The Dean's Letter

June 1, 2020

"The Urgency of Now"

Dear AAP Students, Faculty, and Staff—

I want to take a moment to acknowledge the tireless commitment and tremendous effort you have all made to reach the end of this particular academic year. Alone and together, remote and connected—our community showed an incredible capacity for resilience in a time of uncertainty. Thank you, everyone, for the care and support you so willingly showed for each other, our community, and your work. While I am so deeply grateful and inspired by what we accomplished together this semester, the tragic loss of life to racial violence demands deep reflection on hope in the face of uncertainty—and, where we stand on equity, justice, and progress in America. 

George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis is a painful reminder that the roots of racism remain deeply embedded in our society and systems. Police brutality and mass incarceration, the disproportionate number of deaths due to COVID-19 among communities of color, and unequal access to services and opportunities are among the smoldering conditions that ignite and perpetuate what Coretta Scott King has called the "cycle of anger, fear, and violence." The American history we know and share is haunted by racism, and it comes in many forms—from slavery to Reconstruction-era discrimination; lynching, terror, and white supremacist fear tactics, residual and new forms of segregation, implicit and explicit bias in our systems, and the ongoing perpetration of hate-fueled brutality. Over the past few days, we have seen both peaceful protests call for justice, and cities burn with a message that the cycle of anger, fear, and violence is still with us. The legacy of racial violence and discrimination in all its forms must be called out and come to an end. Here and now.

Many of us are still reeling—perhaps searching for our own words and reflecting on what we can do. Asking how we might break the cycle as we process unsettling waves of tension, divisiveness, and urgency. Earlier this year, as we returned to our classrooms and studios, hopeful for a new decade, I shared a reflection on both how far we have come, something that even today should be recognized, and how far we still have yet to go. And I shared that that, according to Martin Luther King Jr., "human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable." The senseless death of Mr. Floyd and so many others confronts us, yet again, with what King called "the fierce urgency of now." And it is clear that there is so much more work to be done — that the project of progress, equity, and justice is gravely incomplete.

At AAP, we teach that problems of such difficulty and magnitude require us to grapple with the social and physical, the political and territorial, and the cultural. And, that these problems are shared within the context of our time and have the potential to connect us if we act and address them together—across, and respectful of difference. Only one week ago, I shared activist Ai-jen Poo's thoughts about 'our time,' and 'stakes'—and already, the stakes have again been raised. Rather than 'seeking' a more just or fairer world — we need to work together to make a just and fair world (without any qualifiers).

This year alone has shown us that the urgency is now. What we need next are real conversations about race and racism in our spaces and systems, about public health and access, and about fundamental shifts in thought that are carried over into a series of tangible, meaningful actions that shape tomorrow today.

While this is a particularly difficult time to make certain plans, we are committed to informed action both at AAP and Cornell. Almost constantly, we hear the term 'new normal' applied to our changed (and changing) world. COVID-19 created this 'new normal' that was thrust upon us. The 'new normal' we actively need to construct is the one that transforms civic dialogue, public discourse, and civil disobedience into productive actions and systemic change for all people. AAP is in the process of planning a series of virtually facilitated round tables for discussing thoughts and actions related to race, repair, and urban politics; urbanization and equity; and mutual aid and design. I invite you to share your thoughts on these topics and to join for these dialogues.

Longtime activist Angela Davis said, "You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time." We commit to this knowing that our college and our disciplines are about acts of transformation—and I know we will continue to come together as a community, stand firm and tireless in our refusal to accept hate and violence, and work to create the world we need in the image of the equality we all strive to share. 



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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