statement of solidarity with the black lives matter movement

I would like to thank the Diversity Committee and everyone else who played a role in developing the statement on racism and it’s pervasiveness in our society and institution. This is an important first step. I feel great personal pain for the losses and the sense of helplessness of our Black colleagues, students and community members. As a college we address the general goals of diversity and inclusion on many fronts, but all need to do more and do it better. I ask that everyone, faculty, staff, and students think deeply about the issues facing us, and commit to resolution. We have now received a clear statement, how are we going to move forward and implement the actions necessary to do our part in fixing those things we can do directly, and support those changes we don’t control?  I realize these problems can seem intractable and overwhelming, but we need to take actions that lead to real progress and resolution. I look forward to the opportunity to engage our community in doing this.
John Kirby

Statement of Solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement June 11, 2020

The Diversity Committee of the College of the Environment and Life Sciences (CELS) at the University of Rhode Island stands with countless Americans in affirming that Black Lives Matter. During a historic time of social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we support and commend the waves of action for social justice rippling across the country. We stand with others in the call for justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the victims of senseless police violence and brutality.

For many, processing these events is, and will continue to be, deeply personal, traumatic, and very isolating. There are not any words in a statement that can make things right. We can, however, take this time to come together to reflect on how we can do better to dismantle racism in our academic community – in our research labs, in our classrooms (in person or virtually), in our hallways, and most importantly, in our mindsets. We as a community can and must confront the truth that academia was designed to be exclusionary. We must acknowledge the pernicious legacies of racism, colonialism, and oppression within our disciplines.

Diversity and inclusion continue to be a part of the mission of CELS, but much more work from more of us, especially those in positions of power and privilege, needs to be done. It is not enough to state that one stands in solidarity with minoritized communities — we must also be intentional about putting in the work to create a more inclusive climate in our college, the university, and more broadly, STEM disciplines. We need more members of our community, especially those in positions of power and privilege, to upstand as allies and take part in anti-racist practices and decolonizing efforts. Resources below are provided as a starting point for learning and for action.

Our college has an Assistant Dean of Diversity, Retention and Student Success Initiatives, Michelle Fontes, who provides one-on-one support to students, faculty and staff (most from diverse backgrounds) and welcomes the opportunity to engage any of these constituencies in discussions and guidance around specific individual concerns that need to be addressed. She represents CELS by participating in the Academic Diversity Task Force, the University Diversity Council, and the Alumni of Color Network, to ensure a voice for our community and move it to action as much as possible. She also advises our Seeds of Success organization, a student led organization that is very diverse and has the mission to support, mentor and motivate our diverse study body.

She is available and we encourage those of you that need support in any way to contact her: While Asst. Dean Fontes is an invaluable resource, it is everyone’s responsibility to cultivate inclusion in their everyday behavior. There are opportunities in existing networks within the college to learn, empower, and become a positive force for change.

Opportunities to Join the Conversation

CELS DC: The CELS Diversity Committee needs representatives from all departments in CELS, and this is not the case despite years of requests and communications. If your Department is not represented, faculty or staff interested in joining the committee should reach out to Diversity Committee Chair, Asst. Professor Jannelle Couret:

Survey Departmental Efforts on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Efforts: Departments can collect information about their collective current efforts around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Several Departments (NRS, BIO, and MAF) have administered surveys to collect this information. Faculty that would like to support these efforts in their own Departments can contact for a survey template and more information.

VOICES: Voices of Inclusion in Communities of Education and Science. This is a non-hierarchical learning community within CELS that meets regularly to discuss readings on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM, and more broadly, in academia. Any student, administrator, and faculty in CELS may join. . VOICES is organizing a reading group on decolonizing academia and dismantling racism in higher education beginning June 26th.

SOS: Seeds of Success. Seeds of Success (SOS) is a student-run organization focused on supporting and motivating underrepresented CELS students attain a holistic, supportive, educational experience at URI.

CED (Community Equity and Diversity) Workshops available to CELS Departments on request at the following website.

Ways to help Black Lives Matter right now:

List of petitions, politicians to call, places to donate, and other resources:

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