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06.23.20 – Addressing anti-Black racism in our community

Last week we received a letter urging us to take immediate action to address systemic anti-Black racism within the Daniels Faculty. We are sharing our response more broadly now to give everyone the opportunity to be included in the process. Our letter follows. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact incoming Interim Dean Rob Wright: dean.wright@daniels.utoronto.ca.

 

Dear Students and Alumni,

Thank you for your thoughtful letter on dismantling systemic anti-Black racism and for caring so deeply about our school and its communities.

We are co-authoring this letter on behalf of our colleagues to ensure continuity between the school’s current and forthcoming leadership. Our faculty and the school’s administration share your concerns, and apologize for what are inevitably our failures on these fronts. We recognize the institutional inertia within our and other schools of architecture, landscape, and design, and the role this plays in the barriers that have excluded Black and other racialized people from our professions.

The question now is: how can we bring about greater understanding, healing and change that will increase access and eliminate barriers for Black, Indigenous and racialized people in our school and, more broadly, in our professions? As a school, we need to work harder to earn a reputation for diversity and thoughtful inclusion, especially by creating more opportunities for those who have been for too long excluded and ignored. While we have been working to increase equity and diversity within the school for some time, over the past three weeks we have been discussing how we can take action in more acute and immediate ways.

As with our work in design and planning, we must begin by understanding the scope, context, challenges and opportunities of the problems at stake. We will need to listen carefully, and to find a way to learn in an atmosphere of both thoughtful and perhaps sometimes heated exchange to address the structures of a complex institution.

Towards this end, we will be holding a series of moderated Fora inviting all students, faculty, staff and alumni to participate in an open discussion on these issues. Our aim is to listen, hear your lived experiences as part of the DFALD community, and to better understand how we can address the concerns and recommendations. We will update you very soon with the details.

In the meantime, we are taking the following actions and making the following changes:

  • To provide more clarity and support, we are in the midst of creating a new portal on our website dedicated to sharing anti-racism resources for the DFALD and UofT community. This will include regular updates on our process and progress as we implement new anti-racism measures.
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  • The Daniels Diversity and Equity Committee was established in 2015 and made a formal committee of the Daniels Faculty Council in 2017. This committee’s membership includes faculty, student, and staff representatives. It now seems clear that this committee has not adequately communicated about its mission and work, and we promise to do better at this going forward. In the meantime, the committee’s reports to Faculty Council on its activities since its inception in 2017 are all available on the faculty website. If you are interested in becoming involved with this group, we invite all members of the Daniels community to attend the public portion of their meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for July 9th, 2020 at 4 p.m. Details for this are also forthcoming.
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  • We will establish a more explicit Diversity and Equity administrative support structure, including staff to help us advance and be accountable in these areas, and to further monitor and publicly report on our progress. This will include redoubling our efforts on increasing the diversity of faculty, students and staff.
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  • To create an atmosphere of respect and eliminate bias, we have submitted a formal request to provide anti-racism training for all staff and faculty members who have not already undertaken this training from the University’s Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office. We are also making it mandatory for all current and future staff and faculty members to engage in ongoing training related to Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity.
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  • To recruit and retain Black students, we are beginning a dialogue with the National Organization of Minority Architects to explore the ways we can partner together, with a particular focus on developing pathways through our summer programs for youth.
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  • To enable change, we are reviewing how our current resources and expertise can address how our curricula and other programming can become more focused on the contemporary and historical intersections between race, social class, colonialist practices, and our design and planning disciplines.

Bringing about change will require discipline, commitment, and collaborative work on all our parts. We need to continue to speak openly, frankly and debate in a civil manner with the discomfort this will sometimes create. We will make mistakes, and we will try to learn from them. But most importantly we have to do better.

Sincerely,

Dean Richard Sommer
incoming Interim Dean Robert Wright
-on behalf of the University’s Leadership Team