Open Letter to Dalhousie School of Architecture

To Dalhousie University’s School of Architecture’s Administration and Faculty,

Where is the School of Architecture? Your silence on racism is deafening.

In light of protests at the injustices of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the United States, and Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Chantel Moore, Rodney Levi and countless others in our own context, here, in Canada, many organizations, institutions, and employers are taking the initiative to address systemic racism and are striving towards elevating Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) in working towards anti-racism.

Dalhousie University, like all settler-colonial institutions, has a history rooted in race, slavery, and anti-blackness. As such, it has an obligation to actively engage and address the systemic injustices BIPOC continue to face within the School and the profession at large. A lack of action in regards to this illustrates complicity and unethical practice. The administration must engage with the pressing matters being ignored and concealed, and begin the necessary conversations about how to disassemble the links that connect institutional power and racism within the school.

The culmination of student movements, petitions and open letters to various Canadian and American architectural institutions on racism in recent weeks highlights a stark contrast between broader conversations within our field, and Dalhousie University’s School of Architecture’s lack of initiative in acknowledging racism within the study and practice of architecture. Dalhousie University and the City of Halifax has a historic and ongoing entanglement with race, slavery, and anti-blackness. There have been no efforts by the School of Architecture’s Administration and Faculty in addressing the systemic injustices Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) constantly face in the School and in the field.

To begin this communal process of deconstructing the institution as we know it the administration must engage with pressing matters which have been ignored and concealed. We demand that the issue of hate speech that was brought forward to the administration in June 2019 be handled transparently and immediately, before we can have open discussions on the Calls to Action listed below. We feel there has been no effort in engaging and responding to the overt act of racism that occurred with an Associate Professor and his studio and then ignored by the Faculty of Architecture for 13 months, and the Human Rights and Equity Services- Equity and Inclusion Department for 5 months. This incident is written in a separate letter located here

As institutions, brands, and political movements have acknowledged their complicit participation in structures that uphold inequity and pledged to take actionable steps, the School of Architecture has remained silent. To begin this process within our own educational space, we demand to know where the School stands. This stance is more than a vacant letter of solidarity; it is a commitment to actions which have been tangible barriers to students’ safety and wellbeing. As a University priding itself on diversity, inclusion, leadership and innovation it is with great frustration that we have compiled the following call to action, in the midst of a global call to action on racism. This open letter is a call to the School of Architecture to support and stand in solidarity with the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) community. We, an allied group of Alumni and Students of the School of Architecture, demand that actionable strategies and policy changes be generated and established within larger systemic institutions, and call on the administration to acknowledge this silence and to engage with this Call to Action. The Call to Action is a framework that is meant to evolve based on conversations we hope to have collectively in the future.


The Administration must make a public statement about the incident and apologize for the year long lack of action placing students in precarious positions in proximity to and with the perpetrator. This apology must include a transparent process involving disciplinary action. To read about the incident click [here].


The work the School commits to doing, or is currently undertaking, is not enough to erase the scars of the past. Acknowledging the grievances of current and former members of our community is a crucial step to reconciling our past and our future.

  • State Land Acknowledgement clearly on Dalhousie Architecture Website

  • Require all classes, events, lectures to state land acknowledgement prior to presentations. Another possibility could be that the land acknowledgement takes the form of a concrete action seeking reparation. Example: Standard land acknowledgement: a) This week, in order to support BIPOC, we have invited students from this community to audit a lecture. b) This week we have made a donation to the Friendship Centre, we are exhibiting the work of a local indigenous artist, etc.


A diversity committee within the School of Architecture currently exists but it is unknown to students, while its role within the School of Architecture amongst the faculty and staff appears to be unclear. Anti-oppression and/or social justice training is required to be a member of this committee. In the longer term, this committee must prioritize BIPOC faculty (when hired), and be a dedicated resource for students and faculty to address issues.

  • The group will be given a budget to conduct research activities, events, and lectures that will address and generate ideas in support of social equity and systemic change.
  • A student representative on DASA will be a liaison between student government and these efforts. The student representative should prioritize BIPOC students and have connections to a wide support base within Dalhousie University. 


Anti-Bias and Anti-Oppression training should be required as an ongoing, iterative course and series of courses -- not as a one-time course. The course(s) would occur during the beginning of each academic year and be mandated for all students, faculty and staff. These course(s) should require discussions of race in architecture, decolonization in architecture, and critical theory in post-colonialism. Indigenous and Black-led workshops should be mandatory for all faculty and students, such as the KAIROS Blanket Exercise led by the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre (hosted by Supernatural in 2019/2020). Workshops and training should address:

The history of slavery and systemic racism faced by BIPOC at Dalhousie University and in K’jipuktuk/Halifax:

  • Report on Lord Dalhousie’s History on Slavery and Race [here
  • The Impact of Colonization and Western Assimilation on Health and Wellbeing of Canadian Aboriginal People [here]


The School should actively review their existing faculty, staff, and their research interests and geographies and make this data public. The inadequate amount of representation within the School of Architecture is shocking...

0% of the School of Architecture Faculty members are BIPOC*
8.3% of the School of Architecture Adjunct Faculty members are BIPOC*
11.4% visible minority population in Halifax
0% of the School of Architecture Thesis External Examiners are BIPOC*

Note* We recognize that professors such as Richard Kroeker have contributed to discourse involving BIPOC communities. This does not excuse the lack of representation within the Faculty.

These statistics demonstrate the lack of BIPOC representation in scholars. The School of Architecture should actively recruit, hire, retain, and promote BIPOC academics (and compensate them accordingly) as their expertise will broaden the curriculum and discourse in architecture, and elevate students of color in their studies. The School must acknowledge that hiring white staff who identify with other marginalized groups (other genders, queer communities) does not replace or excuse the absence of BIPOC faculty. Implement a study of salaries for existing tenured faculty which includes:

  • Enforcing a pay scale based on effort.
  • Redirecting funds to existing BIPOC faculty who may be under paid in relation to their workloads and/or the hiring of additional BIPOC educators/practitioners. 


The current curriculum taught to students at the School of Architecture is a predominantly-white discourse, with continuous and repetitive references to American and Western European architects and architecture. We demand that the School of Architecture review, revise, deconstruct and rebuild the existing curriculum, which includes syllabi, textual resources, precedents, case studies, coursework, and guest lectures critics and external examiners. The narrowness of the curriculum illustrates the institution’s focus on American-Centric and Eurocentric western ideals. Students should be introduced to this broadened curriculum and ideas on Ethics within both academic and professional environments beginning in B1 and continued throughout BEDS and MArch. To decolonize the discourse, the School of Architecture should:

  • Publicly acknowledge the systemic inequity and discrimination that the School of Architecture continues to perpetuate through academic discourse, curriculum, and studio culture. With a large emphasis on professional practice (Co-op) these inequalities also bleed into practice.

  1. The content focuses on BIPOC contemporary theory and practice that prevents the perpetuation of white saviourist notions & attitudes in design.
  2. Focusing on Terra Cotta huts in Africa, or other pre-modern structures strengthens the white-saviour notion...Create a school-wide database of readings and resources focussed on BIPOC perspectives 

  • Integrate at least 50% Trans/Queer/BIPOC authors in the curriculum and actively invite BIPOC guest lecturers in professional practice presentations
    BIPOC guests should be compensated the same as white guests.

  • Prepare faculty to teach these works and answer all questions with no exceptions.

  1. Professors should hire Black and Indigenous equity and curriculum specialists to train them on how to teach these subject matters. Non-BIPOC Professors must be educated on issues of paternalistic design practices and seek to dismantle them.
  2. The School of Architecture should support staff to conduct academic research regarding BIPOC within the community.
  3. Ensure the curriculum does not encourage development within gentrifying neighborhoods that displace marginalized communities.

  • Provide resources such as databases and libraries for ESL students to ensure equitable opportunities to succeed in the program.

  1. Resources for architectural and academic concepts and language.
  2. Make these resources available both online and in person.

1/11 of the History or Theory courses offered focus solely on non-Western Theory or narratives*
0 of our courses study Halifax’s history on colonization, Indigenous History, African Nova Scotians and The War of 1812, the erasure of Black neighbourhoods.


Financial Accountability and Support

The barriers to enter and succeed in an architectural career are immense — tuition, debt, labor, time, and resources. Many students work to care for themselves and their families. The school must recognize these challenges by not only fostering a supportive community but by committing to lower the cost of an architectural education. The School of Architecture should make an effort to remove barriers and provide access to the profession that disproportionately affects BIPOC.

  • The School of Architecture should provide financial incentives and scholarships to BIPOC and international students. Currently financial aid for BIPOC students is only available to Nova Scotians.
  • Travel studios should be planned in advance to accommodate international student visa wait periods so that students holding those visas are not excluded from an equal opportunity in their education and to reduce the financial burden placed on all students.

Race-Based Data Collection and Transparency
The School of Architecture should collect and publish race-based data on their students; this is not only legal, but reduces educational disparities. The data would illustrate how accessible the institution is and highlight its barriers of entry. Dalhousie University asks racialized students to self-identify during enrolment. Why isn’t this data made public? Dalhousie provides enrollment data by faculty, gender, place of permanent residence, and major but omits the race-based data they collect.

  • How many students apply to the School of Architecture?
  • How many students who identify as BIPOC are admitted to the School of Architecture?
  • How many students who identify as BIPOC drop out of BEDS or MArch without completing their degree?
  • How many students who identify as BIPOC graduate from BEDS and MArch?
  • How many students are recipients of awards and scholarships?
  • How many students who identify as BIPOC are paid less than their counterparts in work terms/internships?
  • How many students who identify as BIPOC are hired post graduating?

Upon enrollment Dalhousie University asks racialized students to self-identify; this is important to understand how accessible the institution is and to highlight barriers of entry. Why isn’t this data made public? Dalhousie provides enrollment data by faculty, gender, place of permanent residence, and major but omits the race-based data they collect.

Update Recruitment Practices
Comprehensive decision-making processes are needed to ensure equitable admission of BIPOC students within the School of Architecture. Having BIPOC students and faculty present during decision making could hold the institution accountable by ensuring application processes are conducted through an anti-racist lens. The current admissions process sees student volunteers paired with faculty to review, cover letters, portfolio, transcripts, and students' names.

Engage with students at an earlier age. Actively start to recruit at elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools in historically Black and Indigenous communities such as North Preston, East Preston, Lake Loon, Cherrybrook, Hammonds Plains, Beechville, Indianbrook, and Millbrook. Develop and improve summer programs that invite BIPOC students to the School of Architecture and Planning.
  • Does the two year period prior to Architecture school create a barrier to access/enrollment to BIPOC? How can the school help to collect data on this and rectify this?
  • Make Dalhousie's School of Architecture lectures (which will now have more diverse speakers) publically accessible to African Nova Scotian schools and to Dalhousie's Black and Indigenous Student Advising Center to increase student's access and awareness of architecture.

Prioritize representation of Africville in student outreach and projects involving North End neighborhoods. Include the Caribbean, and the African continent for recruitment and participatory justice initiatives. The two engagements facilitated by James Forren with the Black Business Initiative (BBI) was a step forward. However James Forren’s efforts should not stand alone in the school’s broader responsibility to equity in design.

  • Outreach with Indigenous students and communities should be prioritized.

The School of Architecture should establish benchmarks to measure relative successes of these calls to actions; this will hold the institution accountable to ensure that all the goals are met. The school should also publicly release an annual report in response to these calls, detailing the status of their implementation.
  • Issues of misconduct which directly impact students should be promptly and transparently mediated with the active input and involvement of those implicated students.
  • There should be a ZERO tolerance policy to hate speech among faculty, staff, and students.
  • Third Party mediation should be used in racialized incidents.

To conclude, we hope that these calls to actions create an ongoing process between students and the administration to better the School of Architecture community and bolster a more equitable educational environment.



4. The statistics in this section are culminated from the Faculty of Architecture and Planning website. However, these figures represent only the School of Architecture. There were two Faculty members included because they are both referenced as being a part of the School of Architecture and the School of Planning. Faculty members figures do not include three Professors Emeritus.

Statistics on Faculty and Adjunct Professors are not public knowledge, all Faculty members are white-passing and have not openly discussed their identities with students. If any corrections need to be made, please do not hesitate to email us and we can adjust the figures.

5. ARCH 5106 International Sustainable Development: The calendar description reads "This course examines recent sustainable development in developed and developing countries. Local building practices and cultural appropriateness are studied within social, economic, and urban contexts. Through readings and case studies, it considers how architects, planners, and builders have handled materials and technology to engender patterns of sustainable living.”

References Used in Letter
1 Open Letter to the YSoA
2 Census Profile, 2016 Census HRM
3 Carleton Journalism, Call to Action
4 Notes on Credibility, Harvard
5 RSA Call to Action