A leading state medical school in Syracuse, NY, has embedded racial consciousness into almost every aspect of its admissions, hiring, and programming.
SUNY Upstate Medical University (“Upstate Medical”) is a highly-regarded, public medical school in Syracuse, New York, which was founded in 1834. Upstate Medical is rated well-within the top 100 Best Medical Schools for Research, coming in at number 84 by U.S. News Weekly Best Grad Schools (tied with Augusta University in Atlanta, Georgia).
Upstate Medical offers its 1,340 full-time and 252 part-time students with four colleges: (1) the College of Graduate Studies; (2) the College of Health Professions; (3) the College of Medicine; and (4) the College of Nursing. This University provides the New York region with the only academic medical center, and the region’s only Level 1 Trauma and Burn Center. At Upstate Medical, there are 2,424 faculty, 47 residency programs, 9,849 employees, 619 residents, and 25 buildings on 30 acres of land.
In early September of 2020, however, Legal Insurrection Foundation (“LIF”) received a tip regarding the implementation policies that subject medical students, faculty, and staff to racial identity politics. LIF began its investigation and has found substantial evidence suggesting Upstate Medical’s programming may go beyond identity politics, and instead reflect the institutionalization of the controversial doctrine of Critical Race Theory.
Because Upstate Medical is subject to the NY Freedom of Information Law, LIF, together with the Washington Free Beacon, has filed a FOIL Request for records. We will update this investigation as more documents and information are received.
Racial Identity Politics At Upstate Medical
Racial identity has become a critical focus at Upstate Medical. Upstate Medical makes the following “Diversity Statement” on its College of Medicine website:
The College of Medicine (COM) of Upstate Medical University commits to creating and sustaining an environment that is equitable, respectful and free from prejudice for students, faculty, staff, patients, families, and members of our community. It is our policy to promote a diverse and inclusive campus, through recruitment of faculty and staff, admissions initiatives, and support programs. We are committed to addressing the shortage of doctors in small communities, rural areas and Native American communities in our region, and in rural underserved communities. We promote the values of diversity and inclusion throughout the mission of the university and in the various functions supporting those missions. Diversity adds value to the learning environment of our students, and we believe it will enhance their commitment to addressing inequities in healthcare.
We promote the values of diversity and inclusion throughout the mission of the university and in the various functions supporting those missions. Diversity adds value to the learning environment of our students, and we believe it will enhance their commitment to addressing inequities in healthcare.
Upon application, one may be asked during the interview process to defend one’s “cultural competence“, by explaining experiences of “working with others that were different from you.” If accepted, during orientation, medical students are introduced (if they have not been already) to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Upstate Medical has an Office of Institutional Equity, which “is responsible for overseeing all investigations of discrimination, harassment and Title IX complaints, as well as conducting campus-wide anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training. In addition to training and investigations, this office ensures compliance with SUNY policies”, this is, apparently, not enough to fight social justice wars waging at the New York medical school.
Diversity Task Force
In June 2020, at the direction of then-Interim President Mantosh Dewan, MD (now the President of Upstate Medical), the Chief Diversity Officer, Daryll Dykes, PhD, MD, JD, assembled a task force to achieve “the herculean task to make actionable recommendations to move Upstate in a bold new direction toward greater diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging” (emphasis in original).
On August 31, 2020, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion published the 164-page Report of the 2020 Diversity Task Force (“the Report”). According to the Report, the Diversity Task Force will examine, “research and discuss issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion at Upstate Medical University” and “brainstorm potential action items to address issues identified.” These “potential action items” were dived into twelve (12) categories:
- Student, Resident and Fellow Issues
- Faculty Issues
- Staff Issues
- Alumni Issues
- Patient Issues
- Community Issues
- Curriculum and Training Issues
- Access and Equity Issues
- Bias Reporting Issues
- Policy Issues
- Branding, Communication and Space Issues
- Office of Diversity & Inclusion Reorganization and Diversity Consortium
Four to six Diversity Task Force Members were assigned to each of the twelve “potential action items”. On July 21, 2020, these subgroups produced a preliminary report to Dr. Dewan, which described 65 discrete action items: 28 immediate-term, 30 intermediate-term, and 7 long-term action items.
What was the Diversity Task Force’s first recommendation? Establishing the Implementation and Oversight Tiger Teams.
According to the Report, the Tiger Teams serve “to further evaluate, prioritize, develop, and coordinate the action items proposed in the Task Force report” and are “comprised of students, staff members and faculty members, including members of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the President’s Diversity Council, and the College of Medicine Dean’s Diversity Committee, having subject matter expertise, job responsibilities, or interests related to particular action items”. (Note: “Tiger Team” is a military term, often used for a military force seeking to physically infiltrate an specific area…).
The Diversity Task Force recommended establishing five (5) categories of Tiger Teams:
- Policy, Bias Reporting, and Mitigation;
- Recruitment & Retention;
- Patient, Community, and Alumni Services;
- Diversity Organization, Branding, and Messaging; and
- Education and Training.
The Diversity Task Force advises that the Tiger Teams complete the following Education and Training immediate-term action items:
Intermediate-term action items for the Education and Training Tiger Teams include the following:
- implement required longitudinal bias mitigation training for faculty;
- implement required faculty development focused on understand and teaching content related to the role of racism and implicit bias in health disparities;
- implement longitudinal continuing education in bias mitigation for clinicians;
- offer a required short course for all incoming/newly-hired faculty orienting them to social justice and to Upstate’s mission and culture, including an introduction to local history related to social justice;
- implement longitudinal training in implicit bias and history of racism and relationship in creating and perpetuating social disparities of health for all employees;
- offer a required short course for all incoming students, trainees and faculty and staff, orienting them to social justice and to Upstate’s mission and culture, including an introduction to local history related to social justice and brief training in bystander intervention for bias;
- create systems of positive reinforcement to encourage faculty to go beyond cursory engagement in implicit bias and antiracism training;
- offer a required interprofessional course for all Upstate students, across all programs, addressing core issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging; and
- implement a multi-level faculty educator development program, allowing for sustainable professional development with a focus on diversity.
The Diversity Task Force provided the following Diversity Organization, Branding, and Messaging immediate-term action items for one Tiger Team:
Further Investigation – Critical Race Theory
As mentioned above, LIF and the Free Beacon have served a FOIL request for records to get a deeper understanding of what is happening at Upstate Medical than is publicly available. Among other things, we seek the records of the Diversity Task Force and Tiger Teams, and the associated persons and groups, regarding these racial identity education issues for prospective students, students, faculty, and staff.
Racial identity politics infusing a medical school is worrisome enough, particularly when it reaches the emphasis that it has at Upstate Medical. More, however, needs to be known about the motivations of the people behind this push, what materials are being used, what presentations are given, and what benchmarks people are expected to meet to advance. The public record suggests that these racial identity efforts reflect Critical Race Theory, which has taken over training in the government, the workforce, and many corners of academia, resulting in President Trump’s Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping.
We will keep you informed.
Leah M. Baldacci, Esq. is the Investigations Counsel at the Legal Insurrection Foundation.DONATE
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