February 17, 2021
Dear GSAPP Community,
As the Spring semester is well underway, I hope you are all staying as well as possible. I continue to be inspired by the resilience of our community and by the meaningful discussions and powerful work undertaken across all of our programs and spaces.
I write today to share an update on the School’s ongoing work to address racism and racial injustice, and to outline where I believe we stand at this mid-way point in the semester. I am encouraged by the progress we have made, while also remaining aware of how sustained these efforts will need to be for changes to become both lasting and truly transformative. I continue to appreciate our community’s dedication to undoing decades of harmful practices, whether in our disciplines or our institutions, and I remain deeply grateful for the many ideas, thoughts, and aspirations our students, faculty, and staff are contributing so that we may continue to grow deeply and visibly, together.
Throughout the past few months, the School has continued to work to advance the goals outlined in the Anti-Racism Action Plan. I would like to again acknowledge the work of the faculty-led Anti-Racism Task Force and thank its members for the thoughtful recommendations shared last December. These recommendations are at the heart of the School’s efforts and are now integrated within the Anti-Racism Action Plan, which has been reworked to incorporate the recommendations from the Anti-Racism Task Force, the findings from Diversity Dimensions Consulting, as well as my fall letter and response. The intent is for the School’s mobilization across all its dimensions to be visible and to continue to be shared with all of you.
As we have now moved into an implementation phase, I wanted to highlight for you some of the work that has already begun or is under way, with more visible on the Action Plan’s website:
On the occasion of Black History Month, we are making a concerted effort to revisit the School’s own history and make visible our early Black alumni and their professional achievements. Featured in our weekly newsletters and social media, these profiles include Beverly L. Greene, Jeh Johnson, Hilyard Robinson, Norma Merrick Sklarek, and John Louis Wilson Jr., amongst others. They can be found on our website here.
The Anti-Racism Task Force held their first workshop at the start of this month to discuss curricular ideas and initiatives related to anti-racism and to engage faculty in sharing work-in-progress across curricula and pedagogy. The second workshop in this series is scheduled for mid-March.
The Anti-Racism Task Force’s recommendations to develop a required cross-discipline orientation with a focus on timely, anti-racist and related themes relevant to the built environment for all incoming students, as well as to launch a new Community Fellows Program, are currently under development, and we hope to be able to announce concrete plans by early summer.
Anti-bias trainings were hosted for application readers in the admissions process across the programs, and the School’s initial focus on attracting more applications from under-represented groups and BIPOC students in particular has already started to bear fruit for this admission cycle.
Our Spring public programming extends the Fall semester’s commitment to exploring the intersections of racial equity, social justice, and climate change across the built environment, and we will continue this in the next academic year.
We have extended the additional Financial Aid provided through the COVID-19 Emergency Fund this year and will offer this form of support to alleviate urgent and unexpected financial needs by students going forward through the GSAPP Emergency Fund.
The upcoming Career Fair is being organized in a more inclusive manner to involve greater participation by firms that are led or owned by BIPOC professionals, addressing student requests to include more practices with different areas of expertise including social justice and community engagement.
I also want to take this opportunity to extend a warm invitation to all of you again to the first School-wide collective reading which will be led by Professor Lance Freeman, who will present Chapter 3 of his recently published A Haven and a Hell: The Ghetto in Black America as well as Chapter 2 from The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein. I want to thank faculty members Weiping Wu, Malo Huston, and Kate Ascher who will join as discussants. I invite everyone to read these chapters and join the discussion on March 31 from 1–2:30pm. You can access these books through the Avery Library.
Thank you again for your commitment to and participation in this collective anti-racist effort. While I am glad to be sharing some concrete progress, much work remains ahead in integrating ideas with practice, and we will continue to carefully and critically review where we stand, adjusting our actions as needed. I have personally so appreciated the many discussions and engagements we have had across our community, and I look forward to continuing to hear from all of you as we keep moving ahead together.