State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Earth Institute Solidarity and Support for #ShutDownSTEM

On Wednesday, June 10, the Earth Institute’s social media and the State of the Planet blog will be going silent in solidarity with #ShutDownSTEM, a grassroots movement to eradicate anti-Black racism in academia and STEM.

“I urge the Earth Institute community to take time tomorrow, June 10, to reflect on what more we can do to break down the systemic racism that exists in STEM,” said Alex Halliday, director of the Earth Institute.

Sean Solomon, director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, added that the strike acknowledges “the urgent need to support our Black colleagues and oppose systemic racism.”

The Earth Institute recognizes that racism is a cultural and systemic problem, that academic institutions are a part of the problem, and that one day of reflection or one statement cannot undo centuries of injustice. We are committed to continuing this important work on a variety of timescales. Beginning in Fall 2018, we have been taking specific action to enhance and improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) across the Earth Institute. Recent events have only stressed how important these efforts are — and how we need to do even more, particularly to combat anti-Black racism and make our work more inclusive for all people of color.

Below are some of the actions we have already taken and those we are planning to take in the future:

  • As a first step, we collected an inventory of the initiatives and programming in place at that time to address issues of diversity, inclusion, and harassment.
  • We undertook a review of DE&I at peer institutions, and examined how we could model our work off the SEA Change Initiative by AAAS, a self-assessment and certification program to advance DE&I in higher education.
  • We initiated an analysis of salary equity on gender/ethnic demographics within EI and its centers. This analysis is ongoing, and we will be looking at longer-term trends to understand where progress has occurred and where it has lagged.
  • We engaged an experienced DE&I consulting team from the Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Teachers College to lead the Earth Institute in a strategic exploration and planning process to develop action plans to help prevent bias, discrimination and harassment and promote diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the EI community.
  • We developed a DE&I climate assessment survey to identify specific challenges and opportunities at both the institute-level and at the center-level. We had significant engagement from the community, receiving over 380 responses to the survey.
  • Currently, the survey data are being analyzed and summarized into feedback reports for EI as a whole, as well as the center-level. These reports will be used to guide a virtual strategic planning process for EI and for our centers. Our consultants will be available to guide each participating center through this process and help them develop actionable goals to be more inclusive, as well as fight discrimination, racism, and inherent bias.

This moment calls for profound and meaningful change. We have a responsibility to take action on systemic racism in STEM. Our goal is to develop a thoughtful, stakeholder-driven, detailed plan of action to carry forward our institute that includes amplifying Black voices, fighting inherent bias, improving our pipeline and diverse hiring, and committing resources to support our words.

Kuheli Dutt, assistant director of academic affairs and diversity at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, added that personal actions against racism are important, too. She urges individuals to visit the ShutDownSTEM website to find ways to contribute to the goal of ending systemic racism. In addition, several graduate students at Lamont have compiled an excellent list of resources on how to engage in anti-racism work and support our Black colleagues and the larger Black community.

“Academic institutions reflect the larger society of which we are part,” said Dutt, “and the efforts of all of us will be needed to achieve a truly inclusive workplace.”

Columbia campus skyline with text Columbia Climate School Class Day 2024 - Congratulations Graduates

Congratulations to our Columbia Climate School MA in Climate & Society Class of 2024! Learn about our May 10 Class Day celebration. #ColumbiaClimate2024

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