Charter & Memorandum of Understanding

Signed copies of these agreements are available upon request

Duke University Biology Department Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Anti-Racism (IDEA) Graduate Committee Charter

The Biology Department’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Anti-Racism (IDEA) Graduate Committee was formed in the spring of 2016 by Karla Sosa, at the request of the chair of the department, Mohamed Noor. There were no specific charges for this committee. It was originally called the Diversity Czarship, with the name transitioning to the Diversity Committee as we became more structured, the name then changing to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Graduate Committee a few years later. Since its founding and to this day it is driven by graduate student interests, demands, and needs. 

Mission Statement

The primary goal of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Anti-Racism (IDEA) Graduate Committee is to enrich and support the graduate student community in the Duke Biology Department by promoting equity and reducing bias; combating racism in STEM and academia; embracing diversity; and building respect and inclusivity among all members of the department. We particularly seek to support and serve those community members who are minoritized or marginalized. We strive to promote departmental structural and policy changes that foster inclusion and equity, actively correct for current and historical bias, and create accountability, with the goal of creating safer spaces for individuals from all marginalized backgrounds and identities. 


To accomplish these objectives, the IDEA Graduate Committee aims to gather feedback from the graduate community. This is accomplished through open dialogue sessions where IDEA will gather feedback on broad issues or on more specific matters (e.g. recruitment criteria). We will be transparent in our work by making all our work public, and will solicit and welcome feedback from the community, as our purpose is to serve them. 

Internally, all members are encouraged to voice their opinions, including explicitly asking every member to voice their thoughts during meetings. All decisions are made through a majority vote of IDEA committee members (except in sensitive cases where unanimous agreement is required.) 

We also aim to explicitly denounce actions of hate and bias that occur on Duke University’s campus or at a national level. We believe that naming hatred and bias is an essential first step in dismantling systems of oppression. 


The Biology IDEA Graduate Committee consists primarily of graduate students in the Biology Department. However, post-docs as well as trainees of affiliated departments (e.g. Evolutionary Anthropology) are welcome, and are part of our membership. There are no limits on membership duration. All members must agree to and sign the IDEA Memorandum of Understanding. 


The committee shall have a student chair, although it is possible to have two co-chairs if needed to split the workload. It is also encouraged that there shall be a transition period between chairs, such that an outgoing chair serves as co-chair alongside the incoming chair. The chair’s responsibility is to schedule monthly meetings, develop meeting agendas, lead meetings, and check on progress and timelines of sub-committees. The chair is also responsible for drafting the annual report and for emailing the official response to inquiries made to the committee (although these responses are often crafted with the input of all members). The committee chair will also organize the solicitation and election of new chairs.

Activities, Duties, and Responsibilities

The following are duties and responsibilities to be carried out by the IDEA Graduate Committee:

  1. Develop programming geared towards fulfilling the needs of graduate students, in particular those from marginalised populations, and towards filling in gaps in departmental programming. This can include but is not limited to: book clubs, workshops, and seminar series;
  2. Advocate to Biology Department Leadership and to broader Duke University for graduate students needs that we have identified;
  3. Consult for the Recruitment Committee to make the annual Biology recruitment process welcome to students from diverse backgrounds, with a special emphasis on underrepresented minorities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics);
  4. Hold an IDEA-focused session to be held during the annual Biology recruitment;
  5. Provide safe discussion spaces to discuss broad issues within academia (e.g. Anti-Racism in Science Discussion group) as well as when specific instances of hate and bias occur at Duke University or on a national level; 
  6. Maintain open communication with other committees within Duke working on issues of equity and anti-racism, and engage in collaborations whenever our goals are aligned;
  7. Promote transparency within the Biology Department and IDEA Graduate Committee by publishing this charter, IDEA Committee actions and reports, and changes within the department on our official IDEA Graduate Committee website and to the Biology email listserv.

Duties and responsibilities of the IDEA Graduate Committee can be edited in regards to wording, adding additional items, or removing the above items by a majority vote of the committee members.

Resignations and Removals

Resignations – A committee member may resign from the committee at any time, by giving written notice (via email or US mail) to the chairperson. The written notice of resignation must be received and acknowledged by the entire IDEA Committee.

Removals -If committee members feel that a fellow member is not upholding the agreements outlined in the MOU, or that they have acted or participated in activities that violate the mission of the committee, the chair will approach this member to identify solutions. The chair will issue a written warning via email stating the problem and follow-up actions to identify solutions and resolve the issue. If a committee member continues to not fulfill their duties or continues to participate in activities that violate the mission of the committee, they can be removed by a majority vote from the IDEA committee members, excluding the member under investigation. Voting shall be done anonymously through an online platform.

IDEA Graduate Committee Memorandum of Understanding

As stated in our mission statement, the members of the IDEA Committee are engaged in tackling racism, fostering diverse and inclusive spaces, and pushing for equity in the Biology Department at Duke. We recognise that this is difficult work: it is emotionally taxing, it is time-consuming, it is not always well received, and it goes unpaid. But we also recognise that the work can be rewarding and may create better conditions for those who come after us. For many, this work is also an act of self-preservation. 

We recognise that all our paths are different, and that we are also in different places on our paths towards inclusiveness, diversity, equity, and anti-racism. 

As members of this committee we pledge:

  • To be humble: we will listen. We will not presume the experience of another. 
  • To be honest: if we make a mistake, we will sit with that mistake, acknowledge it, and ask for forgiveness from hurt parties. 
  • To not be mean nor cruel: this includes, but is not limited to, no insults nor name calling.
  • To make this space as safe as possible for others: be mindful of the biases you may be bringing into a conversation, and act against them. 
  • To keep all internal conversations and interactions CONFIDENTIAL.
  • But to be transparent in our goals and our process, as this work is done in large part for the benefit of the community.
  • To value others: this includes, but is not limited to, never shutting someone down.
  • To work on our own biases and educating ourselves on our own time: IDEA is not meant to be group therapy. The co-chairs will reach out to a person if they feel they are using this space inappropriately. 
  • To be involved: work on at least one upkeep task or initiative per semester. 
  • To be inclusive: listen to the voices of all. Importantly, the co-chairs will not make executive decisions—all decisions will be made by majority or consensus, depending on the matter at hand. Co-chairs may, however, decide on the wording of urgent email responses.