now, it’s federal law. Inside Higher Ed wrote about it last month.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 (Public Law 117-103), Division H, Title II, Section 239, now requires that, “[t]he Director of the National Institutes of Health shall hereafter require institutions that receive funds through a grant or cooperative agreement during fiscal year 2022 and in future years to notify the Director when individuals identified as a principal investigator or as key personnel in an NIH notice of award are removed from their position or are otherwise disciplined due to concerns about harassment, bullying, retaliation, or hostile working conditions.”
The NIH doesn’t conduct its own investigations and relies on institutions to follow the procedures they have in place, and then inform NIH of any disciplinary actions. The NIH may then decide to impose its own penalties, including revoking any grants.
UCSF has four active cases under review with the NIH right now. The NIH contacted us about them, according to Winona Ward, assistant vice chancellor for research. Of the four, we had previously completed two of those investigations and reported the results. Once we received news of the other two, we launched our own investigations.
We encourage people with a complaint to report it to the appropriate authority at UCSF, i.e., the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, or Office of Faculty and Academic Affairs, and feel confident that it will be investigated. As evidenced by those two recent complaints, though, “Individuals who have questions or concerns are not reporting to us first,” says Joyce Abe, operations and training officer with the Office of Sponsored Research. Individuals can call NIH or the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights directly. And if unsure where to go, Joyce says, contact the Office of Sponsored Research, and they’ll point you in the right direction.
I wish we were all motivated to treat others respectfully without the threat of discipline, but until then, this new federal law adds to the reasons for embracing our PRIDE Values.
Where to Park: New commute habits upend transportation
A few years ago, a colleague approached me about the Comprehensive Parnassus Heights Plan and asked about solutions to the extreme wind and fog as well as the challenging parking situation. I jokingly said, let’s go with the low hanging fruit… the weather… the weather we can do something about! As cataclysmic as the pandemic has been, it did not create the strained parking situation at our campuses… just shook it up a little bit.
In March 2019, I wrote about the great headway UCSF was making toward our transportation green goals of getting people into buses, trains, shuttles, bicycles, vanpools, and other alternatives to the single-driver car, resulting in a little breathing room in our parking garages. In March 2020, with shelter-in-place (and work from home) in effect, parking garages had quite a bit of space. Alas, a few things have changed since then, including the California Supreme Court ruling that San Francisco has the right to collect a 25 percent parking tax from drivers who park in public university lots and garages located in the city. For UCSF, this went into effect May 1, 2020, and had a huge impact on our ability to hold down parking costs.
Recently, I heard a great presentation by Amit Kothari, our executive director of transportation. Amit oversees parking, and he spoke about the current state of UCSF transportation and the impact on the parking situation, especially since March 2022 when folks who had been telecommuting returned to working on site – even on a hybrid schedule. Mode of transportation? Driving – and mostly it’s a single-driver.
In the first year of the pandemic, public transit ridership plummeted, and while vaccines have enabled some return to a sense of normalcy, ridership rises only to fall once again with every new variant and COVID case surge. Amit says the continuing presence of COVID in our lives has left some of those coming to work reluctant to use public transit. He states that ridership is incrementally increasing for most transit services including UCSF shuttles, BART, and MUNI, but is still only at 30 to 40 percent of its pre-pandemic levels. In contrast, the parking demand at our campuses has already returned to nearly pre-pandemic levels. It’s a vicious cycle – lower ridership often results in a cut in services, which makes taking public transportation a lot less appealing. Case in point, the MU and ACC garages at Parnassus Heights are back to near capacity.
In spring 2020, as a COVID-relief initiative, UCSF introduced a new discounted Daily Rate for employees and learners. This daily maximum rate has crept up, but it’s still $24 (going up to $26 effective July 1, 2022), compared to the full price of $35, which non-employees pay. Eligibility for a monthly parking permit pre-COVID was based on employees’ pay grades, but Campus Life Services has now made it open to all employees. And it’s location-transferable – park and pay at Parnassus, drive to Mission Bay the same day, and your daily fee is covered. A monthly permit also allows parking at any of UCSF’s 22 parking facilities across all campuses.
The lower prices – which cost UCSF about $4 million a year – likely won’t last. Low rates helped people through a difficult time, but we need to keep our eye on the big picture and encourage more public transit ridership.
While we know that our lots are filling up, the expense of building garages is exorbitant, e.g., the cost of the new garage currently under construction at Mission Bay is $125,000 – per parking space! In support of the City’s Transit First Policy, UCSF has made a promise to our city leaders and traffic-weary community neighbors that we wouldn’t build parking and would encourage transit. We simply cannot add to the supply.
“We care about every single user, every single person who comes to UCSF for any reason,” Amit says. “That’s why our programs offer multiple solutions. We completely understand and respect that not everyone can take public transit. But if those who can, do take it, that will leave more spaces for those who cannot.” Typically, a patient parks for about two hours, and an employee parks for about 8.5 or 9 hours. That means every parking space not occupied by an employee opens up parking for four patients a day.
Amit makes a compelling transit pitch, citing UCSF’s shuttles that make riding BART feasible to Mission Bay, Parnassus Heights, Mount Zion, and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. The revitalized vanpool program that took a significant dip over the past two years has recently transformed and now offers greater flexibility and more subsidies. And through a continued partnership with Lyft, UCSF Transportation offers 15 vouchers of $10 each, every month to students who stay on campus late at night and then need a safe commute home. (The first $10 is on UCSF. If the cost is more, then the student pays the difference.)
As we increase our on-site presence, if it is at all possible for you, please let someone else do the driving. It’s better for our nerves, our patients, and our planet.
Dan’s Tip of the Month
For me, July is a time to catch up on summer reading and blockbuster movies. And what better source for both than your local public library! That’s where I found Kanopy. It’s a free, on-demand streaming platform featuring popular movies, documentaries, foreign and independent films, classic cinema, educational videos – thousands of titles in almost any genre you can imagine or desire. Getting started is easy! Get your library card, find your library, then enter your card and PIN information when prompted. Follow the simple instructions to create your Kanopy account using your email address or Google login and then start building your own personal summer film festival!