Dear Members of the Faculty of Forestry Community,
I am writing to you today as the Chair of the Faculty of Forestry’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council to both endorse and support President Ono’s recent statement but to also speak specifically to tackling racism together in the UBC Forestry community.
I know many of you are hurting and are troubled by what we are witnessing. Anti-Black violence and violence against those who know Black Lives Matter is rightly where our focus should be at the moment. But we also know racism is more than that. It is the hundreds of years of systematic oppression and everyday racism that led to this moment. It is also the enduring legacies of colonialism and dispossession of Indigenous communities. It is anti-Asian violence as a reaction to a pandemic. It is racial profiling because someone is “driving while Black” or “flying while Arab”. But it is also the under-representation and barriers within academia affecting Black, Indigenous, and other people of color as well as those from other under-represented or vulnerable communities.
I hear you and I am hurt and I am troubled too. But I’m also frustrated and angry. Frustrated because we continue to face bias and discrimination both personal and systemic. Frustrated because bandaids don’t work and don’t replace the hard work of true reform. Angry because people continue to get harassed, beaten or killed for who they are. Angry when I see people beaten for peacefully protesting to see that reform.
But, I am also uplifted by seeing people who will not back down until they see change that is so long overdue.
So, during these times I urge our Faculty of Forestry community to come together to support one another and to figure out how to move forward. To listen, to learn, and importantly, to act. To figure out how to do our part to change what needs to be changed. For those of you that need immediate support, please use the resources at the bottom of President Ono’s letter (“Together against Racism and Injustice”) or reach out to our phenomenal student support services team.
As a member of this community but also as Chair of the EDI Council I also feel a duty to act. Our mandate is to deeply consider and then provide long-term strategic advice on systemic and structural matters within the Faculty related to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. There is much we can be proud of within our Faculty. Our commitment to Indigenous natural resource management and education, our strong ties with educational institutions globally and our diverse student body, and our commitments to mentorship are all areas where we are strong, though we can always improve. That is the key. How do we improve our systems and our policies? How do we bring in, support, nurture, and retain a diversity of perspectives and experiences that may not have traditionally had a voice in our field?
The EDI Council was formed in late 2019 and was only getting started when the pandemic hit. But we are committed to helping make UBC Forestry a better place for all. We look forward to working with the Diversity Crew, the Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the Dean, and all of you. We will be meeting shortly to discuss our next steps, one of which will be a survey to gain a better understanding of your experiences in UBC Forestry and where we may need to focus to address systemic and policy issues to affect change. We will also be putting together a set of resources for learning and action and making those accessible to you.
In the meantime, however, I welcome any of you to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with concerns and suggestions about concrete actions UBC Forestry can take to be more equitable, diverse and inclusive as well as being actively anti-racist. This means looking both within ourselves and our institutions and being proactive about making changes for the better. As today is also a call to #ShutDownSTEM, I encourage us, particularly those of us with privilege and the power to affect change, to consider what additional actions we might take to fight racism.
Yours in solidarity,
Associate Professor, Forest Resources Management
Chair, Faculty of Forestry Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council