Safety and Inclusivity in the Field
By Dr. Sarah Greene
Safety and Belonging in the Field: https://doi.org/10.31223/X53P6H
Toilet Stops in the Field: https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/gnhj2
I was one month into my job as a Lecturer (Asst. Prof.) and I was sighing with relief as the field trip leader announced there would be toilets at the next stop on our field trip. I was born and raised in New York City, with almost nothing in the way of outdoors experience. Field trips were the most anxiety-inducing part of my undergraduate degree. Where was I meant to learn to squat to urinate – Central Park?! But on that field trip – my first field trip as a staff member – the promised toilets were out of commission. There was no shelter, no place to sneak away for privacy. I managed to hold it until we returned home, but one student with a medical condition wet themself – unable to wait and too ashamed or too afraid to ask for help. The next day another student pulled me, the only woman on staff, aside to ask whether we could stop at the store to buy tampons. And 1000 miles away, the PhD demonstrators on a concurrent field trip texted to report that someone had nearly fainted from dehydration. My new colleagues – almost all men – were frustrated. Some were dismissive, some concerned, but most of all they seemed just plain clueless. I consulted with the other women on staff and several postgraduate demonstrators and sat down to draft the best practices white paper ‘Toilets Stops in the Field’. It proved a bit of a ‘lightbulb’ moment for many in our school and, judging from the outpouring of feedback and gratitude, well beyond.
To me, ‘Toilet Stops in the Field’ evidenced the power of representation. Having a handful of women on staff meant there were now people with the positionality to both recognise and rectify problems and to support one another through uncomfortable advocacy which tacitly critiqued senior colleagues. But writing the paper and actualizing the best practices also opened up space for wider discussions in our school, including with students, about the many and complex ways our current field trips were not designed with other marginalised identities in mind. And so we drafted in external expertise to compensate for many axes of over-representation on our staff. Drawing on a broad spectrum of lived experiences, we wrote again – this time a much more intersectional best practices checklist “Safety and Belonging in the Field”.
On behalf of my co-authors, we hope these white papers help make your next field trip a positive, generative, collective, and valuable experience for all.