A Statement from WSoA Students

We write to you as the coordinators of student-led organizations, in the wake of the largest collective of demonstrations regarding civil unrest around state-sanctioned violence against our Black communities. We appreciate the open dialogues and intentions for change, but fear the loss of momentum in this movement. Under the nimble leadership of Dean Wahlroos-Ritter, the WSoA administration has initiated the hard work of redefining what a diverse, inclusive architectural education should uphold. We now ask that you include our concerns in your decision making, communicate your plans with greater transparency, and provide tangible support. We ask you to extend the same great patience, dedication, and attention given to crafting a COVID-impact for the Fall semester, as you will to addressing the racial pandemic that has been plaguing all of us and the world of architecture for too long.

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ADMINISTRATION LEVEL  ACTIONS

Request for financial assistance

Allocating funds to student-led organizations and initiatives in parallel to the cause alongside the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students, to assist in expenses relating 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, Women’s History Month, Juneteenth, Armenian Genocide, etc.)

Increase scholarship funding opportunities for more Black and underrepresented students, including NOMAS Scholarships

Social initiatives facilitating larger discussions and partnerships

Collaborating with student organizations in the selection of guest speakers and development of large-scale events, in particular, to address issues of representation, racial and economic burdens within architecture academia and professional practice.

Establishing a mentorship program with middle schools, high schools, and community colleges in an effort to tackle barriers to minority entry into architecture 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.

Amendments to curriculum and faculty hiring

Hiring a full-time diversity officer with DEI training (i.e. not to be a part-time role taken by an existing faculty member) who can serve as a dedicated liaison between administration and the student body, hiring a part-time student assistant diversity officer, providing mandatory sensitivity training for all staff and faculty, and establishing a clear cut channel for reporting and addressing incidents of discrimination.

Diversifying Faculty and curriculum for students. Often there are only a few opportunities for Black and underrepresented students to engage with a professor or course material of their community arrives too late in their careers. We would like to see diversity and representation extend to the following:

  1. Guest lecturers and reviews, by inviting upperclassmen to sit on foundational studio reviews, providing a stipend, and partnering with NOMA.
  2. Greater variety of theory and history electives in the non-western canon.
  3. Revision and emphasis to how all architecture history/theory courses are taught to address the whitewashing and the filtering of the architectural canon through a Eurocentric lens (revisions should be directed by the Diversity Officer and or Diversity Committee).
  4. Reassessing how student awards and promotions are distributed, interrogating the potential for unconscious bias underlying the selection pattern of historical winners.

Safety is considered a top priority to all students and faculty. The impact of COVID-19 on Black and underrepresented groups must be recognized, and safety must be addressed equally between adjunct and full-time faculty in terms of protections, interactions, and expectations.

Communication

Transparency of planning from WSoA to student leaders and organization advisors.

Urgency of response to crises on all proper distribution of media platforms.

Publicize monthly progress (e.g. Monday news roundups, monthly newsletters, emails)

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STUDENT LEVEL ACTIONS

Forging more extensive meaningful collaboration with the administration and student body by acting on the following:

Serving as a resource for administration to provide any needed support, such as representation at open houses, critiques, gathering data and communicating student concerns across the school.

Partnering with other school groups (e.g. NOMAS, AIAS, CLEA, IIDA) as well as those across the larger University community, for increased intersectional engagement regarding issues across these varying fields via guest speaker events, lecture series, social mixers, and interdisciplinary exhibitions.

Reaching out to the graduate School of Architecture student body by including their concerns and perspectives as they relate to academia.

University support in providing data and designing infographic collateral regarding the current state of diversity within WSoA student body, faculty, and the state of architectural academia and practice.

Fostering relationships with the Los Angeles / San Diego communities

Creating workshops and other design education-based programs for Los Angeles’ and San Diego’s young Black and underrepresented communities. (e.g. SoCal NOMA Summer Camp)

Connecting with WSoA 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 the architectural career of academia and professional practice and what might be done to combat it.

Utilizing the wider NOMAS community and other minority organizations to build professional relationships with Black and underrepresented architects outside the WSoA.

 

In June 2020, NOMAS of WU sent out an anonymous survey to students, alumni, and faculty. The purpose of this survey was to gain valuable insight of voices from the WSoA community regarding the response and actions for the Black Lives Matter movement, COVID-19 crisis, and previous Town Hall unresolved items. Further collaboration with alumni, educators, and students through national and regional Town Halls, provided the backbone of this Statement. Feedback was then synthesized into categories allotting responsibility to Administration or Students. This document emphasizes those voices of the WU community into actionable items to be held accountable by the WSoA. The student organization collective seeks to continue to work with SoA administration and faculty to prioritize and enact these measures.