June 9, 2020

Message from Rusty Gage and Mallory Zaslav

Salk News

Message from Rusty Gage and Mallory Zaslav

Our mission to better humanity must extend beyond science. That was the core premise on which we founded the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) at Salk. Repugnant racial discrimination and violence against Black people are devastating reminders of the vital importance of this work, but also of the need to be vigilant in continually assessing and enhancing our efforts. Just as “every cure has a starting point” is championed as our mantra in research towards eradicating disease and other issues threatening human health, it so too must be our mindset in doing our part to eradicate systemic racism and injustice. For each, the essential starting point is an absolute commitment to being constructive forces for progress and agents of meaningful change.

OEI has been working on several important initiatives to this end and welcomes ideas from throughout the Salk community on how we can further accelerate and expand these critical efforts to support the Institute’s diverse people, ideas and research. The following is a list of concrete action items we are advancing now.

  • Diversity Task Force: When the Campus Culture Advisory Committee was formed, we committed to creating a Diversity Task Force. We are now formally establishing that task force and broadening its scope to help ensure greater inclusion. Among the immediate charges of the task force will be to identify ways in which we can fight systemic racism and injustice. We aim to learn from this model to explore other areas where task forces can be an effective way of advancing the objectives of the OEI. Working in concert with faculty and staff, the task force will focus on increasing the diversity of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPoC) at Salk. Employee resource groups, funding opportunities, a speaker series, and other areas identified by the task force will be prioritized as well.

    We expect co-chairs to be named soon. We also anticipate that the task force will implement multiple subcommittees to ensure progress on all issues within its charge, working in concert with faculty, staff and the Campus Culture Advisory Committee. For example, subcommittees focusing on recruitment efforts for BIPoC and hosting a speaker series will be formed immediately.   

  • Mandatory Education & Training: In July we will roll-out mandatory training that has been in development since late 2019, focused on explicit and implicit bias, privilege, and bystander-to-upstander guidance, and providing tools to help people be proactive and empowered to assist others in need. Additional details related to the trainings will be communicated in the next few weeks and we will be discussing the need for additional educational opportunities.

  • Our Mission Statement and Core Values: Our mission statement will be refined and a set of clearly articulated core values will be documented. As stewards of the inspiring legacy of our founder, we will be adamant in our opposition to racism and stalwart in our support of diversity and inclusion. For those values to endure and to guide our progress, they must be embodied in everything we do, at Salk and in our lives.

  • Campus Climate Survey: In August, at the recommendation of the Campus Culture Advisory Committee, we will begin development of a campus-wide survey that will assess the extent to which Salk provides an environment that welcomes and enables participation by all members of the  Institute, seeks diversity in individual backgrounds and perspectives, provides access and resources for all, and whether we are practicing the core values we espouse when articulating our campus culture. The results will help inform measures that can be implemented to further Salk’s commitment to promote a diverse and inclusive environment.

  • OEI Discussion Club: In April, we launched a quarterly discussion club about issues pertaining to equity and inclusion. We are seeking increased participation, and for suggestions regarding ways in which these discussions can progress from conversation to recommendations that feed into the directives of the Diversity Task Force. The next discussion will take place today at noon.

  • Collective Voices for Community Healing: OEI has scheduled several 15-person discussion sessions beginning tomorrow, June 10, called Collective Voices for Community Healing. “Collectively” does not imply that our voices will express identical beliefs, opinions or backgrounds. Rather, it speaks to a unified commitment to amplifying diverse voices and working together to enhance the wellbeing of every member of Salk. This is an opportunity for constructive dialogue, closer examination of institutionalized barriers and bias within the Institute and to collectively decry racial injustice.

  • Increased Visibility of Our Commitment to OEI: The efforts of OEI and the advances we are making will have much more visibility moving forward. While we have significant content on our intranet, that information is accessible only by internal audiences. It is essential that stakeholders beyond our faculty and staff are able to see the work we are doing through Salk.edu, Inside Salk, and other platforms. We will be expanding our communications efforts on all fronts, both internal and external.

In addition to these actions, several other ideas are under consideration or in development (e.g., structured mentoring programs). We are fortunate to work in an environment that is rich in talent and a broad array of ideas, opinions and interests. We stand with our Black community and ask for their input. We stand not only in the important spirit of solidarity, but also with actions that will continue to affirm our commitment to the betterment of humanity and lead to meaningful change.


Rusty Gage, President (president@salk.edu)

Mallory Zaslav, Vice President, Equity and Inclusion  (oei@salk.edu)

For More Information

Office of Communications
Tel: (858) 453-4100

The Salk Institute For Biological Studies:

Every cure has a starting point. The Salk Institute embodies Jonas Salk’s mission to dare to make dreams into reality. Its internationally renowned and award-winning scientists explore the very foundations of life, seeking new understandings in neuroscience, genetics, immunology, plant biology and more. The Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark: small by choice, intimate by nature and fearless in the face of any challenge. Be it cancer or Alzheimer’s, aging or diabetes, Salk is where cures begin.