The Dean's Letter

June 18, 2020

Anti-racist Action: Next Steps

Dear AAP Community,

The past few weeks have been at once harrowing and hopeful. From messages and acts of solidarity, to a national reckoning with the legacy of slavery and anti-Black racism in our country, well-established institutions and disciplines are coming to terms with the systemic racism and exclusionary practices that leave our cities, communities, and our classrooms in need of critical change. As we approach Juneteenth, a celebration of the end of slavery, we stand affirmed in our declaration that black lives matter and in our commitment to work toward restorative justice. We also recognize that the first step toward that goal is acknowledging that the systems in place have failed our Black community. Acknowledging this, we must work together for systemic change.

I am committing AAP, as a college and as a community, to the long, hard work of justice and change. We will take concrete actions to build an anti-racist community that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. We are committed to leading and advancing anti-racism in our disciplines and transforming scholarship, research, engagement, and practice from within. This begins with acknowledging the failures of both the past and present, and understanding what we need to do now to move us from where we are today to where we need to be tomorrow.  

In recent conversations with our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, we have discussed and are taking specific steps to address racial disparity in our college and our disciplines. I would like to thank the AAP Council on Diversity + Inclusion, the Alumni Committee on Diversity, black alumni and former MOAAP members, the NOMAS student leadership, and the passionate individual students and faculty from across the college for sharing their pain, frustrations, and experiences as well as their wisdom, suggestions, and recommendations.

In response to calls for change, locally and around the world, I want to share with you a first draft of AAP's Collective Action Plan. Below is a list of proposed first steps for how we will make specific and concrete change and how we plan to sustain those changes:

Assessment Report of AAP
I have charged the AAP Council on Diversity + Inclusion with assessing the diversity and equity issues at AAP that affect students, staff, and faculty. From admissions recruitment and retention, to search processes, climate, and achievement, this AAP Diversity and Equity Report will analyze quantitative metrics as well as gather a deeper and more nuanced understanding of qualitative experiences shared by students, staff, and faculty. The assessment and recommendations of the report will be transparent (the good, the bad, and the ugly), and made public to guide the college in our collective creation of a comprehensive and strategic action plan for the immediate and long-term future.

Supporting Students — Diversity Officer
Alumni and students have emphasized the critical role of a diversity and equity officer and an Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at AAP. The college will continue to work with students and alumni to develop a permanent position to recruit, retain, and support Black and other historically underrepresented students. 

Removing Barriers
The Alumni Committee on Diversity has raised support for several full scholarships over the past five years to recruit talent and remove barriers for historically underrepresented minorities who wish to participate in AAP's Summer Architecture Program. The committee has encouraged AAP to expand summer programs and scholarships to further expand access and opportunity to Black and historically underrepresented students, first-generation students, and marginalized communities.

Faculty Diversity
AAP is committed to supporting, expanding, and advancing faculty diversity and anti-racist search and hiring processes. New search protocols were put in place in Fall 2019 and the role of senior associate dean was created to oversee searches in the college to ensure broader representation in our recruitment of top national and international talent at AAP. New hires (soon to be publicly announced) reflect the immense value our search committees have placed on diversity across our disciplines. We will continue to examine our effectiveness with recruiting and retaining faculty from all backgrounds who have deep expertise and share our commitment to diversity and excellence in the college. 

Rethinking What We Teach
As leaders in our disciplines, we are responsible for the contexts surrounding and embedded in our practices. What we learn as tools for analysis helps us to understand long and complex histories behind structural racism in the built environment that we can identify and address today. While much of this history has been omitted or understudied to date, our History of Architecture and Urban Development graduate program leads scholarship in counternarratives that challenge colonialist and design discourse influenced by western bias. This work is a promising foundation for our commitment to supporting the development of new syllabi, courses, seminars, and research that strengthen our anti-racist principles and actions with knowledge — or, as one student eloquently put this in an email to me, "…the history of American urban planning in the 20th and 21st centuries has been largely an exploitative and discriminatory one…In order for an excellent design school such as AAP to adequately become a center for anti-racism and intersectional justice, we need to have faculty that have been working actively to transform our society and undo the legacy of racism within our landscape.”

Building an Anti-Racist Community
AAP is committed to building an anti-racist community. Important conversations about race, bias, and equity in our community’s lived experience have begun in groups across the college and campus. AAP will take steps to bring these conversations together in our first Town Hall on race and racism at AAP. I have charged the Council on Diversity + Inclusion to reimagine and rethink education, support, recruitment, and redress— and importantly, how we hold ourselves accountable for implementation and action. 

The history of racism and discrimination is long and its chapters are interwoven in the fabric of our institutions. We must acknowledge those past and present wrongs and work actively to disentangle them from our institutions and from our daily lives. I know that the black community has long endured injustices and violence. I am committed to work with students, faculty, staff, and alumni to begin to right those wrongs. Some of these steps can be taken immediately. Others will be implemented in the near future and over a longer timeframe. As always, I am deeply grateful for our community's willingness to critically reflect, engage, discuss and act. Change is possible and long overdue.



J. Meejin Yoon
Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of Architecture, Art, and Planning


Contact Office of the Dean

129 Sibley Dome
Phone: (607) 255-9110
Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

Previous Letters from the Dean

"Knowledge at its best"

January 22, 2024

Sharing Gratitude

December 14, 2023

Hope for the Possible

August 21, 2023
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