The mission of the Yale National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (Yale NOMAS) is to champion diversity within the design profession by promoting the academic excellence, community engagement and professional development of its student members. Our chapter strives to foster greater inclusion, unity and representation of a plurality of voices at the YSoA by creating spaces and opportunities for peer-to-peer and alumni mentorship, increased cultural exposure to and engagement with a more variegated architectural discourse and meaningful partnerships with the New Haven community.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at YSoA
Letter from the Dean
July 27, 2020
To the YSoA community,
Last month I wrote to you after the murder of George Floyd. The complicity of the built environment in reinforcing the racial injustices in our culture requires structural change. Letters alone will not bring that change, we must challenge and dismantle racism through action. This letter and further information on the School’s website follows up with the activities and changes we are undertaking.
We recognize the culpability of architectural education, at Yale and elsewhere: it has embedded exclusionary structures in both access and discourse, a discourse defined by Euro-centric voices that have constructed an exclusionary lineage. This is reinforced by a profession and discipline that has actively excluded BIPOC voices and leadership. It is our responsibility to do the work to dissolve these structures and the racism that underlies them.
Consequently, the school administration is working together with faculty to develop more inclusive teaching methods, more expansive topics, and more diverse sources to draw from in scholarship and design. We are working in partnership with students to move forward with curricular change, as well as increasing our support for their organizations. We have been listening to alumni and learning from their experiences while at the school and in the profession since graduating. And we will be asking the University Administration to increase the financial support they provide for the urgent work we need to do, including the re-opening of our faculty searches and the hiring of an Equity and Diversity Officer. We have engaged Michelle Wonsley-Ford of the Center for Racial Justice in Education as an advisor.
We must ask—and answer—the question: “how can YSoA better embody the equitable built environment goals it claims to strive for?” This work is ongoing, but begins with a commitment toward dismantling the inequities in the school’s culture, curriculum, and in its accessibility to BIPOC students. And in addition to that work we will continue to expand active engagement on issues of race and inequity in the field of architectural education, the profession of architecture, and the shaping of the built environment more broadly.
In this letter I want to specifically describe the commitments the School of Architecture is making to combat racism and serve the cause of racial justice now. This work was coordinated by Associate Dean Sunil Bald, working closely with faculty curricular teams and students from the Yale chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) and Equality in Design (EID) who have energetically coordinated town halls to collect student input and ideas. More details on this can be found under “Curriculum Initiatives,” below. This, and other information, will be regularly updated.
Broadly speaking, in terms of the curriculum and faculty, we will:
- expand the number of courses that explore inequalities of the built environment
- commit to diversity in lecturers, jurors, visiting faculty
- ensure that our academic environment aligns with our values
- expand and strengthen our efforts to hire, promote, and retain a diverse faculty
- continue to hire and support faculty with expertise in urban inequality, environmental injustice, accessibility, non-western and non-colonial architectural history and theory, and community engagement
For our students, we will:
- continue to increase the funds available for financial aid
- continue and expand our efforts to diversify the student body
- actively recruit students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and public universities with diverse student bodies
- grow funding for student groups including NOMAS and EID and increase targeted recruitment efforts by creating a new annual fund donation option dedicated to Diversity | Equity | Inclusion
- do more to foster a more equitable, supportive, and inclusive learning environment with classes and discourse with relevance to people of all backgrounds
For our educational environment, we will:
- recognize the narrow focus of the models, drawings and artifacts in our building and expand and diversify it
- diversify our exhibitions
- address the non-neutral nature of iconography specific to the representation of architecture and architectural education
This list, which is not at all finite, makes it clear that there is much to be done. We will push forward on this effort; it is an enduring and meaningful commitment we must make.
I would like to thank our alumni for prompting us to take a hard look at the School’s role in perpetuating injustice. I would like to thank our students, particularly those from NOMAS and EID, who have shown great leadership in pushing for change. And I would like to thank The Visibility Project for backing up these efforts with important research on the implicit biases we will need to confront.
Deborah Berke, FAIA LEED AP
Dean, Yale School of Architecture
The Visibility Project is an initiative by concerned students and alumni of the Yale School of Architecture to analyze the deeply entrenched prejudices and biases that exist within architectural institutions, beginning with our own. By highlighting inequities in our learning environment, we hope the Visibility Project will help promote introspection, create actionable goals, and facilitate the continuing dialogue between the administration and the students. Our efforts to engage with these inequalities will help us produce an honest reflection of where the school is and where we could be.
Equality in Design is a student led organization that seeks to promote diverse voices in the design community. EID’s role strives to look beyond YSoA, to ensure openness and a will to seek multiple perspectives in design. We seek to provide a platform that values the plurality of ideas and conversations through events, partnerships, talks etc associated or indirectly related to design.
Paprika? is a new platform—a living repository that responds to and holds space for the vital ephemera emerging in and around the rapidly expanding and shifting currents of public health, social justice, and our student community’s experience. It is crucial not to isolate such conversations in a “genre” of discourse. The mission of Paprika? is to foreground and fully integrate these in a constellation of new forms of content generated by and for the community. Paprika? is academic only when necessary and is available to a broad audience on a new dedicated bulletin website and weekly newsletter that serve as a rolling, ad hoc house to convene on discontinuity, precarity and justice.
Our institutions are receiving yet another unearned privilege—the privilege to be shaken. The students of the Masters of Environmental Design program are joining forces with activists, educators and students in and beyond the academy to further an evolving set of conversations about the destructive whiteness of our institutional and professional practices. We want to begin the difficult work of UNLEARNING WHITENESS and developing alternative models of spatial practice in community with one another, no matter how daunting this undertaking may seem.
Of the many resources currently circulating, those collected on the MED page are a small and incomplete subset. They are offered only as an entry point to a constellation of evidence and action. This page will also host updates about upcoming MED-sponsored events during the 2020-21 academic year. Many of these events will be crafted in collaboration with allied organizations and friends here at YSoA. In addition, we invite like-minded students in research-centered programs beyond Yale to engage with us and coordinate our efforts in the broader work against racism and oppression. Feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with introductions, inquiries and ideas. We are looking for allies far and wide.
Action Items for the YSoA Curriculum
Generated by the school administration in consultation with EID and NOMAS.
- The School is creating an open platform for sharing content, guest lectures, and resources across courses with a school-wide effort to examine issues of race across the curriculum
- The School will add seminars that further diversify content and faculty
- The School will cross-list and/or identify courses across Yale University from other departments and schools. Where appropriate these courses may fulfill requirements towards graduation
- Core studio faculty will clearly communicate the specific intent of each studio, and the pedagogical reasons why exercises are framed as they are, and the studio’s role in the core sequence, so that omissions of issues do not undermine their importance
- Core design studios will consciously work with a diverse range of precedents and faculty will be respectful and encouraging of the diversity of approaches a diverse student body can bring to design
- Core studio coordinators will ensure that all juries are diverse and respectful, and will encourage multi-disciplinary perspectives
- Embed a multi-disciplinary approach and teaching team in the urban design studio to examine and re-think systemic urban policies and structures and the inequities they engender
- The School will work with the Building Project team to more actively engage client, neighborhood, and an understanding of New Haven as a city as well as its history and social dynamics, into the course curriculum
- The School will provide resources to faculty of the required Modern Architecture and Architectural Theory courses to expand and diversify discourse through new content and guest lectures
- The School will offer a pilot course, taught in partnership with Morgan State University to create dialogue between students across institutions
- The School will increase courses in urban studies and policy, through new YSOA offerings and partnerships with other schools at Yale University
- The School will work with faculty to reconceive its required history/theory sequence, de-centering its focus on European and American architecture and thinking, with the goal of undoing the acceptance of an architectural canon
- The School will increase courses that de-center the focus on Europe/America and engage the richness of diverse histories and approaches to architectural design and thought
- The School will offer dedicated courses to social justice issues in architecture
- The School will continue to increase diversity of Core Studio faculty
- The School will continue the effort to create multi-disciplinary teaching teams in specific Core Studios and the Building Project
- The School will develop diverse visualization courses, taught by diverse faculty, to explore new frontiers in architectural representation
- The School will continue to develop institutional partnerships to enrich and expand the discourse around architecture, urbanisms, and built environment social justice
Scholarship and Financial Aid
- The School sees increased scholarship support and financial aid as an essential component for ensuring equitable access to architecture education. Since 2016, annual financial aid awards have increased from $3.6 million to $5 million as the result of generous donations to the school. In the 2019-2020 academic year, 84% of the student body received scholarship support. The school is committed raising $75 million in scholarship endowment to fully support demonstrated need
- The School will grow funding for student groups including NOMAS and EID and increase targeted recruitment efforts by creating a new annual fund donation option dedicated to Diversity | Equity | Inclusion