November 5, 2018
TO: SHIFT Board of Directors
FROM: Emerging Leaders Program Participants, Former SHIFT Staff, and SHIFT Attendees
SUBJECT: Request for Resignation
Dear SHIFT Board of Directors,
We are writing to request the resignation of Christian Beckwith, Executive Director, from SHIFT and the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP).
To serve in the role of Executive Director, one should exemplify the values of the organization and communities that they serve. The Emerging Leaders Program states that “By convening a diverse group of early career leaders from across the core SHIFT audiences, ELP provides an equitable cross-section of perspective and insight.” Additionally, “cultural relevancy” is clearly held up as one of SHIFT’s four pillars, alongside “outdoor recreation,” “conservation,” and “land management”. Mr. Beckwith has repeatedly failed to embody these goals and has caused significant harm to the participants of these programs as a result.
It is clear that Mr. Beckwith is underprepared and ill-equipped to lead an organization that seeks to center equity work in the outdoors. At approximately 8:30 A.M. on Monday, October 15, 2018, Mr. Beckwith confirmed to 6 ELP participants of color that he had not completed any diversity, equity, and/or inclusion (DEI) training to prepare him for the role of being SHIFT’s Executive Director. Mr. Beckwith’s interaction with these participants was so toxic that one of the women of color began to hyperventilate and had a panic attack moments after Mr. Beckwith left the table.
Unfortunately, this was not the only trauma response experienced at SHIFT and ELP as a result of the racially hostile environment that Mr. Beckwith was instrumental in creating. Another ELP participant of color was not able to participate in scheduled programming because they were having thoughts of self-harm and suicide. This too, was a result of the racial violence they experienced under Mr. Beckwith’s leadership. Additionally, there were several other participants of color who chose to opt out and retreat to their rooms for several hours during ELP, because they felt it was such an unsafe and toxic environment.
Additionally, many ELP participants of color felt that they were inequitably and disproportionately tasked with the responsibility and burden of educating other ELP participants, SHIFT staff, and SHIFT conference attendees on topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The emotional labor that was expected of people of color participating in these programs was extractive and felt physically and emotionally harmful.
SHIFT began this pattern of toxicity for the 2018 cohort even before participants arrived. The application process did not explicitly ask for the applicant’s experience and understanding of DEI. Upon arrival, it was apparent to several of us that many individuals from the cohort were not familiar with basic DEI principles. This created an environment, where combined with poor leadership, the burden was placed exclusively on participants of color to not only justify their existence and work but also to educate others on it and endure microaggressions, othering and open hostility in the process.
Furthermore, because of Mr. Beckwith’s lack of communication and preparation, many ELP participants were tasked with roles at the SHIFT conference that they had not previously consented to. Many ELP participants experienced deep anxiety when they discovered that they had responsibilities that they had not been made aware of until the first day of the SHIFT conference.
Mr. Beckwith’s poor boundaries were also apparent when several ELP participants reported that they were actively avoiding him to avoid feeling uncomfortable. Throughout the weeks leading up to ELP, Mr. Beckwith would repeatedly call ELP participants without any notice. He continued to target ELP participants of color during the program to ask them for DEI consultations, which required emotional labor from individuals who were already experiencing differing levels of trauma responses.
To make matters worse, there is documented feedback from both previous ELP participants and former SHIFT staff regarding Mr. Beckwith’s poor leadership and mishandling of these matters. Please find additional documents attached from a previous ELP participant and a former SHIFT staff member. ELP is in its third year and Mr. Beckwith has failed repeatedly to make the necessary changes to meet the goals of the program, despite generous feedback from both previous and current participants.
Ultimately, Mr. Beckwith’s leadership has caused irreparable harm that continues to haunt many ELP and SHIFT participants long after the programs have concluded. We ask that you act in solidarity with the people of color who have been negatively impacted by their interactions with Mr. Beckwith and their involvement in both SHIFT and the Emerging Leaders Program.
It is for these reasons that we call for the immediate resignation of Mr. Beckwith from his positions at SHIFT and the Emerging Leaders Program.
TWELVE 2018 Emerging Leader Program Participants
ONE 2017 Emerging Leader Program Participants
TWO Former SHIFT Employees
TWO 2017 SHIFT attendees