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2017 Meeting Minutes

November 15, 2017

In attendance: Hilary Palevsky, Joel Llopiz, Dan Lizarralde, Hanny Rivera, Heidi Sosik, Mak Saito, Annette Govindarajan

Tiny Teas

  • Hanny Rivera (JP student rep) gave an introduction to the concept, which was initiated by another JP student, Suzi Clark (EAPS). MIT (EAPS) has already hosted several successful tiny teas.
  • The teas consist of a 30 minute to one hour discussion with tea and snacks. The organizers choose a short article on a relevant issue which participants read in advance; and the attendees break out into groups that consider some discussion questions also provided in advance by the organizers.
  • The WHOI date for our first Tiny Tea is November 30, Carriage House, 10:30.
  • Advertising can be done through WHOI Headlines; the department administrators; women’s committee; and announcements at department staff meetings
  • The topic of WHOI’s Tiny Tea is bystander interventions to microagressions. The topic (and suggested article and discussion questions) was the focus of a recent successful MIT Tiny Tea.
  • GEPAC discussed some types of subtle (compared to the suggested article) microaggressions – including being interrupted and having ideas ignored. The committee felt it would be helpful to consider including examples of microaggressions along with the article and discussion questions.
  • GEPAC also discussed some ideas on how to deal with microaggressions that may come up in the Tiny Tea – e.g., that it is important to be observant and notice when they occur; that allies can be helpful by speaking up for others; there is a need to be aware of power dynamics – it is often not easy or prudent for junior people to speak up; and training for PIs and lab heads would be useful.

Climate Survey and WCC

  • We discussed additional climate survey feedback that we have received since our last meeting.
  • Especially from the postdoctoral viewpoint – there should be greater public discussion of survey results and follow-up activities. The time scale of the survey process and follow up is slow relative to the length of stay for most postdocs.
  • GEPAC felt that there is a need to more clearly articulate the action items to the WHOI community and commitment to follow-up. After past surveys, there were periodic memos from the directorate detailing actions under identified areas. It would be good to have similar memos describing current activities.

Sexual harassment

  • GEPAC discussed how WHOI might use the national attention on sexual harassment from Hollywood and DC as a teachable moment and opportunity for reflection.
  • The institution should consider holding a special institute update discussing harassment; perhaps at the same time rolling out the new WCC. A presentation might include a panel with past and present GEPAC chairs and highlight the history of efforts at WHOI. The presentation could highlight WHOI’s past and current leadership with harassment issues, at the same time being sensitive to the fact that some community members may have had negative experiences. The presentation should emphasize a zero tolerance policy.

Miscellaneous comments for the WCC

  • Committee membership – Mak and Annette are working with staff council to develop a balanced membership that reflects the WHOI community.
  • Given that a key climate parameter is the perception of institutional actions, it will be important for the WCC to communicate its activities. Consider a more detailed name and/or website that includes references to different types of diversity (gender, racial, etc).
  • The climate survey showed that limited ethnic diversity as an important issue that should be addressed by the new WCC.

May 23, 2017

In attendance: Jed Goldstone, Kathi Benjamin, Heidi Sosik, Hanny Rivera, Hilary Palevsky, Lea Fraser, Mak Saito, Annette Govindarajan

The focus of this meeting was to discuss feedback on the survey, the presentation of survey results, and post-survey initiatives.

Feedback on Survey:


  • Overall, the WHOI community was glad that the survey was conducted.
  • People liked Sue Rankin (the survey consultant) and thought she was engaging.

Negative/needs improvement:

  • There was some concern that the survey was misleading in the way that some groups were lumped. There were questions about why the postdocs weren’t dealt with as their own group as it was felt there were sufficient numbers to protect confidentiality. There was some concern that different postdoctoral categories (fellow/scholar/investigator) and the timing of postdoctoral start/end times relative to survey confused the statistics.
  • There were concerns about how the “admin” category lumped together diverse groups, potentially minimizing their concerns.

Feedback on presentation of full report and WHOI response

  • It was noted that the audience was moderately-sized and mostly female at the presentations. Some individuals who thought that they may have been considered in a small (“<5”) on sensitive topics may not have attended.
  • Discussion about the need for transparency in presenting the survey results
  • Discussion about the availability of the full report for the community; noting that very few people have accessed full report; more, but still not many, have read executive summary or full PowerPoint presentation. The mechanisms for accessing the full report and video presentation, while well-intentioned, may not have been effective for some people.
  • Several people were interested in making the report and video of presentations available in a secure way for online viewing (like the executive summary). We discussed how to balance legitimate security concerns (e.g., as brought up by Sue Rankin) with openness and transparency
  • There was a suggestion that WHOI craft a suitable summary/press release/public response to share the survey findings.

Post-survey initiatives

  • GEPAC will likely evolve into a committee that deals with gender and other issues, as Mark Abbott described in his post-survey presentation.
  • There is a strong sentiment that WHOI needs to better address diversity; and there was discussion on what the new committee’s role would be in this respect. There was a discussion about whether there should be an independent diversity committee or whether diversity should be part of the new committee’s charge.
  • There was strong support for an independent ombudsperson. Kathi Benjamin (HR) noted that HR is reaching out in performing some of these functions.
  • There was strong demand for advisor and supervisor training on a regular basis (similar to safety training). It was also felt that there should be general training for all employees, not just supervisors/advisors. Kathi said that this is being considered by HR.
  • The new committee should be balanced and have representatives from all WHOI demographics.
  • Discussion of how to reach out to groups that are less aware about climate/gender issues. Some suggestions were to train senior people to constructively address and lead discussions of these issues, and conduct “Ally training” to teach community members to promote inclusiveness.