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Faculty and students at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts penned open letters demanding leadership address racism.

Daria Simone Harper
Jun 26, 2020 5:10PM, via Hyperallergic

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Image via Flickr.

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) has asked staff members to keep their affiliation with the school separate from any activism in which they might engage. The request, which comes amid ongoing protests against racial violence and widespread institutional grappling with systemic racism, has sparked outrage among current and former students, who have collectively gathered five separate open letters under one website demanding change.

The five letters, authored by PAFA alumni, undergraduates, graduate students, post-baccalaureate students, and the Alumni Council, condemn the school’s non-affiliation policy and highlight specific ways that the school has failed to live up to ideals of diversity and accountability.

The alumni letter reads, in part:

PAFA’s diverse student body is not adequately represented in the faculty or staff, and even less so in positions of power. PAFA must immediately restructure its leadership such that people of color are adequately represented both on and by the faculty, staff, Board of Trustees, Women's Board, and the Dean and Chair positions. PAFA must also make a tangible commitment to the support of all Black students and Black and POC lives through a re-assessment of all areas of the school and museum including: curriculum, marketing, labor conditions (pay, protections and advancement), tuition costs, scholarships, funding structures, and more.

The letters go on to state that concrete action must be taken to correct institutional racism at the school and museum, including recruitment of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) for faculty and board of trustee positions, creation of independent advisory committees, zero-tolerance racism policies, guaranteed job security for those supporting Black Lives Matter and police defunding efforts, and the resignation of CEO and president David Brigham, among other demands.

Daria Simone Harper
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