An Open Letter to the Amherst College Geology Community, June 30, 2020

To Amherst Geology Majors and Geology Students:

In her May 31st letter to the Amherst Community, Racism, Truth and Responsibility, President Martin condemned racial hatred, violence and injustice but also admitted that Amherst had not done enough to ensure that our students would be free from racist bias. She called on us to acknowledge the reality of anti-Black racism, to recognize its presence in our systems, and to assume responsibility for ending it.

This Spring, protests have erupted around the world calling attention to the reality of acts of racism, both overt and violent as well as subtle but nevertheless hurtful. These protests have started conversations about the burden that racism in all of its forms places on the lives of Black Americans. Right now, conversations about race are occurring among geoscientists nationally as well as here at Amherst. We would like to draw our whole department community together into such a conversation, building on the discussions many of you have been engaged in for some time.

We have to acknowledge the landscape in which we work. Science in general, and geology in particular, have - over their histories - included and in some cases even embraced racist views and racist hypotheses. Furthermore, as a discipline founded in the 17th and 18th centuries by European men, Geology has an embedded culture that has, whether passively or actively, failed to make space for black, indigenous, and other people of color. Geology has the lowest racial diversity among STEM fields. And yet we know that many of the issues central to our discipline - declining resource availability, natural hazards, and global climate change to name a few - disproportionately affect people of color. Scientific and societal progress demand the inclusion and participation of black, indigenous, and people of color; it is essential that these voices be a part of the work of geology at every level.

We must do the hard work necessary to create a different culture and a different future in Geology. We start by affirming that Black Lives Matter and by standing with anti-racist groups in denouncing and condemning racism. As faculty, we recognize that we must be accountable not just for our own actions, but also for ending racist and discriminatory culture embedded in our academic, scientific, and societal institutions. We dedicate ourselves to the sustained efforts necessary to uproot systemic racism and all forms of discrimination in our field; we are committed to building an inclusive, equitable, and just community both within our department and beyond.

The path of progress will be challenging. Conversations may be, and perhaps should be, uncomfortable and mistakes will be made along the way. Nevertheless, this work is imperative. We promise to move forward with honesty, transparency, and serious intent. Please partner with us and be prepared to speak up, to ask hard questions, and to persist. Each of you is important as an individual; your well-being, your education, and your inclusion in Geology is at the heart of the work that we will do.

From your Geology faculty:

Rachel Bernard
Jack Cheney
Peter Crowley
Victor Guevara
Tekla Harms
Nick Holschuh
David Jones
Anna Martini