Graduate Division Leadership Response
to Items #1-3 of UCSF Graduate Student Petition

(This initial response was first posted on June 25, 2020. You can also see the subsequent response, first posted July 14 and updated on Oct. 26.)

Dear Students,

I was recently made aware of a petition in circulation among graduate students and others. Having read the petition, I felt it was important to respond to the concerns you prioritized.

I write on behalf of the entire Graduate Division leadership, which includes the deans in my office and faculty directors of the graduate programs (see signatures below). I first want to say that we are all gratified to see such support and solidarity from graduate students and faculty alike for improving the climate within the Graduate Division.

To the petition authors and signers, we appreciate your invitation (at least that’s how I see it!) to openly engage with you about some of the most important issues of our time. We are working to provide you and your fellow students with a meaningful response to all 15 points in the petition, but we wanted to address your first three requests now, namely 1) to issue a statement in support of students’ right to protest, 2) to condemn the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and other violent measures against protestors, and 3) to issue a statement in support of the current movement to defund the UCSF Police Department and other UC campus PDs. Let this letter, which will be posted on the Graduate Division website, stand as our initial statements regarding 1, 2, and 3. We will send another communication by July 15 outlining actions we have taken, are taking, and will take to address points 4-15, and we will send quarterly updates on our progress toward meeting the goals you have set for us.

The police killings of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Samuel DuBose, and this year, of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd have put a stain on our national character; but these are only some of the names we’ve heard in the news, and there are many, many more whose names don’t even make the news.  According to an ongoing account by the Washington Post, police have shot and killed 5,400 people since 2015, 463 as of June 7 this year. Black people are disproportionately represented in that number — 23% of those shot and killed by police were Black, while 13% of the overall population is Black.

George Floyd’s murder sparked a warranted, global movement against racially motivated police brutality. The condemnation is being expressed worldwide. Anti-police protestors have been chanting, holding up signs, pounding drums, and taking a knee from California to Washington DC, London to Berlin, Auckland to Rio. I know that many of you have been involved in protests these past weeks, and I could not be more proud of your activism. The Graduate Division and our program faculty encourage you to participate in our democracy, especially now. 

If you do attend a demonstration or other large event, please be safe and protect yourself and others from exposure to COVID-19. The Graduate Division joins the medical community, here and internationally, in condemning the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and all other forms of violence against protestors. The use of such weapons and tactics is inhumane under normal circumstances, and extraordinarily dangerous in the pandemic, since it may encourage the further spread of the virus. We urge you (and everyone at UCSF) to sign the petition started at the University of Washington and created with Dr. Peter Chin-Hong at UCSF, which calls for an anti-racist public health response to demonstrations against systemic injustice occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic, and specifically calls for measures to protect protestors and preserve their rights to demonstrate peacefully.

If your faculty mentor or instructor pressures you in any way not to take part in demonstrations or other forms of protest, I urge you to reach out to your program director, Associate Dean Liz Silva, or me, for support. Both UCSF and the First Amendment defend your freedom of expression.

Further, the Graduate Division supports Chancellor Hawgood’s plan to “immediately creat[e] and mobilize[e] a task force to review and refine our own practices and policies around community safety.”According to the chancellor’s communication of June 9, 2020, the task force will include broad representation from across the UCSF community. The chancellor has explicitly requested student participation on this task force, and we will ensure the graduate programs are represented. We look forward to hearing how community safety and policing on our campus will be re-envisioned and re-structured, and we support all measures that will ensure fair and impartial treatment of our students.

Some of the other points in the petition to Graduate Division leadership also raised requests and issues related to campus policing, and we will respond in a more substantive way in the coming days.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the concerns about student mental and emotional well-being. As vice chancellor of Student Academic Affairs (my second role at UCSF), I created a brand-new position for a full-time director of mental health services in Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS) in 2017, and we are extremely fortunate that Dr. Jeanne Stanford, who previously directed Counseling and Psychological Services at UC Santa Barbara, filled this role. Dr. Stanford has special expertise working with students of color, first generation students, LGBTQI students, and students who have experienced trauma and violence. Over the past three years, she has hired a diverse staff committed to social justice and to offering culturally appropriate individual and group counseling and outreach programming, and trauma-informed psychological and psychiatric care. For its 3,200 students, UCSF currently has 6.0 FTE mental health counselors, of whom two are Black (33.3%), two are Latinx (1.5 FTE, 25%); one is Asian-American (16.7%), and one identifies as a gender-variant person. There is one full-time counselor for every 533 students, the lowest ratio in the UC system and lower than the 1:1000-1500 ratio recommended by the International Association of Counseling Services. In addition, the School of Medicine has 1.6 FTE counselors to serve its 643 students, which reduces demand on the SHCS staff. After the university-wide hiring freeze is lifted, we will assess the potential for expanding this team of professionals.

SHCS continually evaluates their offerings to align them with students’ expressed needs. Mental health is not only an individual issue; it must also be addressed systemically and structurally with programs and trainings for faculty, staff, and students. Recognizing this, SHCS collaborates with the graduate and professional degree programs and other UCSF community building and support services, including First Generation Support Services, Restorative Justice Practices/Student Life, the Multicultural Resource Center, the Ombuds, and the Graduate Division dean’s office, to help alleviate any traumatic stress – racial or otherwise – students are experiencing. Our communications team strives to make students aware of the many services and programs offered by these campus resources.

In closing, I hope you consider the dean’s office and the graduate programs that make up the Graduate Division to be your allies. Students are truly our raison d’etre.


Elizabeth Watkins, Dean
D’Anne Duncan, Assistant Dean
Gabriela Monsalve, Assistant Dean
Elizabeth Silva, Associate Dean

Graduate Program Directors
Mark Ansel, Biomedical Sciences PhD
Kaveh Ashrafi, TETRAD PhD
Nadav Ahituv, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics PhD
Robert Blelloch, Developmental and Stem Cell Biology PhD
Janet Coffman, Health Policy and the Law MS
Madhavi Dandu, Global Health Sciences MS
Elizabeth Fair, Global Health Sciences PhD
Amber Fitzsimmons, Physical Therapy DPT
Oi Saeng Hong, Nursing PhD
Jason Gestwicki, Chemistry and Chemical Biology PhD
Maria Glymour, Epidemiology and Translational Science PhD
Tanja Kortemme, Biophysics PhD
Ralph Marcucio, Oral and Craniofacial Sciences PhD
Alastair Martin, Biomedical Imaging MS
Jeffrey Martin, Clinical Research MAS
Todd McDevitt, Bioengineering PhD
Aimee Medeiros, History of Health Sciences PhD
Geeta Narlikar, TETRAD PhD
Sue Noworolski, Biomedical Imaging MS
Todd Nystul, Developmental and Stem Cell Biology PhD
Howard Pinderhughes, Sociology PhD
Sam Pleasure, Neuroscience PhD
Shuvo Roy, Translational Medicine MTM
Anita Sil, Biomedical Sciences PhD
Richard Souza, Rehabilitation Science PhD