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University of California Puts Teeth to Science Diversity Pledge

May 24, 2022, 4:30 PM

The University of California is the first college system to become a charter member of an American Association for the Advancement of Science initiative aimed at systemically improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the sciences, the association announced Tuesday.

Under the STEMM Equity Achievement (SEA) Change, participants will conduct in-depth data collection and self-assessments to identify DEI barriers for students, faculty, and staff members and then work with the program to break them down through individualized plans. The plan also offers resources, trainings, and events, and coordinates with allied organizations and awards programs to recognize progress.

Participants must create a plan to address any equity issues discovered after conducting a self-assessment. Universities accepted into the program have five years to work on the action action plan or risk losing their designation as a way to build accountability into the program.

“SEA Change itself, it’s structured in such a way it can’t just be window dressing,” SEA Change Director Shirley Malcom said.

“It’s this iterative process that, in fact, supports continuous improvement. It isn’t just one and done. They can’t just say, ‘Okay, I’ll get recognition for undertaking this work,’ and it sits there. No, this goes away because it has its own internal accountability machinery.”

While the University of California is the first full college system to join the SEA Change program, its UC Davis, UC Irvine, and UC Santa Cruz campuses were charter members and previously received awards.

“SEA Change will strengthen our work to train, recruit, and retain a diverse professoriate, which will ensure that UC continues to be a leader in high-caliber medical expertise, cutting-edge research, and exceptional education, while reflecting California’s rich diversity. UC looks forward to working with AAAS on this important work,” University of California President Michael V. Drake said in a statement.

Colleges can apply for an award renewal or the next award progression after the five years is up. They can gain a silver award for continued self-assessment and demonstrated achievements in the action plan or a gold award for major DEI transformations and sharing their own efforts with others.

Bringing the entire system into the fold makes it so each campus can share what they learned and make improvements together, making it less competitive and more collaborative, Malcom added.

“To somebody who really wants to drive change, this is something that makes it compelling.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ayanna Alexander in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Childers at