UMD Geology’s Affirmation that Black Lives Matter and an Anti-Racist Pledge with Action Items to Remedy the Racial Disparity in Geosciences among Black and Brown Communities

UMD Geology Department condemns the oppression of Black and brown communities, police brutality and profiling, and explicit and implicit racial discrimination.  We affirm that Black Lives Matter, and we stand in solidarity with those targeted and victimized by hate crimes, prejudice, and ignorance.  This letter openly denounces these and all other acts of racial persecution, and proposes how we at UMD Geology Department can use our position of privilege to combat social injustice, together with the broader university, geosciences, and (inter)national communities.

We recognize that this country was built on the systemic oppression of African Americans and other communities of color, but we have the power to transform our society by acknowledging our history and committing ourselves to change through both bottom-up and top-down approaches.

To help remedy institutional racism present within the geosciences and further an inclusive culture within our own department, UMD Geology Department pledges to enact the following categorical changes to how we operate, and pursue specific initiatives that will be tracked for accountability:

  1. Foster an inclusive, supportive, safe environment, in particular for Black and brown members, in the department. We will periodically conduct work climate surveys, require all members of the department to participate in annual implicit bias training, and improve the communication between the faculty and the graduate and undergraduate student bodies. We pledge to establish trust, and protect our community by listening actively to all members of our department, regardless of education and/or career level, and holding each and every person accountable for conforming to an equitable and anti-racist code of conduct.
  2. Increase racial diversity within the department at all education and/or career levels. We acknowledge racial disparity in STEM, the geosciences, and our own department. We will improve the accessibility and inclusivity of our curriculum and hiring, admissions, and recruiting processes, identify and remove barriers facing Black and brown students, and improve guidance and opportunities for career preparation and networking.
  3. Uplift science education in the Maryland and Washington D.C. communities. We – faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, postdocs, and staff – will solidify and expand outreach efforts in local public schools. We pledge to develop a broad portfolio of education and research initiatives in collaboration with nearby K-12 and higher education institutions, especially historically black colleges and universities, to introduce geosciences to the diverse student population of Prince George’s County (where Black Americans are the majority population) and beyond.

These proposed actions are the first steps that UMD Geology Department will take to address racial injustice in academia and the geosciences.  Black Lives Matter. We will work toward quality for Black and brown communities facing systemic discrimination and structural disadvantages.  We ask the broader UMD and geosciences communities to join us in our efforts for transformative justice.

In solidarity,

The Faculty, Graduate and Undergraduate Students, Postdocs, and Staff at the Department of Geology, University of Maryland



Specific UMD Geology initiatives geared towards fighting racial inequity

(Updated 23 July 2020)


Initiatives completed:

  • Create a regular open forum accessible to undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, staff, and faculty to communicate and engage on systemic racism, social injustices, and inequity in the department and geosciences (05 June 2020)
  • Educate on how to report acts of discrimination and/or receive consultations through the UMD Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct (Zoom tutorial on 26 June 2020)
  • Eliminate the GRE from admissions decisions and move towards holistic student application reviews (08 July 2020)
  • Release a statement denouncing the oppression of Black and brown communities, and police brutality in the US (17 July 2020)
  • Restructure the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Awareness (IDEA) Committee to enable more active participation across the entire department

Initiatives in progress:

  • Release of the UMD Geology inaugural climate survey, which will be administered and summarized annually, to gauge strengths and weaknesses in the culture of the department
  • Update the department’s mission statement reflect our stance against racial (and all other forms of) inequity in the geosciences and academia
  • Coordinate efforts to recruit underrepresented Black and brown students at local high schools and black universities through efforts such as the AGU Bridge Program
  • Offer exit surveys to all departing undergraduate and graduate students to better identify ways to retain Black and brown students throughout their UMD Geology program
  • Add networking and career resources to the IDEA website to facilitate professional growth
  • Explore ways to subsidize and/or reduce field camp costs, for example by potentially collaborating with Johns Hopkins for a local field camp option
  • Create a Geochemistry Major that does not require field camp for degree completion

Initiatives in formulation:

  • Revisit learning strategies and ways to maximize accessibility and achievement
  • Expand the department’s social media presence to improve transparency and accountability
  • Create an outreach subcommittee to coordinate education and research initiatives for high school and undergraduate students to contribute to our department