DEI Office Global Pandemic Response

Danny Stock

A Letter from the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Dear GDS Community,

As news about the Coronavirus continues to be updated and shared, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is committed to communication related to our need to cultivate and sustain a supportive, empathic, and informed community. Given our mission to honor the integrity and worth of each individual within a diverse community, we would like to offer the following information and recommendations for community care as the social impact of coronavirus continues to weigh on our hearts and minds.

The coronavirus pandemic can trigger an increase of stress and concern around our own health and well-being, as well as that of family and friends, both locally and internationally. Concerns of this nature can trigger anxiety, hypervigilance, and fear-based assumptions about individuals and groups of people. Additionally, history has taught us that viral outbreaks reportedly originating in another country foster fear-based anxiety and bias that often results in broad generalizations and assumptions about people from those countries and/or people who physically resemble individuals from that country or nearby regions. Examples include the 2003 SARS epidemic and the 2014 Ebola epidemic. We write to remind members of the GDS community that classifying any group of people as unsafe or unhealthy, or making assumptions about a person's race, ethnicity, or nationality based on their physical features reinforces a long-standing history of xenophobia and racism. Whether intentional or not, this is neither an appropriate nor acceptable way to cope with stress, anxiety, or fear related to coronavirus concerns. It is during challenging times such as this that we are called to be ever more conscious and aware of our need to practice constructive uncertainty. As social justice advocate Howard Ross has said, our ability to “slow down decision-making, especially when it affects other people can help reduce the impact of bias.” This can be particularly important when we are in circumstances that make us feel uncomfortable.

All students, families, faculty, and staff are valued members of the GDS community and we ask that as a community, each individual commits to the following recommendations:

  • Resist the tendency to make broad generalizations about any person or group of people.
    • Again, uncertainty about the coronavirus may trigger anxiety and fear. When anxiety and fear are not managed correctly, it can result in the harmful behavior of projecting anxiety and fear onto individuals and entire racial and ethnic groups. Such behavior is harmful to the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of targeted individuals and their families and does not protect anyone from the coronavirus.
    • Per Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyes, Director-General of the World Health Organization, “It is important to avoid discrimination and stigma. Instead, show compassion and solidarity at this sensitive time.”
  • Continue to remain informed and maintain a healthy perspective.
    • Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have cautioned the public about discriminating and assuming that people of Asian descent are more likely to have the virus. Simultaneously, some are assuming that wearing a medical face mask is an indication of illness. The decision to wear a medical face mask can serve a diverse range of functions such as preventing the spread of illness, protecting the wearer and those immunocompromised from illness, and limits breathing in pollutants.
    • Please continue to remain accurately informed and discuss with your family and child(ren) as this public health issue evolves.
  • Treat community members and neighbors with care and empathy. Avoid treating someone with suspicion or disrespect, instead, see their humanity and ask how they are feeling and whether they might need assistance or support.
  • Remain mindful that everyone is holding a lot right now—trying to engage a person who is worried about family or friends could trigger unintended emotional responses. To minimize the possibility of this, ask permission before initiating a conversation about the coronavirus.
  • Remain mindful of GDS policies and expectations for interpersonal and student relationships as well as electronic communication and acceptable use policies which can be found in the Student and Parent Handbook.
  • Attempting to remain informed through the local news and social media can be stressful in and of itself. We encourage GDS community members to remain informed of the updates, resources, and prevention recommendations synthesized on the GDS Coronavirus Information webpage.
  • Last but not least, please continue to take care of yourselves and each other, as we continue to strive for a GDS community that honors the integrity and worth of each individual while remaining socially connected, mutually respectful, physically safe, extensively inclusive, and morally accountable to each other’s sense of belonging. 

We are here for you and encourage you to seek support as needed. Please find our virtual office hours below for both pre-Spring Break and during Spring Break—

NOTE: We have removed the scheduling information for external posting on the website. GDS community members can find the scheduling details in their email. See additional resources below.

Kindest regards,

Marlo Thomas
Director of Diversity and Inclusion

Guyton Mathews
Program Associate

Campbell Keyser

Program Assistant

When Xenophobia Spreads Like A Virus - Codeswitch by NPR
How to Talk to Kids and Teens About the Coronavirus - Psychology Today
Kids Around the World are Reading NPRs Coronavirus Comic - NPR
Coronavirus: Protect Yourself and Stand Against Racism - Facing History


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