Here is what Allies stand for


Astronomy Allies' Statement on the Results of the Presidential Election

17 November, 2016

Cross-post from Astronomy in Color (9 November 2016)

The purpose of Astronomy Allies is to support individual colleagues who experience harassment, without judgment. We strive to advance our profession toward a climate that upholds the personal security of all participants.

Astronomy Allies stands with all of our colleagues who are experiencing uncertainty and fear for their safety and future in the wake of an election in which the President-elect and Vice president-elect have made clear their bigoted, intolerant, and violence-inciting views towards numerous marginalized groups. We express our solidarity with all of those who have been the target of not just hateful speech but hateful actions and violence during and after this election: women of color, men of color, immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and Muslim-passing people, Jews, white women, trans people, LGBQIA+ people, people with disabilities, and people at the intersection of these axes.

As Astronomy Allies, we feel it is critical to join in taking a stand against all of the racist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant and misogynistic messages embraced in the election of this president. We recognize that although Astronomy Allies was initially founded to focus on sexual harassment, a goal of ending sexual harassment in astronomy cannot be accomplished without without centering all of the axes along which harassment, bullying, and violence takes place, not just in our professional field but in our communities. In the words of Lilla Watson, an Aboriginal elder, activist, and educator: “If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” We accept that challenge, and agree as an organization to take on the following actions to improve our focus on bullying and harassment due to race, gender expression, sexuality, disability, and religion (or lack thereof):

1. Members of Astronomy Allies who are privileged along any axes of marginalization agree to take concrete steps to further educate ourselves about the issues pertaining to marginalized folks. Members who represent Astronomy Allies at AAS* meetings will undergo training in intersectional feminism, anti-racism, and intervention.

2. As Astronomy Allies, we also agree to take immediate steps to protect and advocate for colleagues and students who are particularly vulnerable right now. Astronomy Allies will be available as safe escorts during upcoming AAS* meetings including the Winter 2017 meeting in Grapevine, TX for colleagues of color, colleagues in hijab, gender non-conforming colleagues, and anyone else from groups targeted by hateful rhetoric in this campaign such that they would feel unsafe in walking alone during the day or evening.

3. Astronomy Allies will also work to more actively nominate Allies that focus on intersectionality and anti-racism, and we will continue to review our processes for selecting and training Allies, ensuring that it is second nature for current and future Allies to focus on these goals.

*The Astronomy Allies group is not affiliated with the AAS or the AAS meetings in any way.

Click here for a list of signatories to this statement.


Astronomy Allies’ statement in solidarity with Black Lives Matter

25 August, 2016

The purpose of Astronomy Allies is to support individual colleagues who experience harassment, without judgment. We strive to advance our profession toward a climate that upholds the personal security of all participants.

We recognize that people of color and specifically Black people experience harassment too often in our profession, and their encounters can have different immediate impacts and lead to different consequences from white astronomers who deal with harassment. Pervasive systemic racism creates imbalances in empathy and credulity, such that reporting harassment carries greater risks for Black individuals.  We further recognize that harassment often originates from positions of elevated power and authority -- an imbalance that is reflected in the collective interactions between people of color, law enforcement officers, and the criminal legal system. Incidents such as extrajudicial killings of Black individuals by police greatly exacerbate a stressful and often hostile climate that Black scientists already withstand in our scientific community. We recognize the steps our Black colleagues may need to take to uphold their own safety and well-being, and that these steps are not accounted for in the current academic and research systems.

Astronomy Allies has much work to do in being able to serve our colleagues of all backgrounds. We must learn more about and work harder to combat all forms of harassment against our Black colleagues. We must understand how our words and actions encourage or undermine the trust that is necessary for our group to meet its purpose. This includes reviewing our organizational structure, our visible presence at conferences, and our use of the term Ally, to examine their impacts on Black colleagues who would seek our support. Honoring individuals' experiences along different and often multiple axes of societal oppression is essential to our mission of building a safe and enjoyable community for practicing science.


Ending harassment, one small step at a time

Blog is reproduced from here - 10 September 2014

Suppose you are standing at your AAS poster, and someone is monopolizing your time and standing way too close. Suppose you meet a senior scientist at the AAS meeting, and s/he asks you to dinner under the pretext of discussing your work, but the conversation gets way too personal. Suppose you drink a bit too much or stay out a bit too late at the AAS party, and you need a safe way to get back to your hotel. What do you do? Contact Astronomy Allies.

The Astronomy Allies Program consists of volunteers who act to form a "safe-zone" at AAS meetings. An Astronomy Ally can act as a buffer, bystander, or advocate. As a meeting participant, you can contact an Ally if you need help. Allies can provide confidential advice, support, information, and resources. They can serve as a liaison between you and the AAS administration. They can help create an environment where the perpetrators of harassment feel they "can't get away" with their unprofessional and disturbing behavior. As knowledge of the Allies Program grows, their very existence may help prevent future problems before they start.

How do you get in touch with the Allies Program? You can text, tweet, or email the Allies Program, and someone with an Allies insignia will find you. You can sit down and talk confidentially. Allies will listen without judgment, offer advice when needed, and provide resources in case you decide you want to report the incident to the AAS. Nothing except the type of incident will be shared with the AAS without your explicit consent.

At the AAS party, Allies will offer Safewalks back to hotels. Since a lot of the worst incidents have taken place where alcohol is prevalent, think of Allies as the "designated drivers," getting you to your hotel safely and (hopefully) harassment-free. No matter is too small for Allies involvement - if it has made you uncomfortable, let Allies help.

How do you change the world? Start small. Start smart. There is significant attrition of women compared to men in astronomy, even after women have committed to study astronomy in college. There are many factors that play into this, but one of these is the importance of one's first "professional" experience. For many undergraduate astronomy majors, their first exposure to a large-scale astronomy conference is the AAS winter meeting. The AAS meeting provides many students a first-look at the astronomy community, and therefore can have a disproportionately influential impact on a student's decision to remain in astronomy (or not). This is also a known hunting ground for serial sexual harassers. Can you imagine coming to your first professional astronomy conference, having a luminary in the field pay special attention to you, and then start steering conversations toward your personal life and your sexual partners? It might completely change the way you see astronomy. First impressions are important. This is why targeting the AAS meetings first has the potential to have a significant impact.

Now imagine an AAS meeting with an Allies Program, with carefully vetted people who wear their support of victims on their sleeves? If you were a victim, knowing there were people around who would support you without judgment and help you feel safe, you might feel a lot more positive about the experience at the meeting. As for the harassers, the meetings would become a dangerous place to practice their craft, as more eyes would be on them, and their targets would feel more comfortable coming forward.

Heather Flewelling (IfA) and I are committed to forming this group of Astronomy Allies. Like the AAS party, this starts with a small group of people who care and want to help, and we plan to expand. This is a first step toward making the astronomy community safer and more welcoming - and what better way to do that than to give people a chance to put their support of this into action.

Allies is in its nascent state, but there are already people who are committed to it and excited about it. Becoming a bona fide Ally will be by invitation-only; you cannot just volunteer. Allies is an exclusive group. This is, in part, to avoid the inevitable danger of the "wolf in sheep's clothing." Allies is being extremely careful about who gets to wear the badge. Allies does welcome any suggestions or offers of help. If you have questions/comments, a story you want to share, or advice to offer, please contact the Allies Program at astronomyallies_at_gmail_dot_com.