Statement to Students: June 15th, 2020

June 15, 2020

Dear Environmental Studies Majors,

We write to you today with both sadness and hope. We are outraged by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. We acknowledge the pain these events have caused, and the disproportionate impact felt by students of color and particularly by Black students. We recognize these killings are the result of systemic racism and injustice. Moreover, systemic racism and injustice underlie other widespread disparities in health, housing, economic opportunity, and environmental risk experienced by Black communities, Indigenous communities, and other peoples of color. As a department, we state unequivocally that Black Lives Matter. We write in support of all those protesting the status quo for a more just, equitable and peaceful world. We have also protested. Equity and justice are not radical or partisan concepts; they are rights of all people and the foundation of democratic societies. It is widely recognized within environmental studies that sustainability fails without equity and justice. In addition, we recognize there is a history of racism and exclusion within our discipline, and that environmental studies lags behind other disciplines in supporting diversity.

We also recognize that it is on us to do anti-racist work, and our inaction perpetuates structures of oppression. In that spirit, we identify the followings initiatives and reforms to our collective work:

  • Continue to educate ourselves about anti-racist teaching practices, and implement them in the classroom;
  • Revise our course materials to include a greater diversity of topics, scholars, and perspectives;
  • Actively solicit feedback and suggestions from ENVS students on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion;
  • Open dialogues with student organizations that represent students of color, and other underrepresented student groups to hear their concerns or suggestions;
  • Invite a campus speaker to discuss the intersection of race and environmentalism (as soon as safely possible);
  • Post a statement to our website stating our values with regard to diversity, equity and inclusion;
  • Appoint and support a faculty advocate for diversity within the department, and work with faculty advocate to plan and assess progress toward departmental goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion on at least an annual basis.

We look forward to working with you as we build a more inclusive area of study and campus community.


Sam Byrne, Dave Murphy, Aaron Iverson, Jon Rosales, Peter Pettengill, Sara Ashpole