June 25, 2020

Shared Actions in Response to Racial Injustice

Message to the SAPL community

Author

SAPL student association and leadership team

Dear SAPL Community,

The student association and leadership team of the School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape (SAPL) condemn systemic racism, bigotry, discrimination, hate and abuse of power. To those who have been, and are being harmed by these actions, we are here to listen, support and effect change.

We express our deepest condolences to the families and communities impacted by the deaths, disappearances and traumas of loved ones resulting from institutionalized abuse of power, and racially motivated violence. We acknowledge and send our sincere regrets to black, Indigenous and people of colour, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community who have suffered abuse; and whose lives and opportunities have been impacted by a historical and ongoing continuum of systematic racism, bigotry, homophobia, and gender violence. We acknowledge privilege and power, and the role it has played in sanctioning, perpetuating and normalizing systemic racism.

We acknowledge the designer's historic and ongoing complicity in upholding social and institutionalized systems of discriminations. These problems are manifested in built environments that stay with us for decades, and even centuries. Design education that is not inclusive of all people, or concerned with the spaces in which they live and work, maintains and continues this complicity.

We must re-focus on how to create change in a meaningful way; to help eradicate racism, poverty, elitism and social inequity. We must raise our level of critical awareness.

As an educational institution we acknowledge that we have a responsibility to impart a deep awareness of how unconscious bias, lack of understanding and fear of repercussion translates into systemic social and environmental injustice. As a school that trains future architects, planners and landscape architects, we are responsible for the education of those who design our future cities. Institutionalized and systemic racism has operated in schools of professional education, and subsequently the professions themselves. This must change.
 
We must, and we do, take shared responsibility for being silent. We must hold ourselves accountable; we must listen, we must re-think our behaviour, we must commit to change; and we must take meaningful action. Words are not and will never be enough.

Our Commitment to Change:

  1. SAPL commits to a review of our curriculum to represent a diverse voice and comprehensive historical analysis and act on recommendations.
  2. SAPL commits to addressing lack of diversity in hiring, student recruitment and support of faculty, staff and students.
  3. SAPL commits to continue utilizing our Design Matters lecture series, block weeks and seminars to engage students, professionals and the community in meaningful conversations on social and climate justice and inclusive practices.
  4. SAPL and the Student Association commit to building forums for engagement with all voices in the school with an eye towards strengthening our community and valuing diversity through panel discussions and formal evaluations of curriculum that represent students, staff, and faculty perspectives.
  5. SAPL and the Student Association commit to listening, discussing, and actively taking a stand against racism, discrimination, abuse of power and privilege, and social inequality. This ongoing commitment requires identifying opportunities for meaningful change and allocating resources to prioritize change.
  6. We commit to maintaining an information resource to our community of students, faculty, and staff. This google spreadsheet provides a list of organizations, working groups, reading lists, and other resources.  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1im7JZ4L5Dt76JqSnC6A6JiJ5s4WL5N-lUz50S7ou7tE/edit#gid=0
  7. We commit to a more inclusive and ongoing process of change.

This open letter is our initial action. We must establish trust where trust has been broken. With this first step, we hope to work with our allied professions to build confidence amongst those who need to be heard.
 
Sincerely,
 
John Brown, SAPL, Dean                               
Dimitri Giannoulis, SAPLSA, President
Jason Johnson, SAPL, Associate Dean Architecture
Catherine Hamel, SAPL,  Associate Dean Architecture (Incoming)
Emily Kaing, SAPL SA, Vice - President Internal
Komal Patel, SAPL SA, Vice - President Academic
Rachel Smigelski, SAPL SA, Vice - President External
Josh Taron, SAPL, Associate Dean Research and Innovation
Mary Ellen Tyler, SAPL, Associate Dean Planning and Landscape Architecture