The following are stories that various students have willingly shared. There are similar threads, unique perspectives and obvious difficulties.
Nothing was said about the current racial issues...
"I am a current student at the School of Architecture. For the past week, I have been checking their Instagram for a message that addresses human rights issues, specifically what is happening in the Black community. I was disappointed to see that they were active on their social media, but nothing said about the current racial issues. I've tried not to come up with reasons why and that's why I want to hear directly from them. I know the School of Architecture has avoided difficult conversations like NOMA and has labeled them divisive without even giving them a chance. These difficult conversations need to be had. I often say and believe I have wonderful professors and administration, and I want them to be a part of this conversation that acknowledges the need for better education around race, systemic racism, injustice, and diversity of thinking."
- Current Student
I’m sorry to hear it but not surprised...
“I was in the Architecture program back in the '80s. I was one of a handful of Black students and a female. The racism was prevalent then and seems/sounds like it's still going. I'm sorry to hear it but not surprised. As a Black female who spent thousands of dollars in a school only to not get licensed, I can attest that it is MUCH harder for women in the field. I'm sure it's gotten a tad better since I graduated almost 30 years ago, but I'm sure I speak for a lot of Black women who went through the AU Architecture program ( at least in the ‘80s) when I say, don't forget to speak up for them. Back in the 80's we weren't as fortunate. In fact, there are no Black females from my class practicing Architecture. At most, they are/were in urban planning/city worker positions. After graduating, it was extremely difficult to find work; in the meantime, I still had to support myself. Long story short, I ended up in Human Resources. I was the Director of HR for an organization for about 20 years in Chicago. I recently relocated to Huntsville, and I'm now the HR Director for the South Central Conference. I think of my dream to Design often and wonder what my life would be like if I'd had more encouragement and support back in the day.”
- Alumni, 1980’s
The silence was truly deafening ...
“August of 2009, I was on Andrew's campus, and, as a graduate of the Architecture program, I decided to visit the School of Architecture. I shared with the acting Dean about the great organization called NOMA. I had been president of the Philadelphia chapter at the turn of the century and NOMA's annual conference is one of the AEC industry’s leading events for students and professionals alike. Upon sharing this with the Dean, in less than three sentences, I was told that Andrews needed no contact with any such organization – their minority students were doing just fine without such an organization. I didn't question or argue; I just walked away because I didn't know what else to say.
Fast forward a few years. I was chosen to be chair of the National Organization of Minority Architects conference for 2014. My job was to organize and bring their annual conference to Philadelphia.
In 2012 I began attempting to get the Architecture department at Andrews to participate. I had this vision of my alma mater finally coming to the conference and participating like more than thirty other schools around the country have over the years. Harvard, Yale, University of Maryland, Howard, University of Oklahoma – all had participated in the conference, so why not Andrews? I recommended to my committee the theme: “For the LOVE of It”. Love for communities, love for people, and love for design results in better architecture and a better world. With the various mission projects that Andrews had begun to champion over the past decade, I planned to highlight the benefits not just of those served but also of the students.
My repeated emails to the Dean were ignored. I began copying the assistant, and she responded they had been received, and someone would get back to me when they had time. My phone calls never got further than the Dean's voice mail. No one ever got back to me. Ever.
That year, over six-hundred architects and students attended from around the country. Not a single one was from Andrews University. Fifteen schools participated in various ways, mostly in the student competition. The AIA president-elect and several AIA VP's were there. World-renowned architects were present and provided seminars and activities for three days. It was one of the best, most innovative ever.
As far as the school, where I spent tens of thousands of dollars attending, it was as if it never happened. I've seen them highlight alumni projects previously. Wonderful projects. The silence was truly deafening.”
- Alumni, 1990’s
I recently graduated from SAID, and I honestly believe it to be one of the best schools of architecture that there is in the whole entire world. But the more I listen and pay attention to past and current minority student's stories and hurt, the more I realized that it is not as perfect even though I still believe it to have the potential to be, of course, with some changes.
My time at Andrews University school of architecture and interior design did not only teach me how to be a strategic and capable designer (future architect), a mentee, a mentor, a colleague, and a friend; it also taught me how to notice and point out problems and become a problem solver driven by love and purpose (exactly like I am doing now). In other words, it trained me to be A World Changer. What I didn’t know was that I might have to start my world-changing mission by helping to change some of it's DNA.
Unlike some of the stories I heard, as a minority student, it was from SAID that I learned that my voice even as small as it might be could be unique, valuable, impactful, and even when it doesn’t feel like it, needed. This is why I believe that this letter and action items need to at least be considered.
I can frankly say that though my experience was close to delightful especially in my last 2years, I did have a set of struggles especially in my first few years because of my background and differences. Fortunately, with a lot of work and the help of my academic advisor, faculty, staff, and professors that saw me and valued me, I was able to grow, learn, be challenged, and was able to change my “differences” into my “strengths”. So, you can imagine how disappointing (even though eye-opening) it has been to see and hear the stories of those who had a totally opposite experience than I while attending the same school. And though I might not fully understand why my experience was different than theirs, I do believe that it is important that these voices are listened to, valued, and considered.
I know SAID has strived and still is striving to live up to its mission and vision to “prepare diverse students for a life of creative stewardship and professional services, with a heart for ministering to others”. I am one product that proves that they are trying (doing it to the best of their ability and knowledge - yet again, they don't know what they don't know until they do).
So as an alumnus that loves my school and believes that they can do better, I owe it to the school to raise my voice and give my time, and prayer to see the corrupt DNA become washed clean. For it is only by then that there will be more world-changer and the problem solvers that are rightly trained and created from SAID.
P.S: I would highly and totally recommend this school. It’s not perfect but loves enough and cares enough. I pray this open letter, stories, and signatures gives it more to care about and work with!
As an older, non-Adventist female, i rarely felt like i was welcomed by certain professors who were best buds and thought every 50 minute class should start with a 15-20 minute devotional. Inappropriate and sexist comments happened regularly. At our 5th year awards, not one woman won any awards. On our Europe trip, females were hassled for needing a bathroom more frequently than males. I couldn't graduate fast enough and i wouldnt recommend this school to anyone, Adventist or not.
In my several years at AU School of Architecture AND Interior Design (as some people may forget our ID students), Donald Trump was elected president. During his election campaign & especially after he was finally inaugurated into office in 2017, all the racists & sexists around campus finally felt free enough to publicly discriminate without consequences. It was also during this time that the “It Is Time” video came out, speaking about the injustices against our Black brothers & sisters at AU. Enough is enough, & they had had enough.
However, when it came to our department, as another post said, the silence was absolutely DEAFENING. The only thing spoken about what was happening, even now, is that all the Black students in our program are fine because nobody is discriminating against them in our building, or so they say. But I have seen my friends shut down by various professors when they ask for help or when they answer a question in class, only to have the professor prioritize & accept their lighter-skinned classmates (including myself) instead. This may seem like something small, but if I am asking for help with the exact same thing they need help with, or if I say the exact same answer as they did, why was their voice cut off & mine allowed to be heard instead?
Even in our latest studio, Background Building studio, more help was given to me when I was still learning more about my culture & their traditional styles of architecture, when there were no previous drawings to learn from. But when one of my good friends also had the same issue with her country’s lack of examples of traditional architecture & drawings of such, she was barely given help compared to me. And when presentation day came, she was badgered with so many questions about things that weren’t clear that she struggled to come up with a firm answer for because she did not have much to go off of in the first place. But that did not happen to me at all. And we had presented our projects together.
The subtle micro-aggressions against our Black family members here at the AU SAID need to stop. They are painful & hurt everyone in the vicinity, & the people we choose to tell these stories to. Andrews University needs to do better, but the place we more closely call home needs to be a leading example, as a department that boasts its ability to “create places for people.” So create a place for ALL people, especially Black lives, to matter. ESPECIALLY during this time.
- Current Student
I requested a recommendation for my graduate school application during my final year of the architecture program at Andrews. One of the teachers gave me a not so good recommendation - it would've been better if they had simply declined my request. I was accepted into the program. Later, a classmate told me that the instructor was telling people I had only be accepted because I was black, not because I was any good. That negativity has taken years to undo. I thought I'd be in a better position because of the "Christian" values of the school but that was not the case.
- disappointed student
As a recent minority graduate from Andrews University School of Architecture & Interior Design, I struggled to relate to the American architectural vernacular in my early years at Andrews and was very vocal about it to my professors. They listened to every frustration I had, created a mandatory studio that had students do a project from the hometown they came from and studied their country's architectural vernacular for a entire semester. This is what a school where professors care about every single student looks like.
When I was at Andrews there was a certain professor who was known amongst students and professors to say racist and sexist things and yet no one held him accountable. He would say it with a smile or chuckle to make it seem like it’s ok. At the end of every class or trip we took with him students will compare notes with female students talking about how uncomfortable they felt when he was speaking and minorities talking about how uncomfortable they felt when he said racial insensitive thing. At the door of his office hung anti-LGBTQI posters that spoke about seminars to heal or transform members of LGBTQI community. And this was painful to watch considering that we had students of that community at our school. As students we never filed official complaints or spoke up about him because Our self righteous (we’re doing everything right) school had made it explicitly clear that any conversation on race of differing from how they were doing things right was “divisive.” The school also made it point to treat anyone who was not Adventist as second class citizens, they were never Sabbath plans made for them during trips, Professors were constantly trying to convert them and I get it Andrews is an Adventist school but that doesn’t mean people who aren’t Adventist should be shamed or treated like second class citizens when they’re also paying for this experience. Lastly, at Andrews School of architecture it was a known fact that students of African American heritage had lower graduation rates, pa articulately African American male students and get there was never a forum to discuss this, no action plan from the school to address this but instead the school called very effort to start a club that represented minority students voices divisive and racist. I’m happy students created this platform, I want to see change.
I loved every minute of my time in the School of Architecture. I created great relationships with faculty and other students, and have strong enduring memories. While I personally felt heard and listened to in the school, what was so notable to me was the absence of diverse professors, visiting professors, and critics, as well as the diversity of the curriculum. Why is Greco-Roman architecture foundational, but African or indigenous architecture a rotating elective?
- Alumni, 2000s
I was introduced to AIAS beginning of my first semester first year, in an assembly at the architecture school’s auditorium. After the AIAS president presented everybody on the team, we were encouraged by faculty to join this great Organisation.
I was introduced to NOMA almost at the end of my 2nd year by a 4th-year student who was my student mentor. She struggled to get people to attend her meeting because nobody knew what NOMA was. I honestly only went because she was my mentor and it seemed important to her. It was a very small and almost uncomfortable meeting Because clearly people didn't understand what NOMA was. After that meeting there was no other meeting and I never heard of NOMA again. There were only a total of 6 people in the meeting. 3 have graduated with their masters degree as of today including the meeting host and one was a professor.
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