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GSAPP Anti-Racism Action Plan

This page is dedicated to GSAPP’s ongoing work of addressing anti-Black racism and racial injustice. The Action Plan outlines specific steps being taken to address the priorities voiced by the GSAPP community. Process and Resources describes how this work is being developed, and includes links to related communications, resources, and further readings.
Action Plan

GSAPP is committed to addressing systemic racism and anti-Black racism across all its dimensions. Dedicating ourselves as a community to engaging in active anti-racist practices will enable new foundations from which to think through, engage with, and imagine the future of the built environment both more equitably and with more joy.

As a school of architecture and the built environment, it is imperative that we acknowledge the role our disciplines and practices have played in constructing and upholding racial inequities in the built environment. GSAPP is engaging every aspect of the School with a collective commitment to changing these approaches and through shared efforts is intensifying its focus in the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion as a community and across our disciplines and practices.

GSAPP’s strength lies in the diversity of its programs and positions as well as in the breadth of perspectives, backgrounds, and personal experiences that our students and faculty bring to the sustained and critical probing of our disciplines and practices, as a way to understand both what they are and what they can become. To better sustain and serve this breadth of approaches, we are committed to fostering environments that bring our community together across programs and forums to become an actively anti-racist institution.

At the start of the Fall 2020 semester, GSAPP hired Diversity Dimensions Consulting (DDC) to partner with the School in outlining ways to become an anti-racist institution. In parallel, the faculty-led GSAPP Anti-Racism Task Force was formed to engage in conversations with the GSAPP community and to work toward an anti-racist GSAPP through re-imagining pedagogical approaches, curricula transformation, and programming. Dean Andraos’s Fall letter to the School was also the result of ongoing conversations with students, faculty, and staff across the School.

The following Action Plan is the synthesis of those efforts and recommendations—Dean Andraos’s letter (December 2, 2020), DDC’s Executive Summary of Findings and Recommendations (December 21, 2020), and the Anti-Racism Task Force recommendations (December 21, 2020)—as a means to coordinate and render visible the ongoing work and progress across all of the School’s dimensions.

This living document will be updated as work evolves; last update May 25, 2021.

A central aspect of the work throughout the Fall 2020 semester was the development of a more thorough understanding of the varied experiences at the School. As a result, we identified concrete actions that we hoped would foster a more equitable and inclusive culture at the School. While “School Culture” encompasses all aspects of the School, the aim of these actions is to specifically address the day-to-day experience of being part of GSAPP and the different factors that influence it—from shared readings, courses, and workshops to increased administrative support of students and a framework to sustain the School’s anti-racist efforts moving forward.
Action Status Expected Completion
a. Shared school-wide readings and ongoing discussion groups to build relationships and community across programs and platforms Launched Spring 2021 Ongoing
b. Required cross-discipline orientation with a focus on timely, anti-racist and related themes relevant to the built environment In Progress Fall 2021
c. Regular anti-racism training and faculty workshops Launched Spring 2021 Ongoing
d. Creation of a new administrative position dedicated to expanding student support and advancing the School’s work in anti-racism and diversity, equity, and inclusion Established Summer 2021 Ongoing
e. Continued implementation of Anti-Racism Task Force recommendations and goals through the formation of a School committee In Progress Fall 2021
GSAPP is committed to reforming its admissions and recruitment processes to increase applications from underrepresented student groups, and infuse greater equity into the admissions review and selection process.
Action Status Expected Completion
a. Targeted outreach to institutions that award the largest number of bachelor’s degrees in architecture and allied fields to underrepresented groups, with a focus on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), and universities in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern region of the U.S In Progress
b. Specific communications to better utilize videos and visual content on GSAPP’s social media platforms as part of targeted outreach efforts In Progress
c. Further support and explore collaborative and partnership efforts by adjunct faculty that support and attract BIPOC students to the School Launched Fall 2020 Ongoing
d. Implicit Bias training and resources to better support GSAPP’s holistic application review process Launched Spring 2021 Ongoing
GSAPP offers financial aid to support the graduate education of the most highly qualified applicants from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities. The School has actively sought to increase its support for the recruitment of historically underrepresented groups by establishing several scholarship funds for this purpose, and is committed to addressing students’ financial hardships.
Action Status Expected Completion
a. GSAPP has committed $1 million to establish the Norma Merrick Sklarek Scholars Fund to support the recruitment of historically underrepresented groups at GSAPP through full-tuition scholarships Launched Fall 2020 Ongoing
b. Additional non-tuition financial aid was made available through the COVID-19 Emergency Fund to address unexpected financial hardships, and the School is committed to extending this support through the GSAPP Emergency Fund in the coming academic year Launched Summer 2020 Ongoing
c. In order to further reduce financial barriers, increase equity and access to education, and yield the highest caliber students, the School has made Financial Aid a Fundraising Campaign priority and is encouraging donations towards the endowment with a 1:1 match In Progress

The School is committing financial support to its faculty by establishing direct awards that will advance the field through research in anti-racist pedagogy, scholarship, and practice.

In addition to the Financial Aid commitments noted above, the School continues to support students by sponsoring attendance at conferences dedicated to equity and inclusion in the built environment as well as allocating resources to student organizations and events.

Action Status Expected Completion
a. The Dean’s Unlearning Whiteness Research Award to advance the transformation of the field to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive. GSAPP is making a three-year commitment to provide up to three $10,000 grants each academic year for faculty-led initiatives, research, and new forms of practice including independent publications, exhibitions, and other projects to initiate and sustain efforts towards the project of unlearning Whiteness. Launched Summer 2021 Ongoing
b. The GSAPP Anti-Racism Curriculum Development Award will encourage GSAPP faculty to embrace anti-racism in their teaching by developing inclusive forms of knowledge, practice, and pedagogy and support anti-racist work, research and/or curriculum development. GSAPP is making a three-year commitment to provide up to three $10,000 grants each academic year for the development of new School-wide courses, or the revision of existing courses of this type, that address questions and material related to race, equity, and society in the built environment. Launched Summer 2021 Ongoing
c. Continued support of students through BIPOC and DEI-focused conference attendance and student group resources allocations Launched Fall 2017 Ongoing

GSAPP is committed to increasing diversity and representation for faculty and staff across the School through changes to the recruiting and hiring processes. The Dean and Program Directors commit to hiring more BIPOC faculty, research assistants, and teaching assistants, as well as to hiring and supporting more faculty dedicated to supporting under-represented voices and traditions from around the world.

GSAPP is committed to increasing the visibility of and to centering the work and contributions of its Black faculty. The School also commits to celebrating its administrative staff, highlighting their roles, contributions, and stories and sharing them with the GSAPP community at large.

Action Status Expected Completion
a. Increase diversity in faculty, staff, and research assistants through changes to the recruiting and hiring processes In Progress
b. Increase the visibility of GSAPP faculty by centering the work and contributions of the School’s Black faculty In Progress
c. Increase the visibility of GSAPP’s administrative staff by celebrating and sharing their stories intentionally In Progress
The GSAPP Anti-Racism Task Force was formed to engage with the question of pedagogy at the School, guided by the effort to establish an overall framework for anti-racist teaching, scholarship, and practice. In addition to the actions identified here, the Anti-Racism Task Force recommendations are integrated in the School Culture and Financial Resources sections noted above.
Action Status Expected Completion
a. Implement expansion of joint-studio pilots teaching to ensure integrated antiracist pedagogy In Progress
b. To address architecture studio culture issues, revise lottery system for more equity in studio assignments In Progress
c. Examine how more of the program-specific required courses / requirements can be fulfilled by interdisciplinary classes In Progress
d. Cross-cultural training for faculty, to recognize and better support the diversity of the GSAPP student body and its pedagogical needs In Progress
e. Sustaining and aligning the transformation of programs’ curricula through Program Director meetings Launched Fall 2020 Ongoing

GSAPP recognizes that its current curricular engagements with the Columbia Campus’ neighboring communities is not enough, and commits to identifying new meaningful community partnerships.

Dedicated Incubator Prizes will support initiatives from GSAPP alumni, while the Community Fellows Program proposed by the GSAPP Anti-Racism Task Force will invite local leaders to engage with the GSAPP community in a semester- or year-long part-time residency to further institutionalize the School’s commitment to anti-racist pedagogy and practice.

Action Status Expected Completion
a. GSAPP Incubator Prizes dedicated to incentivizing alumni to critically engage and exchange with BIPOC communities, scholars, and makers including the Harlem community In Progress Summer 2021 / Summer 2022
b. Develop a Community Fellowships Program to help institutionalize the School’s commitment to anti-racist pedagogy and practice and further develop relationships between GSAPP and NY-based communities of color Launched Summer 2021 Ongoing

The Dean and Program Directors commit to highlighting and amplifying BIPOC voices in the School’s public programming and in classes where guest lecturers are invited, and to continue to seek and support increases in under-represented voices in the disciplines and practices of the built environment.

GSAPP commits to supporting its BIPOC faculty who are also professionals in the field by providing a platform for increased visibility, and supporting and amplifying their careers however possible as a means to transform professional practice beyond the School.

Action Status Expected Completion
a. Amplify BIPOC voices in the School’s public programming and dedicate ongoing public programming to a dialogue about Whiteness and its impact on our disciplines and practices Launched Fall 2020 Ongoing
b. Make the work of anti-racism and unlearning Whiteness visible through the website as well as supporting it through its internal and public communications Launched Summer 2020 Ongoing
c. Maintain an ongoing GSAPP anti-racism reading list Launched Fall 2020 Ongoing
d. Collaborate with the Avery Library to develop a resource representing event speakers and GSAPP faculty In Progress Spring 2021 / Ongoing
e. Support BIPOC faculty who are also professionals in the field through increased visibility of their practice In Progress
Together with the Alumni Board, GSAPP is committed to unifying the alumni community through inclusive programming, including organized conversations, mentorship, and networking groups that foster a lifelong relationship with Columbia. GSAPP Career Services will highlight firms led and owned by BIPOC professionals in its programming and the School’s career fairs will be more inclusive to involve practices with different areas of expertise including social justice and community engagement. GSAPP Career Services will also seek suggestions from students at the beginning of each semester, including all student groups.
Action Status Expected Completion
a. The Alumni Conversations Series connects current students with alumni professionals in a small group format Launched Summer 2020 Ongoing
b. Student-Alumni Mentorship Program matching students with mentors who meet individual criteria Launched Spring 2021 Ongoing
c. Support and promote a strong professional network of Black alumni representing different generations In Progress
d. Increase presence and professional exposure to BIPOC-owned firms through GSAPP Career Services In Progress Spring 2021
In addition to ongoing partnerships with organizations including NOMA and Project Destined, GSAPP will continue to seek new partnerships that support BIPOC students, alumni, and professionals across the disciplines of the built environment, as well as support the transformation of the field towards anti-racist approaches to its practices. In particular, GSAPP commits to seeking opportunities for remote collaborations with HBCUs and HSIs, as part of its admissions efforts as well as in support of increased partnerships with institutions that principally serve BIPOC students.
Action Status Expected Completion
a. Continued partnership and support of NOMA Launched Fall 2017 Ongoing
b. MSRED program partnership with Project Destined Launched 2018 Ongoing
c. Collaborations with HBCUs and HSIs Launched Fall 2020 Ongoing
d. Outreach to High Schools in New York City, providing early exposure to architecture and related disciplines as an effective way to support the long-term transformation of the professions In Progress
GSAPP student and faculty profiles are publicly available at https://opir.columbia.edu/abstract. In addition, Columbia’s International Student and Scholars Office (ISSO) shares statistics and reports on the School’s international population in the Open Doors Report published by the Institute for international Education (IIE) every November. Beyond the University website, GSAPP is currently working on making the available data visible and easily accessible on its website.
Action Status Expected Completion
a. Publish School data on the GSAPP website In Progress Spring 2021

GSAPP Policies & Resources is now updated to clarify where to find University policies related to discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, and gender-based misconduct and where to report prohibited conduct. The University’s confidential resources include Sexual Violence Response (SVR); Counseling Services; Medical Services; the Office of the University Chaplain; and the Ombuds Office, which can be reached at ombuds@columbia.edu or through an online appointment system.

As always, please reach out directly to Associate Dean of Students Danielle Smoller at studentaffairs@arch.columbia.edu to discuss any concerns you may have.

Action Status Expected Completion
a. Update Policies and Resources on the GSAPP website Launched Fall 2020
b. Share confidential reporting resources Launched Fall 2020
We reiterate our gratitude to everyone who has given their time, energy, constructive feedback, and ideas to this project. We are confident in the School’s ability to move forward in a way that begins to focus to our actions and commitments as we transform into an actively anti-racist institution.