Open letter to the Faculty and Administration of the Princeton School of Architecture

Graduate students and alumni of the Princeton School of Architecture

As a preface to its demands, the letter makes reference to official statements made by many architecture schools following Black Lives Matters protests vowing to address inequality within the “discipline,” without any acknowledgement of such problems within the schools themselves. The letter’s authors respond that to truly resist anti-Black racism within the discipline at large, we must first address racism within our own communities. Several notable issues specific to the graduate architecture program include: a lack of transparency in evaluation; misrecognition of classes with racial frameworks as topical or elective rather than theoretical or foundational; and the harmful perpetuation of the notion of architect as “expert,” maintaining a power imbalance between architects and the communities in which they seek to work.

The letter makes the following demands:

  1. Divest from the Police: Demands that the school use its institutional power to support calls for the university to end any relationship it has with the Princeton Police Department (PPD) and the New Jersey State Police (NJSP).
  2. Recruit Black Students, Faculty, and Speakers: Demands that the school intentionally work to elevate the voices of Black architects and scholars in the school and discipline. The demands outlined include the hiring of faculty with expertise in Black intellectual traditions and critical race theory, as well as issues of race and racism in architecture more specifically.
  3. Provide Financial and Administrative Support for Black Students: Demands that the school address the current lack of transparency in evaluation, grading, and structures of advancement. Current uneven systems of evaluation create unequal expectations, opportunities, and work loads between students.
  4. Center Black Voices in the Curriculum: Demands the establishment of a formal working group on curricula and pedagogy, constituted of both students and faculty. The group would work to address racism in the core sequences of each program, among other curricular changes.
  5. Dismantle White Supremacy in Studio: Demands the establishment of a code of ethics for studio-based research. This group of demands asks the school to shift towards models of architectural practice as intellectual collaboration, rather than as one-sided expertise. Such models of expertise reinforce the political and economic processes that extract wealth from BIPOC communities in New Jersey and elsewhere around the world.
  6. Ban Inequitable Labor Practices: Demands additional oversight to prevent the use of unpaid and low-paying labor in the department, which excludes BIPOC students to a greater degree than their peers.
  7. Implement Anti-Racism Training: Demands the implementation of ongoing, mandatory anti-racism training for professors, staff, and students to better equip them with the knowledge and tools to recognize and confront racism and discrimination in the school.
  8. Build Campus and Community Alliances: Demands that the school seek out new campus alliances and strengthen existing ones by devoting time and money to joint programming and co-teaching initiatives. The demands note, however, that such partnerships should not become a way for the school to outsource its anti-racist work.
  9. Ensure Accountability and Transparency: Demands the provision of an implementation timeline and metrics of evaluation for addressing the above demands.

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.