Departmental Statements on Current Events

Policy: Going forward, MEHP leadership will not issue statements celebrating, deploring, condemning, or expressing concern about events that occur outside our department.

Backgound: Over the past several years, MEHP leadership has occasionally made statements to the department in response to current events, such as the murder of George Floyd, the Atlanta spa shootings, the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, and the Hamas attacks on Israel. However, there are also many other events about which department leadership has not circulated a statement. When concerning events occur, we often find ourselves asking, “Should the department issue a statement?” Sometimes, you ask us the same question. Making a statement conveys an explicit message, while not making one can do so implicitly – and these decisions can contribute to a sense of belonging and, sometimes, othering within the department.

Rationale: Recognizing the lack of a coherent policy to guide whether and when to make departmental statements, in consultation with the MEHP ADEI leadership team, we examined the pros and cons of several approaches, informed by the department’s core value of supporting and encouraging diversity of all kinds. Our MEHP colleagues have ties around the country and the globe. We come from different religious and cultural traditions, we have different political views, we have different life experiences and identities. Although many current events are clearly deplorable, it is not within the department’s mission or capacity to comment on each one. There are also many events about which department members are likely to have nuanced personal perspectives, including perspectives that others may disagree with. So long as department members universally treat each other with civility and respect, each one of us is entitled to our views, including those that may differ from views held by department leadership.

Approach: Guided by the University of Chicago’s 1967 Kalven Report on the University’s Role in Political and Social Action, as well as more recent commentary focused on academic departments, MEHP leadership will no longer issue statements celebrating, deploring, condemning, or expressing concern about events that occur outside our department. When the School of Medicine or the University choose to make statements, we will circulate them to facilitate awareness. MEHP leadership will limit its independent statements to issues that uniquely affect the department and its members.

This approach should not be taken to suggest that MEHP leadership does not in fact have strong views about current events, including those that deeply affect our work, our colleagues, Penn, the nation, and the world. But outside of events that occur within and uniquely affect our department, it is not our role to take positions on behalf of the department.

It is our role, however, to support a culture that promotes the department’s core values, which we will continue to do. We will also continue to care for the well-being of each member of the MEHP community, recognizing the ways we may be personally affected by world events and extending compassion, grace, and care.

Posted February, 2024

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