A message to the Tulane School of Architecture community
We have just ended our academic year in a historic and tragic time, with the worst pandemic in a hundred years. Some of you have lost loved ones, or endured illness and fear. Our graduating students will have to wait to celebrate their commencement ceremony in the fall and face an uncertain job market. Everyone has a sense of loss, while hopefully learning about oneself and the world in a way that our previous daily life did not offer. But even more tragic events have taken place in the past several days. We witnessed the murder of George Floyd and, understandably, the outrage of the black community – and of many others equally and rightfully indignant. We are witnessing hate-inciting rhetoric that add insult and threat to those grieving and protesting George Floyd’s assassination. We are seeing honest demonstrations being overtaken by spurious purposes and violence.
As you know, I am Spanish, and I am still learning the history and the complexity of American society. But also my wife, partner and Tulane Professor Margarita Jover, is black. My daughter is dark skinned with beautiful curly hair. She graduated from high school last year and has shared with me a message from one of her classmates to the world: “Do you remember me? I am that black, smiley and kind guy, always in the back. But now I cannot stand your silence.”
We cannot stand the silence. As Dean of Tulane School of Architecture, I am fully confident that my words are aligned with the values of each and every one of us. We value the diversity and the unique value of every one of our members. Our school is deeply embedded in the New Orleans community, and most especially in black underserved communities where we build URBANbuild houses and support community partners with the public interest design work of the Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design. For us, architecture is more than the physical environments where we live, learn, work, pray, and gather. It is our duty to train the next generation of architects, designers, real estate professionals, and preservationists to have a deep understanding and sense of responsibility to also address the social, economic, and ecological environments that influence the health and safety of communities. We are absolutely committed to supporting communities in need, and it breaks our hearts that black communities are systematically underserved and in recent days, like in so many shameful past days, abused and assassinated.
We, at Tulane School of Architecture, demand justice and accountability, urgently now. And we demand long-term justice and equal opportunities for black and other underserved communities. We demand healthcare and do not accept that black Americans bear double the mortality rate from COVID-19 than their white neighbors. We demand the end to racially assigned poverty and unfair incarceration. Systems rooted in racism and oppression are the source of these injustices, and each one of us has the power – in both large and small ways – to rectify these systems through our words and actions.
Lastly, I recognize that the recent events we are witnessing may cause additional emotional distress and anxiety for members of our school community. If you know someone at the school who needs help, please contact Tulane's Case Management (cmvss.tulane.edu), CAPS for Counseling Services (campushealth.tulane.edu/caps), or the Line (504-264-6074). The staff at the Center for Intercultural Life (intercultural.tulane.edu) which houses the Office of Multicultural Affairs/Gender & Sexual Diversity, formerly known as “the O," is also available to support our students. And, as always, my door (now digital) and all the school’s faculty and staff doors are open for every one of you at any time.
Dean and Richard Koch Chair in Architecture
Tulane School of Architecture