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Historic Preservation Anti-Racism Task Force

This is the 2021-2022 Summary Report of the Anti-Racism Task Force. For an overview of the Historic Preservation Anti-Racism Task Force, please visit this page.

Issue Date: November 2021

This report summarizes the work accomplished by the Historic Preservation (HP) Program’s Anti-Racism Task Force and provides the outline of a concrete plan for implementing actions within the Historic Preservation Program. It is our hope that the recommendations contained in this report will help the Program to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion and that it will support the Program’s efforts to address systemic racism in our profession.

Throughout the fall of 2020, a Working Group composed of all interested members of the HP faculty, staff, students, and alumni met periodically to discuss how the HP program should confront systemic racism in historic preservation and address shortcomings of diversity and equity throughout the Program’s curriculum. In December of 2020, the work of the Working Group concluded with the creation of a set of recommended Action Items for the HP program, with a focus on those items that could be implemented by the Program independently. The Program’s Director, Jorge Otero-Pailos, then appointed an Anti-Racism Task Force, charged with developing implementation specifics for both immediate and long-term, sustainable actions. The Task Force included representation from all facets of the Program: first year, second year, and PhD students; full time faculty; adjunct faculty; HP staff; and alumni. It also included members from outside the Program to provide insight on our work, including representatives from the Black Student Alliance and the Columbia GSAPP Black Faculty. The members of the Task Force and the facet of the Program they represented were:

Erica Avrami, HP full time faculty
Meredith Brull, HP Program Manager
Charlette Caldwell, senior adviser to Black Student Alliance
Carolina Castellanos, HP adjunct faculty
Katie Foster, second year HP student
Anna Gasha, PhD student in the HP Program
Claudia Kavenagh, Board member of Preservation Alumni
Justin Moore, GSAPP Black Faculty
Jorge Otero-Pailos, HP Program Director
Lindsay Papke, first year HP student

The Task Force met monthly from January through May of 2021. Four subgroups were created to address a wide range of issues. In addition to full Task Force meetings, the subgroups met separately during the spring of 2021 to work on various action items. The subgroups and their members were:

Course (non-studio) content and learning methods: focused on DEI integration, the syllabus guidelines, and course-by-course workshops Carolina Castellanos (lead), Erica Avrami, Katie Foster, Jorge Otero-Pailos

Studio content, learning methods, and community-engaged teaching/research processes: focused on community engagement skills, critical heritage practice, and studio collaborator guidelines Erica Avrami (lead), Justin Moore, Lindsay Papke, Jorge Otero-Pailos

Past and Future Research/Co-Created Knowledge: focused on critical heritage practice and evaluation through student-based research (theses/dissertations), faculty-driven research (with grant support for student research positions), invited speakers, and symposia/exchanges Anna Gasha (lead), Charlette Caldwell, Lindsay Papke, Jorge Otero-Pailos

Communication and network building: focused on ensuring clear and transparent communication within and beyond the HP Program, and on ways to build relationships within our field Claudia Kavenagh (lead), Charlette Caldwell, Katie Foster, Meredith Brull

Accomplishments of the Task Force

  • Created a Statement of Purpose in order to publicly express the intentions and goals of the HP Program, and posted the Statement on the Program’s web page.
  • Created a Self-Guide to assist faculty as they critically review and revise their syllabi to better recognize BIPOC concerns and contributions, as well as those of women and other marginalized populations in the academy and in the preservation field writ large.
  • Held workshops with students to discuss changes to course curricula to ensure that curricula address the need to confront systemic racism in preservation.
  • Held a workshop with full time and adjunct faculty to address the need for each faculty member to review and, as relevant, revise their course curricula to ensure equity, inclusion, and diversity in course content.
  • Created a summer reading program for incoming students that will introduce students to DEI issues in preservation.
  • Created a framework and laid the groundwork for the creation of an Equity Analysis of HP Studios, which will aid in making more informed decisions about Studio course content, so that they become more intentional about using community engaged teaching, with an emphasis on reciprocity.
  • Developed guidelines for selecting speakers for the HP public lecture series in order to leverage the events as a platform for scholars/professionals of color and/or institutionally underrepresented narratives.
  • Developed a speaker series for HP alumni to share relevant project work with students.
  • Full time faculty further considered revisions to the overall Program’s curricula, to be implemented for the Fall 2021 semester.

Recommended One-Time Actions

  • Hold workshops with students to discuss changes to course syllabi to ensure that students understand how the SLAB curriculum confronts systemic racism in preservation.
  • Perform an Equity Analysis of previous Studios and related courses, to have a record of the Program’s previous work and to use the findings of the analysis as a means to inform future Studios through the lens of establishing reciprocal working relationships with community groups.
  • Add questions to student course evaluations in Courseworks and/or create a supplemental course evaluation that will be used for all courses, to monitor the success in revising curricula and teaching methods.
  • Publish an anthology issue of Future Anterior that compiles historical Black perspectives on placemaking and heritage as a way to inform anti-racist efforts in contemporary preservation pedagogy and practice.

Recommended Regularly Scheduled Activities

Prior to the start of each semester

  • Each faculty member teaching in that semester will receive the Self-Guide, with a reminder to use it when creating a course’s curriculum.
  • Each faculty member teaching in that semester will receive an email encouraging them to sign up for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion classes offered by the University, with information about these classes and other offerings from the Center for Teaching and Learning.
  • Each faculty member will be encouraged to participate as instructors in the GSAPP Common Circle course.
  • Speakers for the HP Program public lecture series and lunchtime lectures will be selected with a conscious effort toward representing work by people of color or that shed light on institutionally underrepresented narratives.
  • The Program will engage GSAPP Historic Preservation Alumni through a call for alumni who work on DEI projects to be considered as speakers for the HP lecture series.

At the end of each semester

  • The Director’s regular course feedback topics for discussion with faculty will include anti-racist pedagogy.
  • The Director will coordinate with the Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Annual Activities

  • Suggest summer reading for incoming students (including the Anti-Racist HP Resource List).
  • Hold annual workshops for HP faculty, adjunct faculty, and students to review progress, including sharing experiences and lessons learned from previous workshops for curricula revision and evaluation of course revisions. Assess performance, failures, and successes.
  • Establish a biennial doctoral research colloquium that will promote emerging scholarly work. This event would also seek to provide a platform for doctoral candidates who identify with institutionally underrepresented communities in preservation.
  • Actively build connections with HBCUs to help strengthen the pipeline of BIPOC students in preservation.