BE-STEM Petition and Response

In October 2020, the leadership of Black Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (BE-STEM), a student-led organization, delivered the following petition to (then) Graduate Dean and Vice Chancellor of Student Academic Affairs Elizabeth Watkins.

On October 29, Dean/VC Watkins, along with Assistant Dean D'Anne Duncan, Associate Dean Liz Silva, Professor and Chair of the Graduate Council Dyche Mullins, and Director of Mental Health Services in Student Health and Counseling Services Jeanne Stanford, met with BE-STEM leaders Nadia Ayad and Jayso’n Davidson. On January 20, 2021 Watkins, Duncan, and Silva met with BE-STEM leaders Nadia Ayad and Chase Webb. The petition and actions were also discussed in the Graduate Division at the third quarterly Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Anti Racism Town Hall on January 27, 2021. 

The Graduate Division has not changed or redacted any of the language in the original list of demands below, which still reflects the students' own voices; only the format has changed. The Graduate Division's responses to the demands so far have been added here in the drop-down text under each point. The list will be updated as any further actions are taken. You can also see the original BE-STEM petition as it was presented to the Graduate Division.

Petition and Responses

We, the Black students of the Graduate Division, unite our voices with those in the Schools of Medicine and Dentistry in a fight against anti-Blackness in STEM. A University that espouses to champion "principles of community" and PRIDE values cannot exist within an institution that perpetuates racial inequities. Science has a racism problem [1] and UCSF is no exception.

We would like to thank the Graduate Division Leadership for organizing, listening, and  responding to the demands of the student petition. It is our goal to continually urge the administration to combat structural racism in an effort to empower current and future Black trainees. We ask that this mission be upheld according to the following demands, which were drafted and edited by graduate students of BE-STEM:

Action Items for Dismantling Institutional Racism and Achieving Racial Equity for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Trainees at UCSF

10. (By Q2 2021) Defunding and divestment of the UCPD, reallocating funds to build alternative roles to address the needs of UC students, faculty, and employees and to items outlined in 2 through 7.

  • Some students have grown up in neighborhoods that were over policed and the police presence at UCSF is retraumatizing. There’s no empirical data that we can rehabilitate racist police, however, there’s empirical evidence that implicit bias training does not lead to behavior change [7], [8] therefore the only solution left is to remove problematic police officers and security guards on campus. Therefore, we ask that UCSF reduce police force on campus by 30%- 50% this year and freeze hiring for 5-years; reassess thereafter.
  • With the reduction in the police force, reallocate funds following this successful example.

    Graduate Division Response:

    The students and postdocs of BE-STEM, in collaboration with students across the schools, have raised this issue with campus leadership. The initial report of UCSF’s campus safety task force was released in November 2020. UC President Michael Drake hosted a UC Campus Safety Symposium on February 2, 2021. The purpose of this initial symposium was to identify common campus safety concerns across the UC system and subsequent symposia will focus on solutions to the concerns. The Graduate Division Dean's Office supports continual reform and improvement of campus policing and safety policies to effectively meet the needs of those in our community most marginalized by institutional racism, and of the development of alternative mechanisms for addressing mental health crises. 

[petition signed:]

We look forward to your prompt response.

In Unwavering Solidarity,

Black Excellence in STEM (BE-STEM) at UCSF


[1]    “Science Has a Racism Problem,” Cell, vol. 181, no. 7. Elsevier, pp. 1443–1444, 09-Jun-2020. 

[2]    Booker, K and Brevard, E. “Why Mentoring Matters: African-American Students and the Transition to College,” The Mentor: Innovative Scholarship on Academic Advising, vol. 19 (2017).

[3]    Evans, T., Bira, L., Gastelum, J. et al. Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education. Nat Biotechnol 36, 282–284 (2018).

[4]    Fatal Force: Police shootings database. (2020, January 22). Retrieved September 09, 2020, from

[5]    Czeisler, M.E. et. al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. MMWR 69, 1049-1057 (2020).

[6]    Issuing Authority This guidance document was issued upon approval of the Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (n.d.). Facts about Race/Color Discrimination. Retrieved from

[7]    Dobbin, Frank, and Alexandra Kalev. 2018. “Why Diversity Training Doesn’t Work: The Challenge for Industry and Academia.” Anthropology Now 10 (2):48-55. 

[8]    Forscher, P. S., Lai, C. K., Axt, J. R., Ebersole, C. R., Herman, M., Devine, P. G., & Nosek, B. A. (2019). A meta-analysis of procedures to change implicit measures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 117(3), 522–559. 

*Provided by BE-STEM

Page views: