Dear Deborah, Sunil, Phil, and Tanial,
We hope this finds you and your families safe and in good health during these troubling times.
We write to you as the coordinators of two student-led organizations and as members of the Black student community here at the YSoA, in the wake of the largest collective demonstration of civil unrest around state-sanctioned violence against our Black communities that our generation has ever seen. The urgency of this movement and the overwhelming show of support across so many communities, from all corners of the country and abroad, have been invigorating and validating. But we are all too familiar with the inevitable loss of momentum behind initially energetic protests such as these, along with the commodification and co-opting of movements, the insincere signaling of optical allyship, and vague, ineffective statements to “do better”without a deep and critical reassessment of the structural ills within the systems and institutions we navigate.
Under the nimble leadership of Dean Berke, the YSoA administration has already been doing the hard work of redefining what a diverse and inclusive architectural education should look like. This letter is our proposition that the administration facilitates greater collaboration with the student body as they continue that work, especially with those of us for whom “diversity” isn’t just a PR buzzword or a short-term commitment - it’s who we are. While we cannot claim to speak for the entire graduate student body, we hope you might nonetheless value our voices and embodied experiences as some of the least represented and most sidelined and silenced at YSoA and beyond. Attached is the compiled result of many conversations we had, both individually and as a group, over the past few weeks as we reached out to one another for processing, comfort, validation, and solidarity. These include action items we hope to see from the administration long-term (some of which we suspect are already underway), as well as those we are eager to initiate ourselves.
We believe in the administration’s commitment to progress by way of concrete, meaningful action.We now ask that you include our concerns in your decision-making, communicate your plans with greater transparency, provide tangible support, and extend the same great patience, dedication, and attention given to crafting a COVID-impacted fall semester as you will to addressing the racial pandemic that has been plaguing all of us and the world of architecture for far too long. We await your response to the issues we have outlined, and we look forward to continuing to contribute our voices to future discussions and plans.
Our deepest gratitude,
Lilly Agutu, EID Coordinator
Dominiq Oti, EID Coordinator
Araceli Lopez, NOMAS President
Sarah Kim, NOMAS Vice President
Janet Dong, NOMAS Secretary
Shikha Thakali, NOMAS Treasurer
Ife Adepegba, Student
Brandon Brooks, Student
Ashton Harrell, Student
1. Request for financial assistance
- Allocating funds to student-led organizations and initiatives like EID and NOMAS to assist in expenses related to covering chapter membership fees and school-wide events aimed at promoting diversity and minority interests (e.g., Black History Month, Asian and Pacific Islander American History Month,etc.)
- Increasing scholarship funding or opportunities for Black andLatinx students, the two most historically underrepresented minorities at theYSoA.
2. Socialinitiatives facilitating larger discussions & partnerships
- Collaborating in the selection of guest speakers and the development of larger-scale events, in particular, to address issues of representation and racial and economic barriers within architecture academia and professional practice.
- Establishing an AEC mentorship program with New Haven middle/high schools in an effort to tackle barriers to entry into architectural education and to create sustained, meaningful partnerships with the local community.
- Promoting dedicated US celebrations (i.e., MLK Day, heritage months, etc.). A simple email acknowledgment of such holidays would be immensely appreciated.
3. Amendments to curriculum and faculty
- Hiring a full-time Diversity Officer with EDI training (i.e., not to be a part-time role taken on by an existing faculty member) who can serve as a dedicated liaison between administration and the student body, provide mandatory sensitivity training to all staff and faculty, and establish a clear-cut channel for reporting and addressing incidents of discrimination.
- Diversifying faculty and curriculum for first and second-year students. Often the only or very few opportunities for BIPOC students to engage with a BIPOC professor or course material do not arrive until the third year advanced studio. We would like to see diversity and representation extend to the following:
+ Guest lecturer so First and second-year studio critics (who still skew predominantly white)
+ Greater variety and number of theory and history electives in the non-western canon
+ Revision to how the first-year modern architecture history/theory courses are taught to address the whitewashing of and filtering of architectural history through a Eurocentric lens
- Reassessing how student awards are distributed and interrogating the potential for unconscious biases underlying the selection pattern of historical winners.
1. Forging more extensive, meaningful collaboration with the administration and Yale student body
- Serving as a resource for administration to provide any needed support, such as representation at Open Houses, and gathering and communicating student concerns across the school.
- Partnering with other YSoA student groups (e.g., Outlines, COGS,YSOA East, ISAPD, etc.), as well as those across Yale’s professional schools,for increased intersectional engagement with issues across these varying fields via guest speaker events, lecture series, social mixers, and interdisciplinary exhibitions.
- Reaching out to the undergraduate architecture student body and including their concerns and perspectives as they relate to academia.·
- Designing infographic collateral based on data regarding the current state of “diversity” within the YSoA student body and faculty, and more broadly the state of architectural academia and practice.
2. Fostering relationships with the New Haven community
-Creating workshops and other design education-based projects for New Haven’s young Black community.
3. Connecting with BIPOC YSoA alumni network
- Creating a potential mentorship program to facilitate professional relationships, contacts, and prospective job opportunities.
- Hosting conversations with graduate and current students around issues of racism and discrimination that persist within architectural academia and professional practice and what might be done to combat it.
- Utilizing the wider NOMAS community to build professional relationships with BIPOC architects outside the YSoA network.