RISD Anti-Racism Coalition (risdARC) is dedicated to combating our institution’s prolonged history of anti-Blackness, marginalization, and discrimination along with the intersections of global systems of oppression affecting our community. We support and advocate for the needs of all students of color regardless of ethnicity, race, disability, gender, or sexuality.

RISD Student Alliance Statement

July 8 2020

Written By:
Amy Huang, President
Andrew Wang, RISDVice President 

Sent to:
RISD Administration

Dear Members of the RISD Administration,

It is unusual for the Undergraduate Student Alliance to be operating over the summer. However, due to the gravity and importance of recent issues concerning students which have cause for reexamining what it currently means to be in our community and what it means to be “at” RISD within the current state of our inequitable learning environment, we will be writing to you at the end of every month. The purpose of these open letters - which we will also share with the student body - is to present you with and to vocally call attention to the student initiatives and concerns which are imperative for the administration to address and to produce change from. We want to help reinforce the importance of these issues and  present a reference for the conversations to be had and the work to be done in the coming year  which the administration must commit to and be held accountable for.

As the murder of George Floyd and countless other violent atrocities committed against BIPOC communities have prompted the nation to rise up against racial injustice, it is crucial for the same conversations and changes to take place within the RISD community. We must acknowledge that, as the national and global fight against racial injustice has been present and ongoing long before this current moment, so too have students at RISD had to confront racial injustice and violence here while being met by inaction or frank resistance. As you have heard from the student speakers of the RISD & Race Forum,  RISD is implicit in and perpetuates the systems of racial injustice present in many of our institutions. We urge you to work with the RISD Anti-Racism Coalition in a manner that directly addresses concerns brought by the student voices they represent and directly addresses other experiences from our community members including but not limited to those on the BIPOC Community Board created by Grace Oh (ID/ILLUS 20) and Clara Lieu’s story as a previous faculty member. We also urge you to acknowledge the lack of institutional change and to recognize  previous uncompensated emotional labor done by Black students for Not your Token and the Waiting Room protests for SEA recommendations/SEI. We hope to see change happen in RISD’s departments as detailed by their individual responses to RISD ARC and we will continue to offer our support in these conversations where it is appropriate.

We would also like to call attention to student concerns regarding the on-going conversations between the administration and the full time faculty union and the general lack of financial transparency following the impact of COVID-19 on higher education. For many students, the first news of this issue did not come from a source within the RISD community but from a third-party article which documented conflicting information and statements. Hence, students have been understandably confused, outraged and concerned over what may unfold as the conversation continues. Students and recent alumni are petitioning for the fair treatment of faculty and staff out of growing concern over harm to our educators and education in the absence of official sources of information about the issue as it stands today. As such, students and alumni rightfully feel that the administration is currently not doing all in its power to negate financial loss before resorting to discussion of layoffs, including actions such as the President and Cabinet taking meaningful pay cuts or presenting a plan to deaccession appropriate objects of the RISD Museum in order to return funds to the RISD community. We would like to urgently reiterate our request earlier this week for more transparency, accountability, and acknowledgement on this issue from the administration as it is undoubtedly an important one for all members of our community and one that ultimately reflects larger systemic issues facing educators, and disproportionately BIPOC and adjunct faculty, within our systems of higher education. We  understand that, because this conversation concerns RISD’s larger financial plans in the light of the effects of COVID-19 and decisions, such as recommendations made to Cabinet by the Budget Priorities Committee, it is extremely important then that we demand  more transparency and communication to students about what decisions are being made and why regarding such community-affecting policies.

As plans are being put in place for RISD to reopen in the fall, students have been grappling with a variety of pressing issues and difficult decisions including whether or not to return to campus, the detailed impact on their classes, tuition, financial aid, and on receiving meaningful mental and physical health support. We understand that many of RISD’s decisions are still in the process of being finalized. However, we still stress the importance of students having access right now to the support and advising structures they need at this time in order to navigate their concerns about fall and we ask that these structures be made available and accessible to all students.

Finally, we would like to further stress that these are especially pressing and vulnerable times for our international student community. In light of the new Immigrations and Customs Enforcement policy decisions announced in the last two days, international students are not only unequally limited in their course flexibility otherwise afforded to domestic students, but also face being denied entrance to America and of the risk of deportation. We have received communication from the Office of International Student Services that support is coming to these students. However, such circumstances only further reiterate the urgent need for decisions to be made now and for those decisions to be effectively communicated to the student body.

Thank you for hearing our concerns. We wish you all the best with the work to be done as we head into the second month of summer.

Best regards,
Alliance Executive Committee
Amy Huang, President (ID, 21)
Andrew Wang, Vice President (IL, 22)

Dear RISD [BIPOC Community Board]