In response to the brutal killing of George Floyd by police and the senseless loss of other Black lives, communities across the nation have begun to confront systemic racism and racial injustice and inequality. The Department of Earth and Environmental Science (EES) reflects on our values and goals as we construct this Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. At the same time, we acknowledge that a statement without a commitment to act is sorely inadequate to the times and challenge. Thus, we commit to bringing about critical and long-overdue change through both thoughtful introspection and sustained action.
Our experiences in Earth science hold important lessons as we search for our place among all peoples and our responsibilities as scientists. Humans are but one species whose dominant presence on this planet has helped shape the Earth and its climate and now threatens irreversible global environmental harm. We understand that science progresses more rapidly and creatively when the research community fully represents all human experiences and perspectives. Therefore, the best solutions to humanity’s challenges can only be found through broader representation in the scientific process. This belief shapes our Department’s mission and core values as we seek to obtain and communicate a fundamental understanding of our environment, and its interactions with life, through time.
We forthrightly admit that forms of discrimination and implicit bias occur within our own community. The Department is unified in redressing discrimination. We believe that equitable treatment and inclusion for the most vulnerable is inclusion for all, so actions taken to address discrimination and implicit bias, and reward community building, will help move us toward an environmentally sustainable future. Our guiding principle is to embrace the multiple dimensions of human diversity, including race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, language and culture, immigration status, socioeconomic circumstance, ability and disability, political ideology, religious belief and age. We aspire to make our work environment and our classrooms havens of safety, equality and respect. We must, and will, actively promote equal educational opportunities and environmental and social justice and address racial disparities and inequities in any form.
We will prioritize diversity and inclusion as we develop EES policies, practices and procedures. We will consult experts and those with prior successes, as appropriate, and not place a burden for action on our colleagues who are members of underrepresented communities. Our action plan will be supported by financial commitments and made publicly available on the EES website. Below we offer initial steps, which we will refine, expand and modify as our planning process matures.
We will strive to improve recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups among both undergraduates and graduate students. We will focus strongly on encouraging and mentoring undergraduates through their first course in our Department, provide a supportive environment throughout their time as Earth Science or Environmental Studies majors and enable opportunities and financial support for basic Earth science research and for projects confronting real-life environmental issues.
For graduate students, we have suspended the GRE requirement for a trial period, conceding its potential to discriminate, pose a financial hardship, and/or discourage underrepresented applicants. We will redouble efforts to recruit members of underrepresented groups into our graduate program through connections with other colleges and universities.
To continue our learning about diversity, we will actively recruit underrepresented scientists to give research talks to our Department. We will hold biannual talks or workshops to facilitate conversations about diversity issues and help us understand how we can better identify and eliminate our own biases.
In Community Engagement
We will encourage and support our students, faculty and staff toward community engagement, especially relating to environmental issues and social justice. We will partner with local, national and international communities to improve the diversity pipeline in the Geosciences, beginning even in primary school.
We will form a Climate, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, with graduate and undergraduate representatives, to oversee our action plan and gather data on our diversity metrics, recruitment practices, retention practices, and outcomes for promoting diversity, equity and civil discourse. The data and departmental actions will be included in the Chair’s annual report to the deans and made publicly available. The committee will research best practices, help educate the Department and recommend further actions.
Honoring our Diversity
We will add portraits and photographs in the Hayden Hall foyer to better reflect our current diversity and the role of diversity in our Department’s history.
To aid the dismantling of systemic racism that exists in this country, we know we must first take a deep look at ourselves and acknowledge that change must start with us. We expect some changes will not happen quickly, but we are committed to ensuring our Department is a place where racism, and any other form of pernicious discrimination, is not tolerated. We will endeavor to promote the most inclusive academic community and pledge unwavering, long-term attention to our diversity goals.