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The End of an Unprecedented Fall Semester

December 21, 2020

Dear GSAPP Community,

As our incredibly challenging, rich, and complicated Fall semester comes to an end, I write to share my warmest thanks to all of you – faculty, students, and staff – for your extraordinary contributions to the School across all its dimensions. Teaching and learning, of course, but also: figuring out how we can all be together in new ways, engaging in difficult and exciting conversations, finding new modes of exchange and adaptability and, perhaps most importantly, coming together to imagine new possibilities for architecture and the built environment to shape a more equitable, sustainable, and creative world. This Fall, constant re-invention became a daily practice, and I have the greatest admiration for everyone’s resilient energy, willful optimism, and seemingly unshakable commitment to your work and to each other. Thank you for all this and for inspiring a brighter future.

I would like to especially acknowledge our international students, who in many cases have overcome the additional challenges of joining studios, classes, events, and social meetings from a great distance across different time zones. Some of you were able to meet at the Columbia Global Centers or make use of affiliated WeWork spaces, while others joined from across geographies. As architects, scholars, and practitioners of the built environment, we are always confronted with distance, however close the site of our inquiry is, in space or time. You have all struggled with more types of distance than any of us could have imagined, and there is so much we can learn and be inspired from in terms of the courage of your focus, dedication, and willingness to engage and contribute during this time.

In following up on my recent messages concerning the School’s ongoing work on Anti-Racism, I am glad to now share an executive summary report and recommendations from the Diversity Dimensions Consulting team. This is posted for your reference on the School’s Anti-Racism Action Plan webpage; the faculty-led Anti-Racism Task Force has similarly been working on a set of recommendations that it will share with the School community later today. We will have opportunities to discuss how to best implement these recommendations together in the coming months, and I look forward to continuing our serious collective engagement in this work throughout the Spring semester and beyond. 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 next semester, and we are looking forward to discussing both books and their implications.

I also want to take this opportunity to reiterate COVID-related preparations for the Spring Semester: following the University directive, GSAPP will be fully remote for the first two weeks of the semester (January 11-24), after which hybrid in-person classes will commence Monday, January 25th. This will allow faculty and students the time to quarantine, as well as complete a new COVID-19 gateway testing. While scheduling your test can be done in advance, actual testing will begin on January 4, 2021, and you can continue to find latest updates on a safe return to campus on the University’s COVID-19 Resource Guide.

For the Spring semester, and thanks to much of your feedback throughout the Fall, we are developing extra initiatives to support our hybrid teaching model as well as to create new opportunities for social interactions and community-building. This includes ideas such as online social hours, mentor-led virtual tours of campus and city destinations, student-led initiatives including Peer Pairings, and a dedicated GSAPP Tent for in-person events and activities to the degree permitted by safety guidelines. Additional information for the Spring semester regarding the Academic Calendar and Course Schedule is now posted on the GSAPP website.

I look forward to sharing more updates at the start of the new semester. Until then, I send you all of my best wishes for restful and celebratory holidays and a good start to the New Year!

Sincerely, and in gratitude for the community that we have all continued to build together,

Amale Andraos