MEB is committed to being a scientific community where all individuals are respected, and where all individuals feel engaged, motivated, and valued. We believe that diversity promotes scientific innovation and we are working on a number of initiatives to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion. Progress towards these initiatives is overseen by the MEB DEI committee, consisting of faculty, postdoc, and graduate student representatives. Additional ad hoc subcommittees focus on progressing specific objectives. Below you will find our Code of Conduct, a link to our DEI Action Plan, and a review of our progress. Click here to access an archive of our monthly DEI newsletters, and watch our Twitter feed for additional updates. Learn more about DEI efforts in Dornsife and at USC.
USC MEB Code of Conduct
The USC Marine & Environmental Biology section and graduate program are committed to promoting a safe and inclusive working environment (both in person and online) free of harassment and discrimination. This is fundamental to promoting an equitable and inclusive environment in which all members have access to resources and feel supported and respected by the department. Our code complements policies described in USC’s Code of Ethics, Faculty Handbook, and Student Handbook.
All MEB members, including students, staff, postdocs and faculty, are expected to:
- Be Respectful. Respect the physical, professional and personal boundaries of colleagues. Maintain civil and respectful discourse at all times.
- Be Inclusive. Work to establish and maintain an inclusive culture that welcomes people of all backgrounds and identities. Recognize that this work must begin with ourselves by actively seeking out knowledge and understanding of other backgrounds and identities.
- Be Supportive. Strive to support the safety and professional development of all members of our community. Speak up when you observe behaviors inconsistent with our Code of Conduct.
Specific violations of this code include:
- Discrimination, harassment or exclusion based on age, ancestry, citizenship, color, physical or mental disability, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, medical condition, military status, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and/or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth), gender, sexual orientation, protected veteran status, or any other basis protected by applicable laws or regulations. (USC Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation)
- All forms of harassment including unwanted verbal attention, unwanted touching, intimidation, unwelcome jokes, disparaging remarks, etc. Note that scientific criticism is important and appropriate, but disrespectful or demeaning comments are unacceptable.
How to discuss or report concerns:
See our Reporting Infographic. A first stop for confidential, informal, independent and impartial assistance with resolving concerns is the USC Office of the Ombuds(213-821-9556, firstname.lastname@example.org). Within the section, potential violations of the code can always be discussed with the MEB Section Head or MBBO Director of Graduate Studies. Outside of the section, concerns of discrimination or harassment by faculty or staff can be brought to USC’s Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX (EEO-TIX) (213-740-5086, email@example.com). Concerns of prohibited conduct by students or student organizations are handled by EEO-TIX. Please note that USC faculty, staff and teaching assistants are mandatory reporters, meaning that they have a duty to report suspected prohibited conduct.
USC MEB Policy on Incident Reporting
MEB is committed to ensuring a safe and welcoming work environment for all department members at all levels (students, faculty, and staff). If you have experienced harassment or discrimination we encourage you to report the incident to USC’s Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX. Other incidents that do not fall under these categories may be reported through the Office of Professionalism and Ethics. Finally, for anonymous guidance in conflict resolution and mediation services consider the Office of the Ombuds. See our Reporting Infographic for help navigating these resources
MEB Faculty and Staff are designated employees, meaning that any knowledge of harassment or discrimination against a protected class must be reported by them to the Title IX Office. If you notify departmental leadership of such an incident, their first response will be to elevate the complaint accordingly (they are legally required to do so, with or without your permission). From there, the department no longer has control over the investigation process, and will not necessarily be notified of any outcomes.
Nevertheless, it is often advantageous for departmental leadership to learn about ongoing issues in the department, especially those that may not rise to the level of a Title IX investigation, so that they can implement changes/corrections at the departmental level (e.g., trainings on specific issues, discussions with particular individuals). Generally, the department follows the following procedure for dealing with such reports:
- Makes a report to the Title IX Office or the Office of Professionalism and Ethics if there is any possibility the incident falls under their jurisdiction
- Provides mediation between individuals if requested by the individual making the report
- Contacts the offending individual(s) and discusses necessary changes in behavior if requested by the individual making the report
- Develops departmental training/workshops in response to persistent problems
The department does not keep centralized records of such complaints, and will keep any reports confidential (apart from mandatory reporting requirements to Title IX) unless other actions are requested by the reporting individual.
The DEI committee meets monthly to review progress towards objectives and develop new initiatives. Primary committee members for the 2023 calendar year are:
Faculty: Suzanne Edmands, Carly Kenkel, Julia Schwartzman, Cameron Thrash
Postdocs: Suzana Leles, Jayme Lewthwaite, Yubin Raut
Graduate Students: Chuankai Cheng, Alexis Floback
Subcommittees comprised of core DEI committee members and additional members of the MEB community work to progress specific objectives. Active subcommittees as of 2022 are as follows:
- Programming committee: Charged with planning seminars, workshops and other internal events to increase knowledge and engagement. This committee oversees monthly DEI newsletters, Heritage Month events, and special seminars.
- Pipeline committee: Charged with developing long-term relationships with minority serving institutions, including mentoring and programming around graduate school and careers in STEM.
- Climate committee: charged with evaluating exit interview responses and compiling into white papers for reporting out to section and HR
- Awards committee: (spring-only commitment) forms to solicit and evaluate applications for the MEB Service Awards in time for announcing at the annual BISC awards luncheon
MEB postdocs lead a DEI journal club and mentorship round tables with graduate students to provide near peer support and guidance.
The MEB DEI committee maintains active communication with DEI committees in other institutes, departments, and sections of Dornsife. Together the STEM DEI Chairs work to progress higher level objectives requiring administrative approvals, such as the removal of graduate school application fees.
If you have any questions regarding these activities or would like to hear more about opportunities and how to get involved please email Carly Kenkel ckenkel[at]usc.edu
- Host annual Open House recruitment event with specialized workshops on applying to graduate school
- Eliminate the GREs as an application requirement
- Update the MEB website pages with pertinent information
- Revise application to incorporate more inclusive language on questions related to identity
- Incorporate graduate student representation on the admissions committee
- Develop method to annually assess demographics of MBBO applicants, accepted, and enrolled students
- Create a Code of Conduct for the department that is signed by members of MEB
- Survey the student body on demographics & satisfaction
- Highlight prominent figures, significant events, and important concepts as part of Black History Month, Latinx Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, Women’s History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Pride Month celebrations
- Provide incoming students with relevant resources and department orientation
- Plan and implement seminars and workshops on specific topics. To date, seminars have covered topics such as Microaggressions, Communication, and Reporting
- Reporting committee: Charged with investigating reporting options at USC, developing clear and simple guides for reporting problems and drafting an exit interview to solicit more unconstrained feedback on the climate in MEB. In 2021 the committee met with leadership of the USC offices of EEO-TiX, Professionalism and Ethics, and Ombuds, and developed a draft of a streamlined infographic on reporting options and potential outcomes to be released in 2022. They also drafted an exit interview that was implemented in early 2022.
III. Fieldwork Safety Committee
- Committee Members: Alexis Floback, Kyra Florea, Wyatt Million, Faculty lead: Alberto Robador Ausejo
- Charged with surveying the student body to identify issues encountered during off-campus research experiences, and developed a code of conduct template, pre and post-fieldwork conversation guide, and emergency action plans for specific classes of fieldwork (diving and research vesselbased operations). In 2021 they administered a survey and compiled these data into a white paper report to be shared with the section.