Dear EVEN community,
We share in the grief felt by millions over the recent deaths of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the outrageous deaths of Black people at the hands of police and civilians. These deaths have focused our attention on the racial inequities and injustices that permeate our society.
As environmental engineers, we also address these issues in our profession by working with communities of color that lack access to clean water and air, are exposed to higher levels of contamination, or lack proper resources for environmental education. The current pandemic has highlighted the tragic consequences of racial inequalities in public health and access to health-supporting resources.
Over the past two weeks, I have heard from our EVEN community, our faculty, students and staff, about the need to promote change within our program and also at a larger societal scale. The EVEN leadership has met and begun to develop plans for what we do next, knowing that words without action do not help. Although our plans will evolve over the next few months as we receive feedback from you and continue to explore additional actions, we are presenting our immediate response:
1. EVEN commits to emphasizing to our students the value and importance of equity and environmental justice, including the need to proactively remedy past injustices. As such, we commit to enhancing our discussion of these issues within our curriculum and to conduct a thorough review of our curriculum to ensure inclusive content and practices. In addition, we have approved a curriculum change to support all EVEN students to include environmentally relevant courses from social sciences as technical electives.
2. We are planning a community forum in the fall on the topic of environmental justice and environmental racism. We will examine the history and persistence of racial inequities, harm from pollution and lack of access to environmental amenities. We look forward to collaborating with EVEN students to select speakers and organize this forum.
3. In cooperation with others in the college and in order to facilitate learning in EVEN, we will offer and participate in anti-racism and bystander intervention training for students, staff and faculty. These opportunities will include a town hall in the fall that will focus on issues related to environmental justice. We strive to promote healthy dialogue among our community members on these issues. We also want to hear from you directly on how we can continue to improve.
4. We are committed to working with the BOLD Center to provide opportunities for our students to continue to expand our collective understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion and their importance in society. These opportunities will include identifying classes for students to take, providing recommendations for books and podcasts, and fostering dialogues within EVEN and across the larger community. EVEN will also develop a page within our website to include relevant materials and we will host a reading group to provide opportunities for discussion of books, podcasts and articles.
Furthermore, I want to echo the statements from our college and campus that condemn all acts of racism and racist violence. I encourage you to read interim Dean Keith Molenaar’s June 2 message to the college and Chancellor Phil DiStefano’s May 29 message and the video message to the university community. I also encourage you to read the statement from Tanya Ennis, director of the BOLD Center. As Tanya says, let’s take this opportunity to “be aware, be knowledgeable, be courageous, be kind and be active.”
Finally, I am hopeful that we will take this opportunity to improve how we interact with and value each other and to create a culturally responsive, supportive community that fosters connection and belonging.
There is much work to be done. Feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to talk. I would be happy to schedule some time to do so.
On behalf of the EVEN leadership, and broader community,
Director of the EVEN Program
Environmental Engineering Program
College of Engineering and Applied Science | University of Colorado Boulder
1111 Engineering Drive, Boulder, CO 80309-428