Dear Fellow Members of the American Auditory Society,

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN has angered us and shaken the core of our beliefs yet again. Mr. Floyd is not the first, and perhaps will not be the last, to expose the continuation of systemic inequities and marginalization of Black Americans along with other minority groups. Each of us have to react to these events in our own way. The American Auditory Society (AAS) is deliberately and diligently an apolitical body. However, healthcare, research, engineering, and industry – the core domains of our interest do not operate and evolve in a societal vacuum. We are committed, more than ever, to effect positive change in our domains of interest and operation.

The AAS has been, and is keenly, focused on increasing the diversity of our disciplinary pipelines, creating equity in opportunities for positions, and removing implicit and explicit bias in the evaluation of manuscripts and grants. This work needs not only to continue but to be amplified. The AAS uses blind reviews for all submissions for the AAS conference. Similarly, authors submitting manuscripts to the society’s journal, Ear and Hearing, have the option of asking for a blind review. The NIH grant that has supported the AAS conference for many years specifically supports student and new investigator travel with set-aside funds for applicants from underrepresented minorities. The AAS Board of Directors and various committees are more diverse than ever before. While we take pride in these initiatives, we also recognize that our work is far from done. 

We take the current resurfacing of the deep fractures in our society as an opportunity to redouble our efforts for equity and social justice. To that end we humbly make the following two announcements.

At noon central on Friday, August 28, 2020, the AAS will host an online seminar on ‘Disparities in Hearing Healthcare.’ Three leading researchers in Carrie Nieman (Johns Hopkins), Nicole Marrone (University of Arizona), and Matthew Bush (University of Kentucky, College of Medicine) will speak on their seminal work to unravel and understand racial, ethnic, and socio-economic disparities in pediatric and adult hearing healthcare. A formal invitation will be coming soon. We hope you will not only join us, but also invite your colleagues, who may not yet be a part of AAS. Please sign up to be in the first wave of recipients of the announcement just in case interest exceeds our online capabilities. The historical march on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech happened on August 28, 1963. 

A small group of current and past leaders of the AAS have formed the IDEA pledge. Past and present leaders Beth Prieve, Harvey Abrams, Anil Lalwani, Bob Burkard, and Charles Limb have joined me in pledging a total of $30,000 already. We want to charge the Board of Directors of the AAS to use these funds to supplement current activities, but more importantly, to dream up new ideas that augment inclusion, diversity, equity, and access to the AAS. We hope you will join our efforts by contributing to this fund as well. A more formal announcement about the details of this fund will be coming shortly from the founders.

While we are proud of our continued activities and new efforts in support of equity, we are very well aware that the American Auditory Society can, and absolutely needs to, do more. To that end, we would love to hear your ideas and input. In order to ensure institutional memory of these ideas, we would like you to send them to the [email protected] address. We hope you will be generous in sharing your ideas and input and we will have the courage and conviction to act on them.

Nothing we can say or do today will be enough to soothe or heal the wounds that have been torn open yet again. All we can do is promise not to forget and try to hold ourselves accountable every day. We hope you will do the same in your personal journey, as it intersects with the currents of your community and our society. We also hope you will join the efforts of the American Auditory Society.

Sumitrajit (Sumit) Dhar

Members of the Diversity Committee: Rafael Delgado, Erick Gallun (Chair), René Gifford, Oneil Winston Guthrie, Avril Holt, Kristin M Johnson, Niall Andre Munson Klyn, Jessica Sullivan