Dear Diary: Impressions from the DNP Fall Meeting by Sara Jane
The DNP is committed to providing an inclusive space where physicists can exchange ideas and share their interests in nuclear physics, regardless of the age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, or educational background of the scientist. Unfortunately, an inclusive environment for all is not easy to achieve because we all carry our personal biases and are not always aware of behaviors that may make others feel unwelcome. Contrary to what many prefer to believe, harassment happens regularly , whether intended or unintended, and can have a strong impact on the careers of the targeted individuals . By harassment we mean any behavior that negatively targets a person because of their age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, or educational background. The Allies program aims to help reduce harassment at DNP meetings and provides an avenue for those affected to have the issues addressed in a timely manner, thereby reducing the impact harassment may have on the field of nuclear physics.
The concept of Allies is not new and even in physics we already have Allies programs in place . The DNP Allies program operates at the DNP fall meetings. The program draws together a vetted group of DNP members who are willing to be ambassadors of the DNP’s commitment to inclusiveness. These members are trained to be effective in helping those who feel harassed. Because the DNP Allies are members of the nuclear physics community, they may provide a familiar contact for those who feel harassed. The APS also sends a representative to address Code of Conduct issues to all of its divisional meetings. That person is not part of the nuclear physics community, but serves as the APS point of contact for harassment reporting.
The DNP meeting webpage has a link to the DNP Allies website, where a brief description of the program is provided along with a list of the active Allies (the website contains the information in this document, with photos of the Allies). Immediately before the meeting, these Allies undergo training so they can serve during the meeting. In the opening remarks of the meeting, the chair of the DNP announces the DNP Allies program and introduces the Allies, explaining their function and how they can be identified. The Allies participating in DNP meeting events can be identified by a bright orange scarf or armband. They are on alert for anyone who may be feeling uncomfortable, and their physical presence alone signals the desire of the DNP to make our meetings more welcoming and inclusive. Allies are available to talk to participants who believe they have experienced harassment, as well as to provide guidance on multiple options for handling the situation. In particular, Allies can help the targets identify whether their situation requires additional action, such as involving the APS representative who can determine whether further investigation is warranted. Allies are also willing to serve as escorts for participants who feel unsafe. Note that Allies are not intended to be involved in potentially dangerous situations requiring 911 assistance, and are not expected to provide legal advice. Shortly after the DNP meeting, Allies share their experiences during a conference call, maintaining confidentiality of the individuals involved, and report back to the DNP Executive Committee.
The chair of the DNP appoints a DNP member willing to serve as the DNP Allies Program Chair to a three-year term. The DNP Allies Program Chair is responsible for communicating with the Allies, the consultants who provide the training, and the DNP Executive Committee.
For the first Allies program in the Fall of 2017, the Allies appointed by the DNP chair were R. Gilman, F. Nunes (Chair), W. Rogers, R. Springer, and S. Yennello. Several of these Allies were already members of the DNP’s Adhoc Committee on Harassment Prevention (chaired by F. Nunes). Going forward, DNP members who are identified by current Allies and/or other DNP members and show a strong commitment to promoting an inclusive environment in nuclear physics are asked to respond to a questionnaire prepared by the Adhoc Committee. After that initial screening, a 30 min Skype interview is conducted. A subset of these DNP members are then selected to participate in training at the next DNP meeting. All candidates must undergo this training in order to become Allies. While we understand that, within the DNP community, there are broad ranges of understanding, experience, etc., regarding how to identify and address harassment, the Allies know that being an effective Ally is a life-long learning process. Several months before each DNP meeting, the Allies Program Chair hosts a preliminary conference call to discuss the Allies Program, the context of the Program, and general information about the upcoming training session.
In order for the Allies program to be successful, it is critical that Allies be equipped with the right tools. In recognition of this necessity, the APS provided funding for training of our first three cohorts of Allies. Subsequent training will be funded by the DNP. Any Ally serving at a given DNP meeting must undergo training at that meeting. Training takes place the morning before the start of the DNP meeting (or the afternoon preceding the first plenary session if the meeting starts in the morning) and is facilitated by an independent consultant hired by the APS for this purpose. The DNP Allies Program Chair communicates with this consultant well in advance in order to provide input about the types of issues one might expect, enabling the training session to be tailored to our needs. Allies may be asked to review materials in advance of the face-to-face training session.
The effectiveness of the DNP Allies program depends on its detailed implementation, review, and revision. After three years of operating at DNP meetings, the program was reviewed in late 2019 by an independent subcommittee (appointed by the DNP Chair to be W. Deconinck, N. Fomin, J. Roche, and J. Wilkerson). The subcommittee’s recommendations were presented to the DNP Executive Committee and to the Allies leadership. Frequent reviews will facilitate continuous improvement of the DNP Allies program.
While APS meetings are being held virtually, the DNP Allies will still participate in DNP activities. All DNP meeting participants are still bound by the APS Code of Conduct. DNP Allies will also participate in providing DNP session chairs with best practices for creating and maintaining an inclusive and welcoming space for all DNP members.
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