Vermont’s first LEED Platinum-certified building, the Janet Halstead Franklin ’72 and Churchill G. Franklin ’71 Environmental Center at Hillcrest, serves as a hub of environmental and sustainable action and ideas.
Black Lives Matter Statement
June 15, 2020
The faculty and staff of the Environmental Studies Program and the staff of Environmental Affairs at the Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest stand with Black Lives Matter and all our fellow citizens suffering from outright violence and other injustices of structural racism. The consequences of white supremacy have become all the more apparent as our national leaders consistently gaslight racism and greenlight violence. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic destroys black and brown lives in communities of color across the nation, Black persons continue to endure state-sanctioned, structural, and cultural violence at all levels of society. We stand with those demanding national, structural change, which must include our own Middlebury community. Our commitment to racial justice goes hand in hand with our commitment to environmental justice.
The struggle for environmental and social justice begins with acknowledging that whiteness in the United States is characterized by the hoarding of natural resources just as surely as by the hoarding of capital and the unjust manipulation of the financial system to the disadvantage of marginalized groups. We acknowledge the historical complicity of our movement in perpetuating the devastating consequences of white supremacy. From collusion between eugenicists and conservationists to the cancer alleys and food deserts of today, Black persons have been historically dispossessed of land, capital, and full participation in our democracy, including its educational system, and continue to be prevented from full access to social goods and services even while suffering from elaborate strategies of political disenfranchisement.
We stand in support of the call to action from our students in their letter to President Patton, and of her response and commitments to them. By the end of this month (June 2020) we will share more specific actions we will take in our programs and how we plan to implement and hold ourselves accountable to them.
Going forward we pledge to listen and discuss, learn, and take action to promote racial understanding and diversity in our own programs and practices and in the communities in which we work. We will examine existing methods, modes, and philosophies in our work and how we allocate our resources in order to re-imagine and, where necessary, replace them with antiracist policies and practices.
Nadine Canter Barnicle
Megan O. Brakeley
Molly S. Constanza-Robinson
Rebecca Kneale Gould
Peter Crowley Ryan
Daniel Chiu Suarez
Updated July 2, 2020:
Following the joint Environmental Affairs/Environmental Studies statement in support of Black Lives Matter on June 15, we write to describe the next steps to which Environmental Affairs staff at the Franklin Environmental Center are dedicating energy. While some of the ways in which we will approach antiracism in our environmental and sustainability work are clear and involve short-term action, we are committed to working across focus areas on multiple timelines and levels, acknowledging the deep, long-term work required of us individually and in community. We pledge to be held accountable internally and externally as we continue to expand and refine our efforts. In addition to our own work, we pledge to actively participate in institutional diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives led by Middlebury.
Our conversations over the past two weeks aimed at identifying actions to demonstrate our commitment have made it clear that working on this challenge is difficult, complex, often perplexing, and essential, i.e., we have as much to unlearn as to learn about how to do it meaningfully and effectively. The following list is an initial outline of an action plan that includes doing the deeper and ongoing, iterative process of building a basis for transformational leadership and change in the why, how, what, and who of our work. It also includes more immediate and tangible steps we will take in the near term to act on our commitment.
They include these steps:
- Begin a thorough audit of our programmatic, operational, and administrative policies and practices to identify where racism may be present and develop strategies to address it. We will also initiate conversations with Black students, students of color, and student organizations to invite their thoughts and perspectives on what changes are needed.
- Establish ongoing discussion of our outreach materials and how they affect our students. Ensure that antiracist topics, materials, and practices are incorporated into all our programs.
- Work as a team to recognize and eliminate biases and language against marginalized and minoritized people and to make our own use of language, spoken and written, consistent with the principles and practices of antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Establish a track in our Sustainability Solutions Lab focused on the intersectionality of racism and marginalization with efforts to address the climate crisis and other sustainability-related problems we work on. Work with others to develop a cross-cutting theme of social justice across the four pillars of the Energy2028 initiative.
- Reaffirm our commitment to actively collaborate with the Environmental Studies academic program, other campus centers, student organizations, faculty, and other staff as we work toward exposing and eliminating racism in all forms at Middlebury.
To support our focus on transformational leadership and change, we will engage in regular check-ins, internal assessments, and capacity-building opportunities to provide institutional memory for the Franklin Environmental Center, holding ourselves accountable and sharing what we are learning from our efforts. We welcome your insights and suggestions now and going forward as well. We will also provide a place on our website to share our progress and invite further input.