Please see the feed below for updates from the Racial Justice Working Group, which remains committed to helping build an anti-racist department. Members include five full-time faculty, two students, and two alums.
Following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor this spring (and countless other Black Americans before and since), and the larger national reckoning with anti-Black racism in the United States that began to unfold over the summer, a group of students in our department put their concerns about our practices, our culture, and our pedagogy into writing, in August. The letter, which echoed and anticipated the concerns of many students, faculty, and alums, asked the department to commit to anti-racism, and raised important questions about hiring, recruitment, classroom dynamics, and pedagogy. In the context of the global Movement for Black Lives, student concerns, and with the advice of other faculty in leadership roles in the department, department chair Prof. Joseph Viteritti convened a Racial Justice Working Group, chaired by Prof. John Chin, in September. This group, which currently includes five faculty, two students, and two alums, has met nine times to set an agenda to address community concerns.
The working group’s first actions were a survey and a town hall, held on November 20, on the topic of “What Does an Anti-Racist Department Look Like?” The goal was to open up the conversation initiated by the students over the summer, and to hear the concerns of the entire community. Approximately 85 people attended the November event: students, faculty, alums, and staff. The dialog reaffirmed the concerns expressed in the summertime letter. It was gratifying to see so many of our community participate, and to have the chance to broaden our understanding of the issues at stake. The event made clear the depth and breadth of challenges in the department.
Because we have not yet had time to publish the results of the pre-event survey (see below for more on our plans to circulate them) — and because the responses received were so rich — the Working Group has decided to re-open it, and invites feedback from anyone who did not previously respond, but who wishes to share thoughts or questions with the working group. Please find it at this link. It will remain open until January 4.
The working group — like the faculty — remains committed to helping build an anti-racist department in the aftermath of the event (more below). The sense of marginalization and exclusion that was expressed by students and alums in that forum is real, and the group takes responsibility for acting in response, while recognizing that this may require time and that there are some changes that lie outside of the department’s power to make. But we commit to helping the department to assess current conditions in a clear-eyed way, strategize about reparative measures, introduce new courses, and communicate those measures to students.
The working group met the week before last for the first time since the November 20 event to sketch out a course of action for the coming months. While we still have much planning to do, we are working towards the following:
- helping the department run a facilitated faculty workshop on anti-racist classroom practices in the spring
- synthesizing responses to the community survey, including responses received until January 4, as well as notes from the November 20 event, and comments in the Zoom chat from the event, into a draft written report by mid-January to be made available to the whole community
- building a webpage for the working group on the department’s site to post updates, links (to the summertime letter, the report, and other resources), and announcements.
- planning a second community-wide event for spring term, with the specific topic and format to be determined after the January preliminary report
In the meantime, the working group is pleased that the faculty, in addition to agreeing to participate in a facilitated workshop mentioned above, is planning to:
- workshop their syllabi
- increase ongoing efforts to recruit BIPOC students
- offer a new course this summer called BlackSpace: Planning, Policy, and Black Community in NYC, taught by planner and BlackSpace collective member Daphne Lundi
As we all know, these conversations are difficult. Thank you to the students and alums who drafted and signed the summertime letter, revealing the deep commitment to an anti-racist community. Thank you to everyone who attended the November 20 event and shared thoughts, observations, and suggestions. Thank you to the whole Urban Policy and Planning community for remaining committed to teaching, learning, listening, and sharing as we navigate towards a stronger and more inclusive department.
We look forward to reconnecting in the spring semester. Until then, we wish everyone a peaceful, happy, and safe holiday season.
— Racial Justice Working Group
UPP's Racial Justice Working Group is pleased to announce What Does an Anti-racist Department Look Like?, a virtual (via Zoom) community-wide conversation on Friday, November 20, 2020, 6:00-8:00 pm, to which all members of the department—students (graduate as well as undergraduate Urban Studies majors), faculty, alums, and staff—are invited.
Hosted and moderated by Racial Justice Working Group members Dr. Calvin T. Brown (MUP 2002) and Amina Hassen (MUP 2016), What Does an Anti-racist Department Look Like? offers a space for students and alums to identify and discuss goals for the department in the arenas of racial justice and anti-racism, with a view to developing a shared analysis, set of values, and vision for UPP, along with ideas, plans, and tools for advancing change.
What Does an Anti-racist Department Look Like? will begin with a short presentation to share efforts already underway at the college and in the department in a range of areas. Next, participants will move into small group breakout rooms moderated by Brown and Hassen, and student Working Group members Hafizah Omar (MSUPL) and Lorrayne (Lola) Vieira-Sullivan (MUP), to discuss concerns about, and aspirations for, the department. The event will conclude with a community-wide "shareback," in which each of the small groups voice their ideas to the larger community, including faculty.
Registration for the event is now open by clicking this link. All students, faculty, alums, and staff planning to attend are asked to sign up there by Nov. 16. Details about the event's Zoom room will be circulated only to those who have registered.
In advance of the event, the Working Group also invites all who plan to attend to take a moment to fill out this survey, also by Nov. 16, to share preliminary thoughts and questions.
The Racial Justice Working Group was convened in September 2020 by department chair Prof. Joseph P. Viteritti, in consultation with the department’s governing body, the faculty, and GUAPA, in response to systemic racial injustice, the need to reaffirm UPP’s commitment to anti-racist practices, and the specific concerns of many in the UPP community around departmental priorities, procedures, and pedagogy.
The group—Professors John Chin (chair), Matthew Lasner, Karina Moreno, Lily Pollans, and Sigmund Shipp; students Omar and Vieira-Sullivan; and alums Brown and Hassen—met four times in October to plan What Does an Anti-racist Department Look Like?, which is the first of several activities the group plans to host this academic year. Future events, on topics to be determined in response to this first event, will take place in the spring semester.
In response to systemic racial injustice, the need to reaffirm UPP’s commitment to anti-racist practices, and the specific concerns of many in the UPP community, including students, alums, and faculty, around departmental priorities, procedures, and pedagogy, department chair Prof. Joseph P. Viteritti, in consultation with the department’s governing body (the Personnel and Budget Committee, whose members include the directors of UPP’s three degree programs), the full faculty, and GUAPA, has established a Racial Justice Working Group, comprising five full-time faculty, two students, and two alums.
The faculty serving on the Working Group are Professors John Chin (chair), Matthew Lasner, Karina Moreno, Lily Pollans, and Sigmund Shipp. The student members are Hafizah Omar (MSUPL student) and Lorrayne (Lola) Vieira-Sullivan (MUP student and GUAPA officer). The alums are Dr. Calvin T. Brown (MUP 2002), Assistant Commissioner for Neighborhood Development at the New York City Department of Small Business Services, and Amina Hassen (MUP 2016), Senior Urban Planner at WXY Studio.
The Working Group, which will convene throughout the 2020-21 academic year and issue periodic updates, will serve as a hub for conversations among the faculty, between the faculty and students and alums, and between all UPP stakeholders and the college around urgent issues including recruitment of BIPOC students and instructors, the needs of BIPOC students, and program curricula.
The Working Group’s efforts complement those already underway by Hunter College’s Presidential Task Force to Advance Racial Equity. This Task Force was appointed over the summer by President Jennifer Raab to effect college-wide improvements in recruitment and admissions, curriculum, anti-racism training, and student support and pipeline programs, and to host public programs, such as the ongoing Speaking of Justice series. Two UPP faculty, Professors Vivian Louie and Sigmund Shipp, also serve on this Task Force, along with two UPP alums, Dr. Calvin T. Brown and Caitlin Ho (MSUPL 2016), Program Director for HCAP: the Hunter College AANAPISI Project.
The department has created the Racial Justice Working Group in acknowledgment of the critical need to achieve equity in the department, college, fields of urban policy and planning, and the wider community.