to Letters
TO: YSoA Faculty and Administration
FROM: YSoA Alumni
CC: YSoA Current Student Body
DATE: 6/11/2020 10:20pm EST
SUBJECT: Open Letter to the YSoA in Support of BLM

Faculty & Administration
Yale School of Architecture
Yale University
180 York Street
New Haven, CT 06511

To the Yale School of Architecture Faculty and Administration: 

Four hundred years of systemic violence and racism against Black communities have been drawn into sharp relief in the past two weeks centering around the Black Lives Matter movement. This time of global action and urgency is an opportunity to lead change, and yet the Yale School of Architecture’s public silence has been deafening. 

We, the Alumni, want to know: what is the YSoA doing to actively support a more diverse academic community to fight racism in all its forms moving forward? How will the YSoA dismantle institutional racism and rebuild itself to promote an inclusive vision of architectural education and amplify BIPOC voices that remain profoundly underrepresented?

The YSoA must commit to engage its community and allocate its resources to affect systemic change with humility, transparency, and specificity. The following demands represent the collective voice of more than one hundred YSoA Alumni who met on Sunday, June 7th, and the many alumni who have co-signed, to reckon with our past and envision a progressive future for the school:

Here is what you can do to support current students and affect change at the YSoA:
  • Publicly acknowledge the pain, wrongdoings and injustices that the School has inflicted on past BIPOC students and its New Haven community. The work the School commits to doing, or is currently undertaking, is not enough to erase the scars of the past. Acknowledging the grievances of current and former members of our community is a crucial step to reconciling our past and our future.

  • Support and amplify BIPOC. BIPOC communities are vastly underrepresented at the YSoA. No individual should be isolated in the burden of representing an entire race, nor should any student complete their education without identifiable role models on faculty. To break a culture of white male supremacy, the school must commit to amplifying the voices of a diverse community. The school must headline BIPOC practitioners at school-sponsored events and actively recruit and support BIPOC students and faculty.

  • Enable equitable access to education. The barriers to enter and succeed in an architectural career are immense — tuition, debt, labor, time, and resources. Many students work to care for themselves and their families. The school must recognize these challenges by not only fostering a supportive community but by committing to lower the cost of an architectural education.

  • Build a team to support Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity. The YSoA must establish an empowered EID team to be a voice and advocate for any marginalized group or individual, and meaningfully shift the culture of the school. This team must include representatives from faculty, administration, and students. All faculty should be required to complete diversity and unconscious bias training and be held accountable.

  • Decolonize the pedagogy and curriculum. Anti-Black biases must be dismantled. The Global South and non-Western cultures must be included explicitly in the curriculum across all courses and without exception. Diversity should not simply be optional in the education of an architect, but central to its core vision.

  • Engage the local community beyond the Building Project. Alerts from YPD Chief Ronnell Higgins continue to perpetuate the narrow “town and gown” lens through which students experience New Haven. Systemic failures in the city, like access to public transportation and fair and equal housing, are architectural and urban problems that deserve the School’s attention. The YSoA must recruit, empower, and mentor local BIPOC youth to be active agents in shaping the built environment.

  • Engage alumni beyond their pocketbooks. Many alumni do not have the means to give financial donations which seem to be the principal form of alumni engagement. Donation options must not be limited to eponymous funds of white men but to initiatives that promote an inclusive vision of the discipline. Requiring monetary contributions as a prerequisite to having a voice on how funding is spent only further cements a system of inequality. Beyond donations, BIPOC and all alumni can contribute meaningfully to the school through other avenues like teaching, mentorship, juries, and EID initiatives.

We acknowledge that we as alumni have benefitted from an institution and a profession that has been complicit with a culture of racism, exclusivity, and inequality, but we are committed to the YSoA’s future and its ambition for a plurality of voices. We urge you to address the issues outlined above with haste and transparency. We ask to be a part of meaningful and positive changes to the school’s statement of purpose, curriculum, culture, and community.

Sincerely, 

(Signatures at the bottom of the document)

(Individual comments from the forum linked here)