Strategy & Equity: A Year in Review
Since its inception in June 2020, the Strategy & Equity (S&E) team in the Department of Architecture has worked to evaluate, challenge, and change our administrative and community responses to issues concerning diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The team was formed by Professor and Department Head Nicholas de Monchaux and continues to be led this academic year by Professor Terry Knight, Associate Department Head for Strategy and Equity. The team included Katharine Kettner (student representative), Inala Locke (staff representative), Tonya Miller (support staff and contributing member for fall 2020), and Stacy Clemons (support staff and contributing member for spring 2021). Throughout the summer and fall of 2020, the S&E team identified and reviewed DEI-related areas of concern among students, staff, and faculty. It developed various recommendations to address specific concerns and implemented new initiatives and policies to redress DEI shortcomings within the department. This semester, S&E is continuing its work with both ongoing and new focus areas.
The team tackled several major areas of focus: data collection; outreach and recruitment; graduate student admissions; student support; faculty hiring, support, and retention; staff community and support; departmental climate and cultures; curriculum; communications and public image. For each focus area, S&E suggested new policies, helped implement readily actionable items, and made recommendations for next steps in the creation and maintenance of better DEI practices. Highlights of S&E work included:
One priority was to create, enhance, and support a more diverse body of students. The S&E team surveyed approximately 150 graduate students across the department about their experiences applying to MIT, then identified areas that pose barriers to application and matriculation. Using this feedback, S&E collaborated on revisions to the MArch application, successfully pushed for all admissions groups to drop the GRE requirement, and instituted anti-bias training for admissions committee members. Two new programs, the Applicant Mentorship Program (AMP) and ArchCatalyst, were developed to offer support for applicants from underrepresented backgrounds.
To encourage critical evaluation of the diversity of perspectives included in course materials, the team supported a syllabi audit for all required and restricted elective courses in the MArch and SMArchS programs. The S&E team also worked to institutionalize survey collection in support of the semesterly NOMAS reviewer reports, which track demographic data of critics at final studio reviews.
Staff Community and Support
The team surveyed staff across the department to gather feedback regarding conflict and concerns reporting systems, and collected thoughts about formal channels for staff to voice suggestions and propose ideas. Across many conversations, the team worked to clarify HR structures affecting the department and encouraged various HR personnel to attend future staff meetings. The team also facilitated department-wide meetings to view and discuss an MIT-wide DEI initiative, the Staff Monologues.
Climate and Culture
The team launched a partnership with the consultancy Courageous Conversation as a first step toward meaningful cultural change within the department, with the goal of building and sustaining an anti-racist department. Work with Courageous Conversation is continuing this fall. The S&E team helped set up a new peer-to-peer student support program (archREFS) and advocated for and achieved more robust inclusion of students in departmental governance and decision-making.
The S&E team, with the collaboration and support of our Department Head and many others in the department, has made promising strides in fulfilling our department’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, much work remains to be done. S&E continues to grow, learn, and respond to the rightful demands of students, staff, and faculty. In recognition that this growth is an ongoing process, the department looks forward to finding more equitable, inclusive, and respectful methods of practice, community-building, and care. The S&E team will aid in this process for the 2021–22 academic year and beyond, now in collaboration with the new SA+P Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, Belonging and Student Support, Monica Orta, and with a soon-to-be hired department-level Diversity, Equity and Belonging officer.
For details of the work S&E has undertaken this past year, see the full Strategy and Equity Report AY 2021.