PSU Graphic Design Program Statement on Social Justice
The Graphic Design Program stands against racism and police brutality. As protests continue around the country, we want to affirm that Black Lives Matter. We recognize the long history of racial injustice in the United States, and find it intolerable. Oregon, as a state has also had its own uniquely disturbing history when it comes to racial injustice, which again, we find intolerable. We openly condemn these practices of discrimination, harassment and violence. We are deeply committed to fostering a community that actively seeks to question and dismantle the practices that have held us at such an unconscionable status quo for too long.
But we will not stop there. Race, sex, gender, dis/ability, class, intersectionality, all need to be addressed in design and design education. Marginalized communities need a voice, and as educators, we have several responsibilities to our community to address systemic oppression.
To our students, fellow educators and professional peers, we will:
- Make transparent and accessible to our own communities statistics on race, sex, gender, dis/ability as they exist in our field and our program—for example, the 2016 AIGA Design Census found that only 3% of designers identified as Black, and in our design program, fewer than 5% of students identify as Black
- Continue to support and make space for the voices of BIPOC students through initiatives such as Comma and TIDE
- Continue to address diversity, equity and inclusion as it exists in our curriculum—from decolonizing design history, to exploring issues of equity in our theory classes, to providing resources and materials that reflect diverse voices in all classes we offer; we will work to evolve our curriculum to challenge racial disparities in our field, and help lead and train other educators in doing the same
- Push for real and meaningful change in graphic and interaction design, towards much better representation and inclusion
- Continue to seek out diverse speakers, guest critics, and workshop teachers, so our students see their identities reflected in our discipline
- Continue to make every effort to build a more diverse adjunct faculty
- Listen to critical feedback regarding experiences in the classroom and the community, act as advocates of our marginalized students, and actively address any instances of bias and discrimination
- Proactively support individuals and groups gathered in protest to speak truth to power
- Openly criticize/challenge racist and unethical practices in design
- Take leadership roles in helping other educators support BIPOC and other marginalized voices
- Recognize and acknowledge that we also have more to learn and that there is more we can do to dismantle structural racism and inequity; it’s a process, and a long-term commitment on our part
To our campus, Provost, President and Board of Trustees, we will:
- Echo the calls made by our PSU-AAUP Executive Council in December to address the crisis facing the Black Studies Department, and that they receive financial, academic and community support for the integral role they play on our campus
- Echo the call of the School of Architecture to push the administration to fund new tenure lines for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous designers and educators so that PSUGD’s students of color can see themselves better reflected in those guiding them into professional practice
- Join numerous programs and groups at PSU in support of the DisarmPSU movement and ask the Board of Trustees to re-examine its role in arming sworn Campus Safety Officers in 2014; law enforcement disproportionately targets Black and brown people and we are strongly against any racial profiling or targeting of our students or PSU community
There is still so much work to be done. We acknowledge our own privilege and power and pledge to use our knowledge and positions of power in the service of matters of equity and justice. We recognize it is on us to make this school a safe place to learn and thrive. We also see the need for coordinated long-term efforts. We hope you will join us in rethinking and reforming both our community and the broader design discipline. We also recognize that the current COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting people of color and indigenous communities, magnifying already existing disparities. During this time, we are here for all of our students, and will work to be as accommodating as possible with regards to both COVID-19 and its impact on our BIPOC community. We invite you to reach out to us if you have questions, concerns, need support, or simply want to talk about what is going on now, or in the future.
This letter is endorsed and signed by the faculty of the Portland State Graphic Design Program, with special thanks to our students for pushing us to craft a public statement.
Kate Bingaman-Burt, Professor
Cielle Charron, Instructor
Thom Hines, Associate Professor
Meredith James, Associate Professor
Stephen Lee, Assistant Professor
Briar Levit, Associate Professor
Sean Schumacher, Assistant Professor