Dartmouth Sustainability Office Announces Commitment to Improving Inclusivity and Intersectionality

 

Thanks to dialogue and feedback from students, faculty, and staff, the Dartmouth Sustainability Office announced, in late June, an Action Plan for Increasing Inclusivity and Intersectionality within the sustainability community on campus. We are excited to share this plan and an update on our progress as of the start of this fall with our newsletter readers. Scroll down for the complete Action Plan and as always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.
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Sustainability Office Action Plan for Increasing Inclusivity and Intersectionality (June 2016):
Throughout the past several years, there has been an ongoing effort in the Sustainability Office to broaden the definition of “sustainability’ on campus and to foster a deeper sense of what sustainability means and how it is connected to a wide range of issues. This effort has frequently taken the form of events and programs aimed at creating dialogue within the Dartmouth community around the links between sustainability, climate change, equality, and justice. While the desire to do this work has been consistent, the various efforts and programs have ebbed and flowed – waxing and waning in different terms and as student leaders & conversation starters turned over. Winter and Spring 2016, in particular, brought a strong surge of open dialogue, organizing, and advocacy around ways the Sustainability Office can make inclusivity, community building, and intersectionality between sustainability/environmentalism and other social movements on campus and in the world more core to our mission.
 
Thank you to all those who attended and expressed their views at the Humans Faces of Climate Change Panel & Sustainability & Social Justice Dinner this past spring, who have created and continued dialogue on and off Ruckus, and who have come to our door to voice your opinions and demand more from us. After taking in everything that you have said and after several internal strategic planning conversations, we have come up with a structure/plan to move forward more intentionally on these issues.

1 This summer, as part of our Office’s annual strategic planning process, we will revisit our office mission and the learning outcomes of our core programs. As part of this effort, we plan to incorporate inclusivity and intersectionality into our mission statement, and use this statement to inform all positions and operations within our office. The Office’s mission statement, values, and a listing of core programs and their goals will be available on our website by the end of the summer.

2 Many structures have been suggested and discussed to drive these efforts in our office and hold us accountable. After much debate and discussion, we have decided not to form a separate student task force or internship to lead these efforts. We feel this is the right course of action for several reasons. First, we truly want diversity, inclusivity and social justice efforts to be driven from the top down into all of our programs. As part of our mission statement, this effort must be a prioritized part of each of our staff positions starting at the Director level. Additionally, inclusivity and broader outreach needs to be a priority and goal within each of our programs and events – from Brewhaha to Green Greeks to Energy Task Force. Each of these groups should be addressing these issues as an essential component for succeeding in their individual task. We do not want sustainability and social justice work to become siloed in one person’s role or project, but to pervade the work of everyone involved in the Office. With this in mind, possessing the desire and skills to integrate inclusivity into sustainability work and to actively focus on outreach will be strongly considered as a value sought in our hiring processes and selection of students for various sustainability programs.

3 We acknowledge that by not having a separate entity be in charge of facilitating these conversations, the onus will be on us to hold ourselves more accountable. This summer, we plan to establish formal structures to evaluate how we are doing and invite anyone to check our work, as you have done in the past. We will also designate one of our new Sustainability Fellows to be a point person from within the Sustainability Office staff to motivate efforts and hold each of us accountable to fulfilling our mission. We need a bit more time to figure out exactly who from the Office will fill that role and what it will look like, but this individual will directly engage with race, gender, class and similar social issues that arise on campus, will actively foster connections to students, faculty, & staff from underrepresented communities, and will raise questions and ideas for how our office can do better on a weekly basis. Additionally, our Sustainable Dartmouth Senior Internship will continue to focus on organizing termly events (such as panels, feeds, trainings, storytelling events, and lectures) that foster friend-making and community building in addition to events that educate our community on both how sustainability works at Dartmouth (energy, waste, water use etc.) and on how it is connected to social justice issues. Finally, we plan to keep this community apprised of our efforts and progress through a termly email to Ruckus, that builds off this frame work and lets you know what we have accomplished or tried in a particular term.

4 We will provide opportunities and spaces for members of the sustainability community to receive training and dialogue on the intersectionality of sustainability with other issues. We believe that in order to create a truly sustainable society, we need everyone in the room. We challenge you to challenge us, ask questions, send ideas, thoughts or concerns. Right now, this space exists during Sustainability Office Hours, on Ruckus, at Intern Dinners, at Green Groups Directorate Meetings & Green Group Feeds, and during Ruckus Dialogues which will be hosted in response to events on campus or upon request from students. This summer we will be planning additional training efforts for the anyone interested in the sustainability community with our colleagues in OPAL. 
We recognize that we still have more work to do and by no means plan to end these conversations soon. We we want to be transparent and want your input on these initiatives. We will continue to keep informing ourselves and reaching out to different offices and individuals to make sure we are learning from those who are more knowledgeable than us, while doing what we do well.

As of September 2016:
- We developed a Sustainability Office Fact Sheet, that clearly states the Office’s mission and vision. Our hope is that this Fact Sheet is a tool that can be used to clearly and more easily make these goals, as well as our values and approach to our work, transparent and clear to everyone involved in sustainability on campus. We added specific language institutionalizing inclusivity as a core part of our mission. While the changes are subtle, they make our commitment clear and will allow all of us to hold ourselves accountable to pursuing this mission and accomplishing our goals.

- This fact sheet, along with specific goals & questions connected to building inclusive community, have been incorporated into each of our Internship job descriptions and our EcoReps program description. We have also added questions to both the EcoReps and Internship Applications asking how student staff within the Sustainability Office will use their roles to create a welcoming, inclusive, and increasingly diverse sustainability movement on campus. Finally, a question specifically addressing this component of our job descriptions is being asked during each intern interview.

- We identified specific learning outcomes for our student programs and are developing assessment strategies to insure that program participants are succeeding at doing hands on learning, building inclusive community, and transforming campus operations. While still in development, these assessment tools may include changes to our office’s debrief forms and feedback surveys, peer evaluations, Ruckus Dialogues, and more.

- We appointed Annelise Sauter-Ortiz, one of our Sustainability Fellows, to be the point person from within the Sustainability Office staff who motivates efforts and hold each of us accountable to carrying out the to-dos of our Action Plan. She has been doing research on best practices in building inclusivity within organizations, building connections with other offices on campus, and researching training opportunities for the larger sustainability community and Sustainability Office staff. In October, she will be participating in a Pre-Conference Workshop at AASHE titled “Developing and Implementing a Critical Social Justice Lens for 21st Century Campus Sustainability Work.” More information on the workshop is available here and Annelise would be happy to talk to students about the workshop when she returns.

- We plan to collaborate with the Dartmouth Office of Pluralism and Leadership to offer a training to our students followed by a community dinner. Our hope is that this training prepares all if us to engage in dialogue about the intersectionality of these issues and creates a space in which this dialogue can occur.

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