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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. These action items were developed throughout the Fall 2020 semester and reflect the recommendations articulated by the Dean’s Response Framework, the faculty-led Anti-Racism Task Force, and the findings of Diversity Dimensions Consulting.

Process and Resources describes how this work is being developed, and includes links to resources including the original letters received by the School, documentation of related programming, and further readings.

The Anti-Racism Task Force concluded the first phase of its work in the Spring 2021 semester and reported on the principal initiatives in a letter to the GSAPP Community on April 23, 2021. Please also see the Dean’s Letters on GSAPP’s Commitment to Anti-Racism following Anti-Asian Violence of March 18, 2021; Statement on the Verdict of the Derek Chauvin Trial of April 20, 2021; and Update on GSAPP’s Progress on the Anti-Racism Action Plan of October 12, 2021.

Process & Resources
GSAPP recognizes the urgent need for our School to do more to confront racial inequity, acknowledge anti-Black racism, and take an active role in addressing systemic racism and biases. We are thankful for the meaningful statements and insight shared by faculty, students, and alumni expressed through their letters—particularly Unlearning Whiteness by faculty members Amina Blacksher, Lance Freeman, Mario Gooden, Jerome Haferd, Malo Hutson, Gordon Kipping, Justin Garrett Moore, and Mabel O. Wilson; On the Futility of Listening by the Black Student Alliance at GSAPP; and messages from the GSAPP Alumni Group for Action, GSAPP Urban Planning Action Group, Historic Preservation Anti-Racism Action Group, LatinGSAPP, and QSAPP—as well as contributions at town halls, workshops, and meetings held throughout the summer and fall.

In order to be the inclusive, vibrant community we strive to be, we have a lot of work to do to evolve our culture. This work is unfolding at different levels:

  • Institutional. Confronting head-on the racism that permeates the field of architecture and the policies and structures of GSAPP and the issues of representation, exclusion, and harm that result.
  • Interactional. Engaging in brave conversations, calling in and calling out racist behaviors and practices, and holding one another accountable.
  • Individual. Creating space and support to engage in substantive inner work as leaders, faculty, staff, and students to deepen our awareness and unlearn racist beliefs and assumptions. Creating space and support to heal from the harm done and grow together.

The work of dismantling racism and creating greater equity takes place on several fronts and will continue to develop. Several teams began concrete work in the summer and throughout the Fall 2020 semester.

GSAPP Leadership and Faculty — Program Directors & Anti-Racism Task Force

The GSAPP faculty is committed to an engaged curriculum that does not perpetuate bias and specifically addresses anti-Black racism. In July 2020, the School formed an Anti-Racism Faculty Task Force to attempt to answer the question “What does an anti-racist GSAPP look like?” beginning with the explicit repudiation of anti-Black racism, and of racism in all its forms, and offer suggestions for constructive reform. The Task Force will propose key elements of a shared engagement with this question, including tools for the ongoing critical evaluation of the School’s pedagogy and associated practices and a sustainable basis for having difficult and empowering discussions in the future.

The Task Force is co-chaired by Kate Ascher and Malo Hutson and includes Lucia Allais, Lance Freeman, Andrés Jaque, Reinhold Martin, and Weiping Wu. The Task Force hopes to share its initial ideas and recommendations by the end of the year, and to develop them more fully with interested faculty, staff, and students during the Spring 2021 semester.

DDC brings more than 20 years of experience in diversity, equity, and inclusion work with expertise in faculty development, student access, success, and efforts to recruit and retain a more diverse graduate professional workforce. You can read more about the team working with GSAPP here.

What are they focusing on?

  • Recruitment and Admissions. Through an analysis of existing data, interviews, and focus groups, DDC is taking a critical look at existing practices, policies, communications, and outcomes related to recruitment and admissions with the aim of supporting us in developing a racially equitable admissions process for the 2021 application cycle and ultimately increasing the diversity of our faculty, staff, and student body. The first deliverable is a series of recommendations related to the admissions process that will be provided to leadership in late September.
  • Shared Antiracism Vision. DDC has begun meeting with faculty, staff, and students to support us in shaping our vision of what an antiracist GSAPP looks like. What is it that we as GSAPP declare to be our mission and values? How do we wish to show up to live that mission and values each day? What does meaningful learning, behavior change, policy change, culture change look like in six months, one year, five years?

What is the outcome?

DDC prepared a Culture Assessment and Admissions Findings Executive Summary and Recommendations.


School-wide Reading: Friday, June 4, 2021, 12:00-1:00pm

  • Among the initial recommendations are for us all across the School to collectively read useful works. We will begin this initiative by recommending Professor Lance Freeman’s recently published A Haven and a Hell: The Ghetto in Black America. Professor Freeman will present Chapter 3 of this book as well as Chapter 2 from The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein. Professors Weiping Wu, Malo Hutson, and Kate Ascher will join as discussants. Everyone in the GSAPP community is invited to read these chapters and engage in the discussion. Visit GSAPP’s internal site for zoom details. Access the A Haven and a Hell ebook on Columbia University’s CLIO database and The Color of Law ebook on Google Books.

Black History Month

  • GSAPP Black History Month Alumni Profiles
    In honor of Black History Month, Columbia GSAPP is highlighting the achievements and contributions of Black alumni including Beverly L. Greene, Jeh Johnson, Hilyard Robinson, Norma Merrick Sklarek, and John Louis Wilson Jr., amongst others.

Columbia University websites

  • Columbia Celebrates Black History and Culture
    Columbia University has a wealth of online resources detailing the breadth of the African American experience. Learn more about some of the great Columbians who have played key roles in our local and national history, including GSAPP alumni:

  • Columbia University and Slavery
    The Columbia University and Slavery project explores a previously little-known aspect of the university’s history – its connections with slavery and with antislavery movements from the founding of King’s College to the end of the Civil War. The website was created by faculty, students, and staff to publicly present information about Columbia’s historical connections to the institution of slavery.

Selected Readings and Resources Recommended by GSAPP Faculty

Columbia Books on Architecture and the City Recommendations

  • Preservation and Social Inclusion
    James Marston Fitch Assistant Professor Erica Avrami edited a timely volume of essays by a broad range of academics, historians, and practitioners who document historic preservation’s progress toward inclusivity and explore further steps to be taken.
  • Paths to Prison: On the Architectures of Carcerality
    Edited by Isabelle Kirkham-Lewitt, the book aims to expand the ways the built environment’s relationship to and participation in the carceral state is understood in architecture. The collected essays implicate architecture in the more longstanding and pervasive legacies of racialized coercion in the United States—and follow the premise that to understand how the prison enacts its violence in the present one must shift the epistemological frame elsewhere: to places, discourses, and narratives assumed to be outside of the sphere of incarceration.
  • Nights of the Dispossessed
    Riots are extraordinary events that have been recurring with increasing frequency and that occupy a highly controversial space in the political imagination. Nights of the Dispossessed brings together artistic works, political texts, critical urban analyses, and research projects from across the world in an endeavor to “sense,” chronicle, and think through recent riots and uprisings—evoking a phenomenology of the multitude and surplus population. Edited by Natasha Ginwala, Gal Kirn, and Niloufar Tajeri.
  • Avery Review: Issue 48
    As a journal dedicated to decentering the objects, histories, and authors of architecture, the Avery Review is committed to publishing essays that propose radical changes to the current order of things, and to amplifying the work of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who offer a way forward in this re-building. In Issue 48, Cruz Garcia and Nathalie Frankowski listen to the post-colonial loudreaders of Puerto Rico; Louise Hickman takes stock of the devices and affective labor involved in flying while disabled; Evan Kleekamp browses the “impaired commodities” of Emily Barker’s art; Jen Rose Smith traces Native resistance to seasonal salmon fisheries in coastal Alaska in the summer of COVID-19; and Francisco Quiñones looks behind Luis Barragán’s walls to consider the role of domestic labor in shaping Mexican modernism.

GSAPP is dedicating a majority of its public programming throughout the 2020-21 academic year to focus on issues of race and anti-Black racism, representation, and the intersections of climate change, racial equity, and social justice across the built environment. The full schedule of lectures and events is published on the Calendar page, and Spring 2021 semester programming will be published at the end of December. Most Fall 2020 semester events are documented and can now be accessed on the Media Archive page. Selected highlights include:

The Fall 2020 lecture series is fully archived and featured Stephen Burks; Bryan C. Lee, Jr.; Yasmeen Lari; Lola Ben-Alon; David Barragán of Al Borde; J. Phillip Thompson; Ziad Jamaleddine and Makram el Kadi of L.E.FT; Majora Carter; Tatiana Bilbao; and Toshiko Mori.

The School has assembled a collection of resources and past programming that explore the direct relationship between the built environment—its disciplines, practices, and pedagogies—and the inequities that it constructs on the new Equity page.

  • Black Lives Podcast
    Produced by the Institute for Research in African American Studies and the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University, this new podcast series is hosted by Professors Samuel K. Roberts, Jr. and Mabel O. Wilson to discuss the impacts of COVID19 on Black life in New York City and beyond. Episode 1 features Malo Hutson, Associate Professor and Director of the Urban Community and Health Equity Lab, in a conversation on how the built environment impacts health in Black communities, especially in New York City.
  • Resources for Promoting Racial Justice and Eliminating Anti-Black Violence
    A listing of books, films, and podcasts, gathered by members of the Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging at Columbia in partnership with Columbia Libraries, along with a list of organizations advocating for justice across the country and a Columbia conversation about race.
  • University Life Forum: Black Lives Matter, Protest and Creating Change
    This virtual Columbia University community gathering, which featured experts from across the University, focused on addressing racial injustice in our society and the ways in which we can individually and collectively achieve transformative change.