Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
The Office of Academic Affairs and Diversity was created in 2008, following a National Science Foundation-ADVANCE grant (PI: Robin Bell). Housed in the Lamont Directorate, the mission of this office is to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at Lamont, with the goal of improving the work environment for all.
Promoting a culture of inclusion needs active participation from the community, and this office is fortunate to have the involvement of many at Lamont, especially given the multitude of areas involved – search and hiring processes; mentoring; code of conduct; equity issues; postdoctoral affairs; Title IX; implicit bias awareness; harassment awareness; anti-racism efforts; campus-wide DEI surveys; and others.
We are also fortunate to have student and postdoctoral-led efforts like the Gender & Diversity Coffee Hour, Race Talk Coffee Hour, Black History Month celebration, and LGBTQ+ Pride events.
Conversations in the DEI space can be challenging, especially as we seek to examine our institutions and the systemic biases embedded in them. In recent months, following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, as we try to respond to the current moment of racial reckoning, these questions have become more relevant than ever. In geoscience, a predominantly white field, it is encouraging to see conversations on race and racism gaining momentum.
At Lamont, the conversations on race began more than a year ago, following racist email attacks on our graduate students. Some of these conversations were uncomfortable – talking about race almost always is – but spurred a process of learning and growth for us, both individually and as a community.
Change and growth can be messy, and yet they enrich us immeasurably. I remember, right after one of the racial bias awareness sessions I had conducted last year, a white male privately told me how uncomfortable it made him feel and that he didn’t view himself as privileged. Imagine my joy and surprise when, a year later, he gave a heartfelt and powerful speech on the importance of acknowledging systemic racism and white privilege in society and in academia.
Long-term change, including transforming mindsets, takes time and often happens in incremental steps. DEI topics are often sensitive and delicate, evoking strong reactions. Time and again, we see that some DEI issues are so contentious that people will never agree on the best way forward, despite identifying as supporters of DEI. Yet it is important to keep moving forward with the knowledge that we are working to make Lamont inclusive in whatever way we can.
It is heartening to see how much we have done as a community over the past decade and how many baselines we have shifted towards greater inclusivity. And yet, there is so much more to do.
With the recent appointment of Lamont’s first female Interim Director and the subsequent creation of the Lamont DEI Task Force, we are positioned to take our DEI efforts to the next level. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has been a part of the journey of this office, and I look forward to continuing this work with you at Lamont.
Kuheli Dutt (she/her)
Assistant Director, Academic Affairs and Diversity