12/14/20 Dean Statement: Social + Racial Equity

 

USC Architecture is a forward-looking premier design school that guides and inspires the next generation of students to be Citizen Architects, Designers and Scholars who move fluidly between theory and practice. Yet, as we celebrate 100 years of innovation at USC Architecture, our community faces enormous challenges in a global pandemic, the growing impacts of planetary warming, unprecedented economic displacement, and transformational reckonings on race and the twin legacies of colonialism and American slavery. 


Sparked by the tragic loss of life of several Black Americans in 2020 at the hands of law enforcement - including George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County Georgia - our nation mourned, affirmed that Black Lives Matter, and lamented the diminished confidence in the nation’s law enforcement and justice systems to work equitably for all citizens. In the Dean’s Statement on Protest Demonstrations (June 2, 2020), I outlined a challenge - “that all of us think about specific ways in the coming academic year that we can—together—develop syllabi, courses, seminars, and research projects on how to address structural racism in the built environment.” Later in the summer, we convened a Student-Focused Forum on Structural Racism and Social Equity; and a Faculty-Staff Focused Forum on Structural Racism and Social Equity - forums which engaged our students, staff and faculty in a frank dialogue about race in America. That work has continued, and the sense of urgency and purpose is real. 


In 2017, the School began implementing its 5-year Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), appointed its first Diversity Liaison (reporting to the dean), and has since created the Diversity, Inclusion and Recruitment Committee. Our Diversity Liaison, DEI Plan and DEI&R Committee form the infrastructure of our work across the School’s academic programs and business/service units. This statement on Social + Racial Equity addresses the protected classes of Black, Latinx and Indigenous Persons. Our DEI Plan comprehensively addresses diversity, equity and inclusion across all groups and identities including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability status, national status, citizenship status, etc. The Dean’s Statement on Social + Racial Equity and the School’s DEI Plan are complementary documents that comprise our holistic yet targeted approach to making transformative advances in our practices. 


I. SOCIAL + RACIAL EQUITY


USC Architecture Social + Racial Equity Statement addresses the specific structural and systemic impediments that create inequities for Black Americans and by extension Latinx and Indigenous Persons who have also been marginalized and discriminated against on the basis of their race, ethnicity or national/citizenship status, where they live, and the historical biases associated with their status as descendants of indigenous ancestry, slaves or immigrants. By definition, the American democratic experiment is centered on intersectionality - that each individual has multiple aspects of their identity. Yet, since slavery, Black Americans have occupied a unique status as the only domestic population which were involuntarily enslaved, subjugated to non-human status, and - after their declaration of freedom from enslavement - subjugated to Jim Crow laws and legally permissible discrimination affirmed by the government and backed at least temporarily by interpretations of the Constitution.


Our School today must reckon with the legacies of colonialism and slavery which continue to exclude the full participation of Black Americans and others based on the historical, systematic and structural impediments that stand in the way of equal participation in society for these and other groups. Our profession and discipline - benefitting from decades of enslaved labor to build the structures of the nation - have ignored the crises of inclusion that have left us complacent with just 2% of our nation’s licensed architects being Black American, and even fewer Latinx and Indigenous. We have a responsibility to act, in part because the lack of diverse voices within our architecture firms, urban design and planning firms, landscape architecture firms, design firms, real estate development entities, and architecture schools, silences viewpoints and perspectives that allow us to see in ways that we could never imagine on our own.


Inclusion, advocacy, and action - these are the three main components of our social and racial equity initiatives: prioritize the diversification of our community, act courageously to advance towards the twin goals of social and racial equity simultaneously, and advocate to effectively repair the damage of decades of discrimination and inequit.


SOCIAL + RACIAL EQUITY: INCLUSION / ACTION / ADVOCACY/

1) Transformational Inclusion of Black, Latinx and Indigenous Persons - as students, faculty, staff and external partners and collaborators - complemented by substantive advocacy and mentoring programs;


2) Transformational Action to advance existing academic programs, research/creative work, public events and community outreach that more fully engage the histories, theories and voices associated Black, Latinx and Indigenous Persons.


3) Advocacy for Reconstruction: School / University / Discipline / Profession Utilize the School’s thought leadership to lead conversations, articulate position statements, work collaboratively to make change both within and outside of the university - resulting in repairing structural and systemic impediments to social, racial and ethnic equality and justice. 


1. TRANSFORMATIONAL INCLUSION OF BLACK, LATINX AND INDIGENOUS PERSONS

Transformational inclusion of Black, Latinx and Indigenous Persons - as students, faculty, staff and external partners and collaborators - complemented by substantive mentoring programs


Prioritizing Inclusion of Black Americans; Latinx and Indigenous Persons

According to national data, the percentage of Black American licensed architects is currently below 3% and the percentage of licensed Latinx architects is currently below 1.5%. To attain transformational inclusion of Black, Latinx and Indigenous Persons - creating a sustainable critical mass of students from each group at the undergraduate and graduate level and across all of our academic programs - we must prioritize the inclusion of these groups for our School. To attain a diverse cohort amongst our tenure-track, full-time non tenure-track, and part-time faculty - we must prioritize the inclusion of these groups for our School. Our School’s senior leadership and staff, alumni and external support groups - must also reflect our nation’s diversity.


a) STUDENT RECRUITMENT & MENTORSHIP

Since 2017, the School has yielded Black American students at a rate at or above national rates at our peer institutions in the B.Arch program. In addition, the School enrolls substantial numbers of undergraduate students who are first generation college-goers and Pell Grant recipients. Since 2017, the School has yielded Latinx students at a rate that exceeds national rates at our peer institutions in the B.Arch program. Since 2017, the School has yielded Indigenous students at a rate similar to its peer institutions in the B.Arch program. To achieve better results, the School has begun developing and implementing the following initiatives starting in Fall 2020:


Student Recruitment Programs

• Recruitment Plan, with emphasis on outreach to Black, Latinx and Indigenous students

• Admissions Criteria Review

• Student Materials Fund & Student Emergency Fund

• Endowment for Global Studies Program

• Pre-College Summer Explorations High School Program (Global)

• Pre-College A-Lab High School Architecture Program (LA-based)


Student Mentorship Programs

• Student Organization Funding, including funding for NOMAS

• Student Organization Matching Grants

• Undergraduate Mentorship Program for Black, Latinx and Indigenous Students


b) FACULTY, STAFF, EXTERNAL PARTNERS AND COLLABORATORS

Since 2017, the School has increased the overall number of Black American faculty; and has not increased Latinx or Indigenous faculty during this period.


The School’s senior leadership and staff is comprised of about 22 persons, the majority of whom are persons of color. 


The School’s external boards - the Board of Councilors and the Architectural Guild Executive Board - have been transformed over the past 3 years to be more diverse. The School will continue to attract new members for each board over the coming years to achieve even more inclusion of Black, Latinx, Indigenous Persons.


To achieve better results, the School has the School has begun developing and implementing the following initiatives starting in Fall 2020:


Faculty Composition

• Recruitment of Black, Latinx and Indigenous faculty (across all faculty classes)

• Recruitment of Black, Latinx and Indigenous Visiting / Distinguished Faculty

• Annual Anti-Bias Training for Faculty

• Annual Evaluation of Academic Leadership related to work on racial, ethnic diversity

• Post-Graduate Fellowships, with emphasis on racial / ethnic diversity


Staff Composition

• Recruitment of Black, Latinx, Indigenous staff

• Annual Anti-Bias Training for Staff

• Annual Evaluation of Staff Leadership related to work on racial, ethnic diversity


External Partners and Collaborators Composition

• Recruitment of Black, Latinx and Indigenous Board of Councilors (BOC) Members

• Recruitment of Black, Latinx and Indigenous Architectural Guild Members

• BOC Professional Development, Diversity and Academic Program Committee

• Inclusion of Black, Latinx and Indigenous recipients of all Annual Guild Awards


2. TRANSFORMATIONAL ACTION TO ADVANCE ACADEMIC AND RESEARCH INITIATIVES

Transformational action to advance existing academic programs, research/creative work, public events and community outreach that more fully engage the histories, theories and voices associated Black, Latinx and Indigenous Persons.


Academic program pedagogies and curriculum are the core of our academic and intellectual enterprise. Research and creative work - ideated and executed by faculty and students - is the lifeblood of a research-1 university. Our collective action must be prioritized to correct for exclusions of Black, Latinx and Indigenous voices from the canons of our syllabi, design precedents, lecturers, final review critics, etc. The work of reconstructing our discipline - though careful research, curation and open dialogue - will produce tangible results in more engaged students, more contemporary scholarship and research, and more sophisticated design thought. In order to realize the full potential and full participation of Black, Latinx and Indigenous Persons in our community, we must also advocate for their ascension into leadership positions and platforms that affirm their own agency even as the number of persons with whom they identify will likely not be in the majority. This requires steadfast discipline as well as communal advocacy in recognizing inequity and correcting for it.


To achieve better results, the School has the School has begun developing and implementing the following initiatives starting in Fall 2020:


a) USC SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE INITIATIVES AND ACTIONS

Academic Programs

• Academic program directors and coordinators and all faculty are responsible for addressing their courses and program content.

• Each program identifies exclusions of Black, Latinx, Indigenous work

• Each program identifies work for inclusion from Black, Latinx, Indigenous Persons

• Each program identifies diverse guest lecturers, mid-semester and final jury reviewers

• Each program identifies specific curricular actions in the following areas:

  • Architecture, Landscape Architecture Design Studios
  • History and Theory Courses
  • Technology Courses
  • Elective Courses


• New areas of potential focus in academic programs:

  • Student work, faculty work, courses on U.S. racial and ethnic histories
  • Student work, faculty work, courses on U.S. racialized residential redlining
  • Student work, faculty work, courses on U.S. racial and ethnic communities
  • Student work, faculty work, courses on global colonialism and its impacts


Student Services

• School-wide Anti-bias training for student leaders and all students;

• School-wide culture and professionalism policies in sync with university policies

• Student-Faculty Complaint Template to ensure appropriate actions on student complaints towards faculty that do not fall into the category of Title IX violations;


Public Events / Research-Creative Work Initiatives

USC Architecture Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Lecture

USC Architecture Paul R. Williams Archive Initiative Annual Event(s)

USC Architecture Black History Month Events

Public Events and Lectures that includes diverse persons

Research in Architecture Grants focused on racial/social equity

External Research Grants focused on racial/social equity


3. ADVOCACY FOR RECONSTRUCTION: SCHOOL / UNIVERSITY / DISCIPLINE / PROFESSION

Utilize the School’s thought leadership to lead conversations, articulate position statements, work collaboratively to effectuate change both within and outside of the university - resulting in repairing structural and systemic impediments to social, racial and ethnic equality and justice.


USC Architecture will utilize its academic, research/creative work, and public outreach platforms to advocate for policies that direct resources towards private and public colleges and universities to ensure access for the Black, Latinx and Indigenous students who are grossly underrepresented in our academic institutions and in our architecture and design schools.


USC Architecture will utilize its academic, research/creative work, and public outreach platforms to advocate for policies that direct resources towards towards HBCUs, HSI, NASIs (serving institutions) to ensure access for the Black, Latinx and Indigenous students who are grossly underrepresented in our academic institutions and in our architecture and design schools. These institutions currently educate the majority of Black architects and a substantial portion of underrepresented persons of color in architecture. They are a critical part of the educational ecosystem that provides access and affordability to students who may participate in high school enrichment programs but may not have the financial means to enroll at expensive colleges and universities. These schools also provide USC and peer institutions well-qualified graduate degree candidates.


USC Architecture will utilize its academic, research/creative work, and public outreach platforms to advocate for transformational financial support and investment from individuals, corporations and foundations, to significantly increase the number of Black, Latinx and Indigenous Persons at the nation’s architecture and design schools.


USC Architecture will utilize its academic, research/creative work, and public outreach platforms to advocate for transformational financial support and investment in K-12 public education that includes the arts, STEAM, STEM and other career technical training that exposes the next generation of young people of color to architecture and design fields.


USC Architecture will utilize its academic, research/creative work, and public outreach platforms to engage in activities that examine the depth of contributions from Black, Latinx and Indigenous architects - intellectual, historical, theoretical and project-based contributions.


USC Architecture will utilize its academic, research/creative work, and public outreach platforms to advocate for policies that remove impediments to professional licensure for Black, Latinx, Indigenous and Persons of Color. 


Dean Milton S. F. Curry

Della & Harry MacDonald Dean’s Chair in Architecture

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