Faculty Letter in Support of Bias Training at Penn


To the Penn Community,

In 2012, Moss-Racusin and colleagues published a remarkable paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (109: 16474-16479) reporting that male applicants for a university lab manager position were viewed by prospective faculty employers as significantly more competent, “hireable”, and deserving of larger salaries than female applicants with an identical resume.  The disparity was robust, statistically significant, and – strikingly – essentially indistinguishable for male and female faculty employers. 


This and many related studies have demonstrated that unconscious bias related to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and other personal traits is a reality in academia, as it is in the larger community. Some believe the issue of unconscious bias to be overstated or the rallying cry of a disgruntled few; however, this view is strongly refuted by the data.  Extensive peer-reviewed research has demonstrated that unconscious bias continues to influence our individual and collective development and success, both within academia and beyond.  For example, a recent analysis using the black-white implicit association test (IAT) revealed significant racial bias among faculty serving on a medical school admissions committee.  Importantly, however, two-thirds of those faculty concluded that this training was helpful in reducing unconscious bias, and the subsequent matriculating class was the most diverse in that medical school’s history (Capers et al., Academic Medicine (2017) 92: 365-369). 


From conversations with representatives from multiple student groups, we know that issues of unconscious (and conscious) bias are of great concern to many of our students, as well as fellow faculty and staff.  We believe it is important that the Penn Community knows we are listening, and remain committed to addressing these concerns.  We fully support, and hope to expand, University initiatives designed to examine and reduce the impact of bias for all members of our University and community.  We encourage our fellow faculty members to participate in implicit bias training as a critical step towards improving our campus climate.

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Marybeth Gasman

Brian Keith, Cancer Biology

Marcella Devoto, Pediatrics

Daniel Kessler, Cell and Developmental Biology

Mike Nusbaum, Dept. of Neuroscience, Perelman School of Medicine

Kelly Jordan-Sciutto, Pathology/Dental Medicine

Arnaldo Diaz Vazquez, Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics

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