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SCI-Arc’s Structural Actions to Promote Access, Inclusion, and Equity in Architecture

Amid the current global uprising for racial justice and Black lives, and in conjunction with a public health crisis which disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, we at SCI-Arc want to address directly the ways in which we can act now to support eradicating the economic and social oppression of these communities within our school and architecture at large. With the understanding that our contribution lies within the confines of our world, we must acknowledge that the discipline and profession of architecture is one that is built upon Western, white ideals which perpetuate engrained patriarchal systems of exclusion and suppression, such as gender inequality and institutional racism. We must also recognize how the education and practice of architecture further deepens environmental and economic inequity through the shaping of both public and private space.

We have not, as an institution, done enough to understand or dismantle how these embedded structures contribute to disenfranchisement on the basis of race, gender identity, sexuality, and ability. As stewards of the built world, we have the power and the responsibility to affect positive change from within, which begins with transformative measures to confront a pervasive and persistent lack of access, inclusion, and equity. This change begins with us.

SCI-Arc facade black and white

While SCI-Arc celebrates our multiethnic, multinational student population and is dedicated to their protection from racist and xenophobic policies and behaviors, we must now redouble our efforts to promote equity and pursue inclusion for those most underrepresented in architecture. It should also be noted that no prospective student accepted to SCI-Arc who is Black or African American will be denied the ability to study due to financial constraints.

We wholeheartedly embrace this moment of self-reflection as well as the opportunity to reshape the culture of our school and repair injustice through systemic reform. SCI-Arc has committed to principles and actions that will steer our institution towards a more inclusive and equitable future. These have been developed with input from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and our Board of Trustees, in addition to guidance from the Committee for Equity and Inclusion. In an effort towards accountability and transparency, the first of these actions are outlined below. The following list is non-exhaustive, and we will establish internal mechanisms to develop further actions as we monitor our progress moving forward.

Institutional Culture

SCI-Arc will require anti-racism education and training for all faculty, staff, students, and the Board of Trustees starting this upcoming academic year.

We commit to review and expand transparency of our hiring practices. We will promote inclusive recruitment for all faculty and staff positions that gives weight to and supports applicants from underrepresented groups with regard to race, ability, socioeconomic class, and gender identity.

We are creating new staff positions, including an Advocacy Coordinator and Community Engagement Coordinator, who will be responsible for identifying and evaluating all opportunities for improvement regarding ethical and equitable practices. They will also research, facilitate, and manage valuable institutional partnerships to this end as well as identify opportunities to pursue inclusion among disadvantaged communities of color.

We are reviewing SCI-Arc’s studio culture document to ensure that our students and faculty are protected from any racist or discriminatory behavior and to continually improve upon and promote a safe and inclusive environment at our school.

We commit to diversify the points of view within our school across juries, public programs, and reviews to represent the broad range of races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and gender identities of people in the world. We will institute a policy to encourage diversity among the voices invited, including non-academics, practitioners, non-architects, and community leaders.

We will pursue a five-year goal to achieve and maintain student, faculty, staff, and Board representation that more closely reflects the racial and cultural diversity of Los Angeles, with biannual reports for tracking progress and accountability.

Engaging the Los Angeles Community

We commit to financially support a five-year program partnership with SoCal NOMA (National Organization of Minority Architects), as well to support a SCI-Arc NOMAS (NOMA Students) chapter to help improve the profession by promoting access, equity, and inclusion in architecture.

To further our goal of a more inclusive SCI-Arc community, we will implement community engagement days for faculty, staff, and students each semester, and are committed to developing active partnerships with institutions, schools, and organizations that serve underrepresented communities in the Los Angeles area.

Scholarships and Grants

SCI-Arc commits to establish and promote need-based scholarships that will strive to benefit the following underrepresented groups:

  1. Black/African American students
  2. Indigenous or Native American students
  3. Latin American/Latinx, Asian American, first- or second-generation immigrant, and DACA students
  4. LGBTQIA+ students
  5. Students with disabilities
  6. Southern California students

In accordance with current and future regulations, financial goals for these scholarships will be included in the budget for the upcoming academic year.

We will continue to fundraise for research, academic, and public programs focused on social responsibility and equity.

To foster the next generation of architects and designers, we commit to support youth and early childhood arts education in LA’s underrepresented communities by dedicating increased funding for our Pop-Arc and Design Immersion Days programs, as well as for our introduction to architecture and design program Making+Meaning.

Curriculum

We will immediately begin the process, starting with regular, twice-per-semester meetings with faculty, to identify and implement robust curriculum changes to prioritize an inclusive and anti-racist pedagogy in the following ways:

  • Diversify the race, ethnicity, nationality, and gender identity of our reading lists, precedents, and significant artists and architects.
  • Reshape our curricula to incorporate race and gender studies into our History + Theory courses for all programs.
  • Consider and expand away from the problematic ideal of the solo genius in architecture by elevating and amplifying to an equal degree the work of non-white, non-male, team-based, and non-western references. This will be done within our curriculum as well as the cultural practices found in our school.
  • Commit core studios in all programs that focus on the social impact of architecture, including engagement with the context and community of Los Angeles.

Calls for Reform

The current process and system of architecture licensure presents real barriers to underrepresented communities entering the profession. We publicly call for extensive architecture licensure reform and support working with NAAB to reduce the requirements for becoming licensed as an architect in the US, such as eliminating the need for practical training. We publicly call for an end to unpaid internships. We publicly call for the extensive reform of unpaid and pay-to-enter architecture competitions.

We acknowledge and support the present opportunity that our city and county have to rethink public policy regarding how resources are allocated, including financial reform of law enforcement, in favor of the redistribution of government funds to fulfill a broader range of services that address social and community needs, such as housing and mental health and wellness.

SCI-Arc will prioritize working with Black-, women-, and minority-owned businesses, and terminate relationships with companies that we become aware are supporters of racist causes.

Finally, SCI-Arc leadership commits to work alongside the Committee for Equity and Inclusion for feedback and accountability regarding these actions. Further updates will be publicly disclosed as details are finalized.

SCI-Arc building sign

I would personally like to thank our community for allowing us the invaluable opportunity to listen. Over the past weeks, our students, faculty, and staff have generously shared their knowledge, thoughts, and recommendations—with special thanks to the SCI-Arc Student Union (STUN) for creating an illuminating series of presentations, as well as organizing a regular forum (“Fridays at 5”) for engaging in deeper conversation with ideas in support of the movement for racial justice, Black lives, and the eradication of white supremacy from our society.

We have been powerfully impacted by the recently increased exposure of the longstanding brutality and killings of Black Americans, and we understand more clearly than ever that we are still in the midst of a fight for civil rights, not only for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, but for any group who has been impacted by intolerance and injustice including those identifying with LGBTQIA+, disabled, and international and immigrant communities—all of whom we stand alongside in solidarity.

These are times of reckoning, and this is our call to action to disrupt the status quo. We must recognize our privilege, confront our own shortcomings, and welcome this historic opportunity to rise to the occasion; to become a better institution beyond the comfort of our own walls. Lasting structural change will only come when the needs of the marginalized are met by the broader community. This must not be a temporary engagement but rather a lifelong project. We are committed to the diligent, sustained attention as well as the sensitivity, accountability, and authentic effort required to see these actions through. Architecture is a human endeavor that has always stood as a reflection of society. If we truly consider ourselves worthy of our own mission—teaching architects to speculate and shape the future—we must embrace that the future is one of shared humanity, and one of inclusion and equity for all.

Sincerely,

Hernán Díaz Alonso, Director and CEO

Kevin Ratner, Chairman of the Board