AGES statement on addressing racism in the environmental and geosciences

The following is a June 4, 2020 statement that was emailed to current students in the GES Department. We are sharing it on our webpage for prospective and incoming students to see as well.

This statement was written by faculty in GES and does not represent any other department or administrative unit at Appalachian State University. It is specific to the fields of geology and environmental science, and involves action items that are relevant to our department.

Dear AGES students, the following statement from the faculty and staff went out on social media (FB, Instagram, Twitter) two days ago:

Social Media statement about racism in the geosciences

We would like to expand a bit upon our social media statement for our current students, so you know what to expect from the department since 2020.

Let's first state the obvious: the entirety of our faculty and staff in AGES is white and most of our majors are also white. We cannot and must not expect our friends, colleagues, students, and alumni of color to take on the labor of starting these conversations, particularly in a majority-white department.

Therefore, in your future classes and in departmental events you will likely see one (or more) of the following:

  1. increased class content about environmental racism, and discussion about racist policies at the local, state, and federal levels that are relevant to the geosciences;
  2. frank discussions about the racism experienced by our students and alumni doing fieldwork, both in the High Country and beyond;
  3. frank discussions on racist behaviors (both overt and covert) you might experience or witness in different geoscience and environmental science industries and in graduate schools; and
  4. frank discussions about how we can take actions small and large to intervene and to stop these behaviors in our discipline.

Beyond the classroom, we as faculty also welcome and encourage informal discussions about what it means to be an ally, what it means to be anti-racist, the concepts of white priviledge and white fragility, and tactics for communicating with racist family members. Our doors and our zoom meetings are open for these discussions, both in groups and 1 on 1. We encourage you to have these discussions with each other as well.

We also encourage all students to bring to our attention any practices or policies within the department that could or do have a disproportionately negative impact on students of color.

As white faculty and staff, we know that we are not experts on racism. We welcome and will be receptive to input from students of color and students who are more knowledgeable about anti-racist methodologies than we are. We will listen, we will accept when we are wrong, and we will learn from our mistakes.

AGES students are a wonderful group of people and we are proud to know you. Let's strive to do better, together.

Stay safe, stay strong, stay well, and stay kind.

- The faculty and staff of the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences