EPS students and faculty release statement and action plan opposing anti-Black racism

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We, the members of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, vehemently oppose our society’s systemic oppression of and violence against Black people. From the roots of slavery to the mass incarceration and police brutality that continue to this day, the history of the United States is steeped in the suppression of Black lives and Black voices. The recent murders of Black people in America, such as those of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Riah Milton, Robert Fuller, and far too many others, have only brought into sharper relief this violence against Black Americans and the injustices that are embedded within our society.

In our own community we can clearly see the effects of racial injustice. The landscape of the city of Baltimore is shaped by exclusionary tactics such as redlining, and our university has worsened these problems through expansionary policies that displace and exploit local Black communities. Meanwhile in our academic circles we see a persistent and systemic underrepresentation of Black scientists, with hardly any sign of improvement. We recognize that this is just one among many of the consequences of institutionalized racism. We recognize that our own department has been and still is an example of this underrepresentation. And finally, we recognize that we have a responsibility to shape our community for the better.

We are resolved as a department—including faculty, staff, and students—to dismantle these deep-rooted inequities and stand with our Black colleagues. We understand that such aims require both immediate action and long-term, ongoing work. We are committed to becoming a department that recruits, welcomes, and mentors Black talent; that reaches out to broaden participation in the Earth, environmental, and planetary science communities; and that supports our neighbors in the city of Baltimore.

With these principles in mind, we affirm our commitment to the following initiatives and hold ourselves accountable to them.

Implemented Initiatives:

  • Remove the GRE from graduate admissions consideration
  • Cover the matriculation fees of incoming graduate students
  • Remove barriers for graduate student application fee waivers
  • Inform Darlene Saporu, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, of incoming underrepresented minority (URM) graduate students
  • Provide support for student and faculty attendance at EDI (equity, diversity, and inclusivity) and URM-focused conferences

Initiatives in Progress:

  • Clearly advertise on-campus organizations and resources that support Black graduate students and faculty
  • Clearly advertise internal and external fellowships that support Black graduate students
  • Expand upon the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion statement currently on our website to address anti-Black racism
  • Streamline and advertise to EPS members the process for outreach in predominantly Black community schools
  • Implement Bystander Intervention Training for current and incoming EPS students, faculty, and staff
  • Diversify visual representation of notable scientists and science displayed throughout the department to include and highlight leading Black scientists associated with our department
  • Create a semester-long course for incoming cohorts that enables successful transition to graduate school, with a focus on issues specific to Black students

These are only the beginning of what will be a long-term, sustained effort to address the long-standing inequities against Black people embedded in both our academic culture as well as society at large. We are actively working on additional initiatives and will update this list as plans are finalized.

Morton K. Blaustein Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences

Students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty members of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences drafted this statement collaboratively.