To our CALS community,

Started in 2013 by three women after the killing of Trayvon Martin, the Black Lives Matter movement has seen unprecedented support across the US over the last several weeks. This long-overdue recognition has spurred important, and sometimes uncomfortable, conversations about the intertwined history of our nation with racial injustices and systemic racism, which have blunted opportunities and cut lives short. The loss of human potential over the years is more than tragic; it is catastrophic. UVM CALS wants to deepen and advance its work towards diversity, equity and inclusion in all its spaces and contexts and reaffirm its commitment to fighting systemic racism.

CALS has an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee, headed by Professor Chris Koliba, CDAE. Other members include Patrick Brown, CDAE; Ernesto Mendez, PSS; Don Stratton, PBIO; Farryl Bertmann, NFS; Eric Testroet, ASCI; Dawei Li, MMG; Cheryl Herrick, UVM Extension; Kate Finley Woodruff, CALS Dean's Office. Since several members will be rotating off the committee, watch for updates and future opportunities to serve.

UVM Extension, which is part of CALS, has a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee headed by Extension communication specialist, Cheryl Herrick. Current members are Stephanie Albaugh, Juan Alvez, Claire Bove, Beret Halverson, Liz Kenton, Sarah Kleinman, Ginger Nickerson, Alison Nihart, Kris Stepenuck and Sara Stowell.

While these two committees have different audiences, they work closely together and are developing specific goals with timelines to help us maintain accountability. Although these goals are a work in progress, one recurrent theme is to educate ourselves. One cannot make sense of the status quo without understanding the history of how we got to where we are. One cannot take appropriate steps to improve lives without learning about shared experiences of people different than one’s self. We realize that we need all of the voices of our CALS community to help us do this collective, challenging work.

Ernesto Mendez of the EDI Committee has often quoted Nigerian educator and author Dr. Bayo Akomolafe by reminding us that “The times are urgent, and that is why we need to slow down.” We must acknowledge that this work is complex, deep and will take time. With this in mind, I am pleased that these committees have begun the hard work, although there is much to do. Currently we are working on:

  • Planning dialogues and town hall meetings to give all members of our community the chance to ask questions of and offer feedback to our CALS leadership.

  • Providing a common educational experience on systemic racism and implicit bias for as many members of CALS as possible, such that we can speak the same language and talk through the same material.

  • Creating resources of best practices for EDI-related classroom discussions.

  • Acknowledging the history of land grant institutions.

  • Building relationships with other northeastern land grant institutions in order to address racial justice in collaboration across the region.

  • Committing to increase the diversity of our students, faculty and staff, as we continue to work to provide an explicitly welcoming and supportive environment for people of color.

You are invited to take part. To begin engaging our trainees, including undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, we will be sending out a survey to determine your level of interest and desired mechanisms for engagement on these important issues. Please keep an eye out for this in the coming weeks.

These are just some examples of the work ahead of us. Meanwhile, the educational journey can start immediately. If you haven’t listened to UVM’s own outstanding Amazing Grace series, we recommend that you take the time to watch via the link below. While much has been written about available resources, below is a condensed list of relatively recent resources that we have found especially helpful.

Videos/Podcasts

Books

  • Barracoon by Zora Neal Hurston (written ~1931 but published in 2018)
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates**
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Killing Time by John Hollway and Ronald M. Gauthier
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander*
  • White Rage by Carol Anderson

Articles

Additional Resources

*Available online via Howe Library
**Available for curbside pickup via Howe Library

I realize this has been an especially challenging year in many ways and hope that you are all taking the time and space for slowing down and your own self-care. We will be inviting more ways to engage in this work this coming fall. In the meantime, I encourage all of us to continue our personal journeys of self-reflection and education so that we can work together to build a stronger, more inclusive CALS community.

Leslie V. Parise
Dean, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences
University of Vermont

This message was distributed to the CALS community on July 23, 2020.

PUBLISHED

08-07-2020
Leslie Parise