Submitted by Kamini Singha and Matt Siegfried
Tell us how you or your department, organization or team is supporting diversity initiatives and antiracism or a helpful resource you’ve been using.
Unlearning Racism in Geoscience (URGE) is an NSF-funded initiative led by a PI at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute that was developed to help geoscience programs currently developing programs to improve issues of diversity, inclusion, access, equity, and justice at their local institution. Multiple papers have been published in the last few years highlighting the lack of diversity in the geosciences, which are seen as one of the least diverse disciplines in STEM fields (e.g., Bernard and Cooperdock, 2018; Dutt, 2020). URGE developed a community-wide journal-reading and policy-design curriculum that includes biweekly interviews with experts and leaders at the intersection of geoscience and anti-racism to help departments set and achieve actionable, meaningful goals, supported by data. URGE’s primary objectives are to “(1) deepen the community’s knowledge of the effects of racism on the participation and retention of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people in Geoscience, (2) draw on existing literature, expert opinions, and personal experiences to develop anti-racist policies and strategies, and (3) share, discuss, and modify anti-racist policies and strategies within a dynamic community network and on a national stage.” Each week, discussion groups (called ‘pods’ by the program) talk about readings and interviews focused on learning about and implementing anti-racist strategies. At the end of the curriculum, each pod will submit a document that summarizes their action plans. The Geophysics Department’s Diversity, Inclusion and Access Committee started an URGE pod that includes faculty, staff, and students from Geophysics, Geology & Geological Engineering, and Hydrologic Science & Engineering.
Bernard, R. E., & Cooperdock, E. H. (2018). No progress on diversity in 40 years. Nature Geoscience, 11(5), 292-295.
Dutt, K. (2020). Race and racism in the geosciences. Nature Geoscience, 13(1), 2-3.
Why did you take this initiative or explore this resource?
Mines is not a particularly diverse institution, which should prompt the question: why? Part of our URGE pod’s goals are to explore structural issues that prevent feelings of belonging among those who have been historically excluded from STEM and develop actionable plans that we plan to share with our department heads, Deans, and upper administration.
What did you learn or experience?
URGE runs from January 18, to May 7, 2021, so our process is still ongoing, with nearly three months left in the curriculum. But one thing is clear: there is a need and a desire on campus to be able to talk about issues both on our campus and society more broadly and move beyond talk to determine what concrete, actionable steps we can make to move forward. The part that is crushing is encapsulated in a paper we read, published in 1972 by the American Geological (now Geosciences) Institute, entitled “Minorities in the Geosciences”. From this document, it’s clear how geoscientists have been well aware of issues of diversity since the 1960s, and at that time also came up with concrete solutions for change. This document in part motivated the First National Conference on Minority Participation in Earth Science and Mineral Engineering in June 1972 here on campus in the Green Center. Mines President Guy T McBride, Jr. and Randolph Bromery, Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, welcomed over 300 participants to this conference for an in-depth discussion about how to reduce barriers in our field (see the report from this conference at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bggONMEJdFWFEb3nykDW6S-gtKORvB_j/view). And yet, nearly half a century later, here we are, in the same space as we were. These failures demonstrate a call to action that highlights that progress will not happen if we ask the same few people to help us make change, especially if those people are those historically excluded from the geosciences.
Why are discussions about racism and diversity valuable for individuals, teams and the broader Mines community?
We will not see racial justice until we all realize that we have a voice, and figure out when and how we can use it. Just because you are not from a marginalized community does not mean you are not a key to this struggle—the 19th Amendment never would have passed, and women would never have gotten the vote, had men not served as allies. Similarly, people of color cannot (and should not) fix these problems alone. Everyone has an opportunity to be that ally, even if that’s just talking to a friend or family member who doesn’t see the importance of this struggle about why you are committed to racial justice. We all need to use the power we have to make change.
Help the Mines community continue to learn and take action regarding diversity and racism on campus.
Tell us about a resource you’ve found insightful, or share a story about how your team, class, department or organization is discussing and addressing issues related to diversity or racism.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and what you’ve been working on so we can share with the Mines campus and encourage others to take these necessary steps as we climb together.