UMinnesota forestry department, labeled too white, hit with list of anti-racist demands

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The University of Minnesota’s Department of Forest Resources has come under fire from students, community members and others for calling on its leaders to take stronger anti-racist action or face further protests.

a open letter published in October by campus activists lists 22 requests to address concerns that the department has supported “systems of white supremacy and violence … through the 110-year history of forestry at the University of Minnesota.” .

The letter points out that the department is “predominantly white” and has not employed a black faculty member in its history. He also quotes a mural painted in 1945 and kept in the Green Hall of the Forestry Department which he describes as “racist”.

He also accuses the Forestry Department, founded in 1910, of being located on stolen Dakota land, adding that “a colonial culture and structure continues to persist more than a century later because of the silence and the inaction of the department ”.

Further, the letter calls on department leaders not to mention the death of George Floyd while in custody in its June 2020 newsletter, noting “that there was no mention of George’s murder. Floyd, uprisings in the Twin Cities and across the country, nor efforts to promote anti-racism work within the department.

The letter of formal notice was signed by more than 300 students, graduate students, academics and members of the community.

Among its 22 requests, activists called on the department’s diversity and inclusion committee to “be a decisive force in creating new faculty job descriptions and approving hiring decisions.”

Activists also want annual anti-racist trainings for faculty, staff and students. In addition, they demanded a way to submit “confidential complaints about sexual misconduct and micro-assault” and want campus leaders “to establish a formal protocol to assess professors who have received multiple complaints.”

Other requests include:

Pay students for time spent on departmental committees such as the diversity and inclusion committee or faculty search committees

Fight against anti-black racism in a public statement by the leadership of the ministry

Replace the Green Room Basement Mural (as recommended by the 2019 Green Room Mural Subcommittee Report)

Edit faculty job descriptions to require previous work in the area of ​​environmental justice or diversity, equity and inclusion and establish a DEI rubric to assess potential faculty hires during the interview process [emphasis in the original]

Increase efforts to recruit, retain and support BIPOC students and professors in forest resources (as recommended by the FR Diversity and Inclusion plan)

“The actions called for here are only the start of a broader change in the climate of forest resources,” the letter read. “The mission to eliminate discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ability and many other factors will require time, effort, resources and coordination. from faculty, staff, administration and students. “

(PICTURE: Green room mural)

The letter ends with a list of a number of threats to the department if its leaders do not respond to their demands.

“If our requests are ignored or progress is not demonstrated, we agree to the following: Revoke consent to use photos and other media for Forest Resources marketing material, respond with a public letter detailing the lack of anti-racism measures Forest Resources is prepared to take [and] raising our concerns and the issues described here at the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, ”he said.

The College’s solution contacted the student authors of the letter who declined to comment.

Mike Kilgore, head of UMN’s forest resources department, did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The College fix.

Students say they believe the department is still a long way from becoming more inclusive, despite the many steps it has already taken to achieve this goal.

In November, the Forest Resources Department organized a listening session with the students to understand their grievances. Professors in the department are also expected to attend an anti-racism retreat this month, the Minnesota Daily reports.

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IMAGE: Robert Kneschke / Shutterstock

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