Letter in Response to Petition to Change SACNAS Bylaws to Support Undocumented and LGBTQ+ Communities in STEM

Dear SACNISTAs in Solidarity with Undocumented and LGBTQ+ Communities:

First and foremost, I want to thank you for conveying concerns you have around state laws and policies that directly or indirectly discriminate against undocumented and LGBTQ+ people. As the Executive Director of SACNAS and openly gay, I also think about discrimination and its effects each and every day in the decisions that SACNAS makes, the policies we implement, and the future visioning we undertake. Personally, I know what it is like to grow up in a conservative Southern state and be discriminated against for being who I am, face violence for something I cannot change, and live in fear of losing a job simply because of who I may love. I can empathize with you on this concern.

Just as I can empathize on one level, the SACNAS board empathizes on many. They very carefully and diligently look at the pros and cons of each and every strategic decision they make including site selections of the national conference. In the face of Texas’ legislative challenges, the SACNAS Board of Directors did vote to keep the 2018 conference in San Antonio, Texas but also to stand in strong opposition to the discriminatory laws. It was a decision they did not make lightly. The decision hinged on two main points:

  • Showing our strong support and unwavering commitment to our members and chapters in Texas is the right thing to do.
  • To stand in solidarity with the second largest populations of both Hispanics and LGBT people in our country is the right thing to do.

SACNAS doesn’t simply strive to to be an inclusive organization; we demand it. In demanding that inclusion, we cannot turn our backs on thousands of members and conference attendees that reside in Texas. When groups are under attack, we must use the power of a national organization to offer resources and help shape and change policy through partnerships, government influence, and alliances.

In preparation for this conference, SACNAS took many proactive steps to address these concerns head on and help alleviate some of the concern and travel restrictions on both marginalized groups.*

For the conference itself, SACNAS has formulated partnerships with key local and statewide organizations to be onsite for help and advice including RAICES which will partner with the UTSA Dreamers Resource Center to have a table in lobby of the convention center to ensure undocumented attendees have resources/support on hand. SACNAS has also received a letter of support from The Center – Pride Center of San Antonio. Recently, the SACNAS Board of Directors also passed an expanded and comprehensive Conference Code of Conduct policy directly addressing discrimination and harassment.

Lastly, under their required duties of care and loyalty, the Board of Directors is legally charged with the fiscal health and sustainability of SACNAS for generations to come. Breaking the San Antonio contracts signed over five years ago would have had a severe negative financial impact on the fiscal health of SACNAS. And, it would have jeopardized our opportunity to directly serve thousands of students and professionals in the state of Texas for 2018 and beyond.

SACNAS continues with commitment and conviction towards our vision of achieving true diversity in STEM. Together, we can and will celebrate the hard work of thousands of students and professionals in their dedication to STEM–not in the face of difficulties, but despite them.

2018 SACNAS – The National Diversity in STEM Conference is on track to be a large and successful conference including student attendance and exhibitors from California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please never hesitate to reach out to me directly at john@sacnas.org/ or (831) 459-0170.

In partnership,
John D. Winnett
Executive Director

*Resources for 2018 SACNAS Attendees
Since the Board of Directors announced the decision to stay in Texas in September 2017, we proactively provided resources and information to prospective attendees including:

LGBTQA+ highlights at 2018 SACNAS include:

  • The annual LGBTQA+ reception on Thursday, October 11, 7:45 – 8:45 pm (Started in 2001, this is the longest running LGBTQA+ reception at a STEM diversity organization.)
  • A featured speaker presentation by Dr. Lauren Esposito, founder of 500 Queer Scientists on Friday, October 12, 12:15 – 1:30 pm

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