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Executive Summary

Amid the ongoing protests that followed the death of George Floyd, the student-led Diversity and Inclusion Group (DIG) in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences organized a department-wide conversation on race. Participating graduate students, faculty, postdoctoral researchers and department staff discussed problems and solutions within small groups and a consensus emerged that, as a precursor to becoming more anti-racist, we must educate ourselves about the history and the present day manifestation of racism within our field. Following this meeting, a smaller group of department members participated in a student-led reading group about race in academia. Motivated by the fruitful discussions in this reading group and a desire to engage a larger portion of the department in this conversation, we created a special topics class for Autumn quarter For the first time in its history, our department will offer students academic credit for learning about issues of racism and equity as they relate to our field. DIG recognizes that as atmospheric scientists we can practice anti-racism in two primary ways. First, we can work to make a more inclusive environment within our own field. Second, we can take into account the systemic inequities that exist when developing our studies and when we inform policy decisions. The latter mission is consistent with goal 10 of the UN sustainable development goals, which states that, “To reduce inequalities, policies should be universal in principle, paying attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized populations.”

We have identified five main topic areas for our course:

  1. Indigenous rights
  2. Environmental justice in cities
  3. The history of scientific racism
  4. Climate Justice and the global south
  5. Whiteness, science, and academia

Our course will focus on guest speakers and will be made broadly accessible to the entire Department of Atmospheric Sciences. We are currently recruiting at least one guest speaker to speak to each of our five focus areas. Some of these topics are best addressed by non-academic speakers, such as climate justice activists or employees at non-profit organizations. Giving an honorarium to speakers not only shows our appreciation for their work but also compensates them for their time. Moreover, it allows us to recruit more diverse speakers who may not have community outreach and service built into their salaries as many academics do. With the support of our department chair, we have leveraged virtual learning to our advantage to ensure that all interested department members will be able to participate in this course. In a typical quarter, the Atmospheric Sciences department has two seminars each week, which are consistently attended by much of the department. The chair has allowed us to use the time slot of one of these science seminars for our course. Additionally, a virtual platform allows us to recruit a more diverse set of speakers as the burden of traveling to the department to deliver a talk in person is removed.

Primary Contact:
Rachel Atlas