Racial Justice Taskforce statement

The School of Art and Art History Racial Justice Task Force is a group of dedicated staff and faculty that self-organized following the 2020 uprisings with the goal of bringing to light and actively addressing the ongoing racial injustice, systemic racism, and inequity within our own institution. It is important that this group not be mistaken for another diversity committee. The revolution is not a diversity training. Diversity does not require training, diversity is a fact. Inclusion is an ongoing practice and commitment, and it should be done with care and the intention of not only creating access, but cultures of support, and enduring community. Ending white supremacy and creating a culture of true equity is the goal of our work. We understand that the work begins with us, and with shifting the culture of our own school. One of the first steps in this work is accountability, and we can hold ourselves and others accountable with tenderness and grace. We believe in call in culture, not cancelling or calling out. As our Ethics of Care Agreement for our school and college states, we are all learning, we are all growing, we can make mistakes, and we can change. Our student population is majority “minority”. Our students represent our vision of who can pursue meaningful lives in art, art education, art history, culture, and museums. We let the leadership and actions of our students help to guide our work, and one of our first undertakings as a group was to address the call to action in the UIC Student Demands put forth on 06/8/2020 which the school officially endorsed. We endorsed the UIC Students Demands released on Juneteenth in total, and then selected a subset of these demands that we could take immediate action on, advocate for, and support. The following have been completed or are in motion:

Commit & Invest

  • Host campus wide calls/town halls to hear concerns from students, every semester.
    Action Step: The SAAH Director has convened a series of ongoing town halls centered on listening to the needs, perspectives, and demands of BIPOC students in the school.
  • Every semester, host community/student-wide conversations on topics such as: racism, anti-Blackness, implicit bias, racial solidarity between communities, misogyny, ableism, LGBTQ+issues, ageism, classism, and other issues driven by students and faculty.
    Action Step: The SAAH Racial Justice Task Force is collaborating this semester with Make Yourself Useful, a collective focused on anti-racist work, with an emphasis on the active role of white people within movements for racial and social justice, to lead a series of student focused conversations on these subjects.
  • Provide yearly in-person training for faculty and staff that focuses on alternatives to calling the police, as well as written (pamphlets, leaflets, and other materials) and electronic materials on departmental websites with the same information.
    Action Step: The SAAH Racial Justice Task Force is beginning to work on compiling information to distribute to the school with alternatives to calling the UIC police.
  • Develop a student and faculty run board to review UIC Police responses to incidents. We demand that this board be elected by Black, Brown, Indigenous, Arab, Muslim, undocumented, disabled, queer, gender nonconforming, trans, and students of color campus leadership.
    Action Step: The SAAH Racial Justice Task Force fully supports this point and would want to have students and faculty from our school represented on the board.
  • Require every graduate department to make the criteria by which graduate students are evaluated completely transparent. And, to make the results of student evaluations available to individual graduate students themselves. Lastly, require that any graduate students in “poor standing” be notified immediately and be a part of a process for support and improvement.
    Action Step: The SAAH Racial Justice Task Force has invited the DGS of Art and Art History to serve on the Task Force and address issues directly related to the graduate programs including this demand.
  • Increase the hiring and retention of Black (BIPOC) faculty in ALL departments. Develop a transparent process for students wishing to provide University administrators with crucial feedback and for accountability purposes from student groups on campus to University administrators.
    Action Step: The Director of the School of Art and Art History attends all task force meetings and gives updates on the efforts of the school to meet this demand.
  • Fund the construction of sculptures on and around campus (curated by Black, Brown, Indigenous, and people of color artists) to commemorate the experiences of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and people of color communities in the City of Chicago; especially Indigenous peoples whose land has been colonized through violence and theft in order to build the City of Chicago, as well as those who have been displaced by the expansion and gentrification of UIC’s campus.
    Action Step: The SAAH Racial Justice Task Force is advocating that the college release funds already allocated to public art towards meeting this demand.
  • Rename academic buildings that elevate the names of racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic politicians and leaders. Rename these buildings based on a selection process that students and faculty have the opportunity to vote on. One of our buildings is Jefferson Hall, named after 3rd U.S. President Thomas Jefferson who owned enslaved people of African descent.
    Action Step: The SAAH Racial Justice Task Force advocated to CADA and UIC administration for the renaming of Jefferson Hall, and Henry Hall, both occupied by our school, and both named after slave holders. The CADA Diversity Committee has committed to seeing that these renamings will happen.

Furthermore our school will undergo a professional Racial Equity Impact Assessment of our programs, campus, faculty, staff and administration to prevent the perpetuation of systemic racism and remedy long standing inequities. This audit will help inform and guide all further actions, proposals, and initiatives within the School of Art and Art History moving forward. We commit to progress, action, and accountability. We commit to the challenges and discomfort that will come from examining the ways our school, faculty, and staff have perpetuated white supremacy. We commit to becoming a school that is actively anti-racist.

In solidarity,
The SAAH Racial Justice Task Force:
Jen Delos Reyes, Catherine Becker, Dianna Frid, Ömür Harmanşah, Therese Quinn,
Karyn Sandlos, Anthony Stepter, Lorelei Stewart