Art & Archaeology

Demands for Anti-Racist Policies at the Department of Art & Archaeology

Current undergraduate students and recent alumni of the Department of Art and Archaeology (A&A)

The authors of the letter begin by acknowledging that their demands are not new, and by highlighting the work of previous campus activists such as the Black Justice League. It argues for recognition of the fact that Princeton University was built on stolen land and forced labor, which demands reparations to Black and Native communities. In addition to echoing campus-wide demands, the letter highlights the specific ways anti-Black racism plays out in the department—for example, in the hierarchy between the History of Art and Practice of Art tracks, when the latter has historically brought diverse experiences to the A&A class.

The letter makes the following demands:

  1. Reparations and Divestment from the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC): Demands university divestment from the PIC and reparations to the descendants of enslaved Black people during the founding of Princeton University. Also makes demands at the departmental level, including for resources to research the history of the department and the communities directly harmed by its creation and operations.
  2. Anti-Racist Training for Faculty and Staff: Contends that it is unethical to recruit Black, Native, person of color, and LGBTQA+ students into an unsafe environment. Makes various demands pertaining to anti-racist training, including those specific to the discipline of art, such as addressing terms such as “primitive” and “oriental,” and referring to African American artists as “non-Western.”
  3. Diversifying A&A: Demands increased investment in projects and programming that center issues of race, power, and identity through art. In particular, it notes that of 40 courses offered between Fall 2019 and Spring 2020, only 16 centered non-white artists. Furthermore, 10 of these 16 were higher level courses that undergraduates were not incentivized to take.
  4. Reporting Discrimination: Demands the creation of an accessible and department-level safety network for addressing cases of discrimination prior to university-level avenues.
  5. A&A Curriculum and Independent Work: Demands a variety of curricular changes, including changes to the Art History foundational seminar and course requirements. Also demands changes to address the hierarchy between the History of Art and Practice of Art tracks, including increased engagement in History with contemporary art via the Program in Visual Arts, and the creation of a Certificate Program in Museum Studies.
  6. Supporting Art Practices on Campus: Demands that the A&A faculty advocate for the needs of Practice of Art students. Student body demands from the Program of Visual Arts currently far outweighs the power of educators in the program, leading to scarcity of courses, facilities, and staffing compared to other Lewis Center for the Arts programs.
  7. Transparency and Community-building: Demands an overall commitment to building community between A&A students and faculty, as well as between students. The demands include an ongoing and transparent process for undergraduate student involvement in departmental decision-making.

Princeton University is located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of Lenapehoking and the Lenape people. We pay respect to Lenape peoples past, present, and future and their continuing presence in the homeland and throughout the Lenape diaspora.