Statements on Anti-Racism and Diversity

Architecture and design excellence grow from critical engagement with diverse people and contexts. Life at the School of Architecture is based on our belief that the foundations of architectural education are distinctive, immersive, and analytical experiences in a range of physical, cultural, social, political, and economic milieus.

 

Statement on Anti-Racism

Racism is a force of oppression that uses economic, political, and social systems, amongst others, to actively limit or destroy opportunities for people of color.  The compelling issues and national conversation raised by the Black Lives Matter movement caused the Illinois School of Architecture to renew its commitment to addressing racism and dismantling white supremacy within our institution. Institutionalized racism continues to affect the ways in which students, faculty, and staff participate in our academic community.  This impacts those who are Black, Asian, Latinx, Multiracial, Indigenous, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and International students, faculty, staff and guests.  In the School of Architecture, racism colonizes our minds in numerous ways resulting in microaggressions in the classrooms, studio and reviews, microaggressions in the workplace, how knowledge is generated, course content, lecture series choices, and more.

The School acknowledges that while its students, faculty, and staff may be at different stages in unlearning racism, it is imperative that the School’s community actively work towards addressing racism within its halls. In the summer of 2020, students, faculty and staff started the Justice and Equity Committee as a way to process the injustices taking place at the time. Our students then presented the faculty with a list of Goals and Demands related to racial justice in the School of Architecture. Over the 2020-2021 academic year, the institution met several of these, including:

  • More Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) speakers in the lecture series
  • More BIPOC representation at the Career Fair
  • Connection to non-western architecture schools
  • Participation in National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) Conference
  • Including visiting faculty of color

This work is not done. We are committed to the following in the coming year:

  • Include designers and landscape architects from the entire African Diaspora (Afro Latinx, Afro Asian, Afro American, African, etc.) in architectural history, theory and studios
  • Study abroad programs (Barcelona-level alternatives) in non-western countries, including Black neighborhoods/cities in Latin America, Caribbean, and Africa
  • Sponsor cultural competency workshops/seminars for faculty to dispel stereotypes unlearn microaggressions; learn about race relations in America, and how explicit and implicit racism affects students of every minority background
  • Update this statement and commitment each year on the holiday celebrating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. (3rd Monday in January)

This document is a collaborative result of several meetings of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee of the School of Architecture, which includes:

  • La Tanya Cobb, Associate Director of Student Services
  • Kathryn Anthony, Professor
  • Carl Lewis, Assistant Professor
  • Christina Bollo, Assistant Professor
  • Nolan Theodore, Academic Advisor
  • Jasmine “Coco” House, M.Arch student
  • Isabelle Ndoumy-Kouakou, BSAS student

Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Respect

In support of this belief, the school’s policies and programs promote diversity and social equity, taking an active stance on issues of justice and the built environment. We are committed to a departmental culture in which all students, staff, and faculty members—regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, national origin, gender, age, physical ability, or sexual orientation—are able to learn, teach, and work to their fullest potential. Through its inclusive culture, the Illinois School of Architecture seeks to increase diversity within the profession.

Through teaching, research, public engagement activities, and ongoing support for diverse groups of students and alumni, the School demonstrates its commitment to design excellence based in diversity and social equity.

Teaching

In studio classes, lectures, and seminars, students are introduced to the traditions and architectural needs of diverse populations. Design studios emphasize the specific needs and expectations of a broad range of specific user groups. Community engaged studios allow students to interact directly with residents of economically distressed communities and to grapple with the complex problems of society. The school’s required courses incorporate diverse social and cultural perspectives, while elective courses focus on the needs of people in the environment, social justice and equity among minority populations, gender and race in contemporary architecture and in the profession. Graduate students are encouraged to take elective courses across campus, further exploring the needs of special populations.

Our international exchange opportunities and global studios enable students to gain a richer perspective on non-US cultures, and promote global conversations about architecture and its place in various societies around the world.

Research

Faculty members are actively involved in research emphasizing issues of diversity, community building, and non-western architectural traditions. They conduct work both within and outside the United States that breaks new ground in architectural scholarship focused on the relationship between people and the physical, social, political, and economic dimensions of the environment. We invite you to explore faculty research agendas at our website’s faculty page and to contact faculty whose interests in diversity and social equity align with yours.

Public Engagement

Through community engaged coursework, Action Research Illinois (ARI), and the Building Research Council (BRC), the school’s students and faculty actively work with challenged communities, reinvigorate aging housing stock, and assist traditionally underserved populations. ARI addresses immediate and long-term needs of distressed neighborhoods in East Central Illinois communities by engaging volunteers to apply both labor and creativity. Currently the BRC, in partnership with State of Illinois Energy Office, is engaged in an applied research demonstration addressing energy innovation for small and medium-sized Public Housing Authorities (PHA) though a grant from HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs.

Organizations and Support Programs

  • The Illinois School of Architecture supports a strong local chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS), which is open to students from all backgrounds
  • The Women in Architecture (WIA) organization provides opportunities for students to offer mutual support and meet with successful female academics and professionals in the design fields
  • Global Architecture Brigades (GAB) designs and constructs socially responsible and sustainable architecture solutions in developing nations
  • The University of Illinois’ Office of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA) assists the school and other campus programs in sustaining a welcoming and supportive learning environment for undergraduate minority students
  • The Graduate College Educational Equity Programs Office provides advice to graduate students interested in our graduate programs and also participates in outreach activities

The Graduate College operates two summer programs, the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) and the Summer Pre-Doctoral Institute (SPI) as well as McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. These programs invite minority students to campus and introduce them to university life, and to career opportunities in higher education.

Day-to-Day Culture and Environment

The School of Architecture fosters an academic culture that emphasizes: respect, sharing, engagement, innovation, communication, and academic excellence among all members of our community.

The Illinois School of Architecture should be a safe, comfortable, and efficient place to work. To achieve this standard, we maintain the following principles:

Respect for Equipment

Our equipment will work and be up-to-date, to the best of the school’s ability. Students, faculty, and other users should be taught how to properly use resources/equipment and must report damage as it happens.

Care

The building environment should provide a clean and healthy working venue. Students are responsible for maintaining their own environment. Emphasis shall be placed on environmental sustainability both inside and outside of the studio. Students are encouraged to explore and communicate architectural expressions in an academic environment, including the school’s facilities, atrium and studio spaces, in a manner that does not pose any threat, disrespect or ulterior motive, which may undermine the integrity of school community.

Personal Safety/Property

The school will strive to provide security for all members of the school community. The community will respect the property of others, including personal property within shared spaces. In order to maintain property and personal safety, members of the school community are requested to secure buildings and studios. Students are encouraged to travel in groups when they leave campus buildings after dark.

Relationships

The Illinois School of Architecture fosters a community based upon mutual respect, which promotes interaction and productivity among students, faculty, and staff. This community should be engaged, inquisitive, and supportive.  We must practice tolerance of varied ideas, collegially discuss different perspectives and respect diverse perspectives and persons.

Students should be informed of, and where possible involved in, the administrative decision-making processes that may affect quality of academic experiences. These include but are not limited to curriculum changes, new school policies, leadership changes and new faculty hires.

Implementation and Maintenance

This policy will be distributed to all members of the Illinois School of Architecture community each year through its placement on the school website, posting in visible locations in all school facilities and by physical distribution and discussion at appropriate all-school venues. Faculty should reference this policy as appropriate in course syllabi and discussions.

This policy is a living document to be changed and updated as needed. Periodically, a task force should be created that ensures representation from all student levels and faculty.

This policy was originated in 2010 by a student-faculty task force and revised in 2014.

 

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