Earlier this month, anonymous graduates of the UCSB geography community published an op-ed in the Daily Nexus, detailing the ways in which the Department of Geography at UCSB has inadvertently upheld systemic racism. We, the undersigned graduate students of the Department of Geography, would like to thank the authors of the op-ed — both for their labor in writing it and for their courage in publishing it.
It took far too long to reply publicly to this op-ed. We felt it was crucial to first have honest conversations within our department, process all that the authors laid out, reflect and plan. There was and continues to be disagreement about the need to respond, but we thought it was absolutely necessary for someone to keep this conversation alive.
The authors of the op-ed highlighted significant issues and inadequacies in our department’s attempts at creating an inclusive and equitable environment that supports and promotes a diverse faculty, staff and student body. The fact that every one of our department chairs has been white and male is just one visible layer of issues that clearly demonstrates our failure as a department to address inequity internally and within the broader field of geography.
We, the undersigned graduate students of the Department of Geography, would like to thank the authors of the op-ed — both for their labor in writing it and for their courage in publishing it.
The op-ed has incited broad discussions within the student and faculty community, particularly regarding the need to learn about and act on the racist and colonial history of our discipline; our failure to hire Black, Brown and Indigenous scholars; and the role of academia in responding to systemic racism and disrupting repeated patterns of institutional racism.
We have formed a Geography Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Working Group (GEDIWG) composed of graduate students, faculty and staff. We understand that a working group alone is insufficient, yet it is a crucial starting point. We aim to create an accountable action plan with specific, measurable goals and clear milestones to begin to address the issues highlighted in the original op-ed and above. GEDIWG is planning for more ways to get feedback from our broader geography community, learn together about these issues and use that process to implement changes. While progress has been slow, the undersigned graduate students are committed to pushing for transparency from the department in these efforts.
In the meantime, we have put together an anonymous feedback form to collect and incorporate input from the UCSB geography community. While the authors of the op-ed gave us many important issues to work with, we understand that there are likely more issues out there. We will be using the anonymous feedback collected by this form for GEDIWG planning.
We recognize that our department has a long way to go and that change does not happen overnight. The “Open Letter to the UCSB Department of Geography” has provided the impetus we need to work harder and demand more, particularly of those in positions of power, such as our senior faculty who have the tenure to make actionable change. We thank you for igniting the fire.
Current and former graduate students of the UCSB Department of Geography,