A wide shot of a ceramics studio, featuring students working with pottery wheels and other tools.

Anti-Racism Committee and Naming Facilities

Dear SAIC Community,

With the beginning of the fall semester, and the need to work against systemic racism in our world and on our campus at the forefront of the hearts and minds of many of us, I want to reach out again to update you further on the diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism actions we have undertaken this summer since my prior communications (read updates one, two, and three). In particular, I am pleased to tell you more about the new committee dedicated to anti-racism and a new approach to how we name our facilities.
Anti-Racism Committee
As announced earlier this summer, a new Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) has been formed to support and extend existing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts and catalyze DEI and anti-racist work throughout all areas of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). ARC’s charge includes both identifying and implementing initiatives that will meaningfully improve the School’s operations and the lived experiences of its community members. Co-chaired by Jefferson Pinder, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for academic affairs, and Delinda Collier, interim dean of graduate studies, ARC will report directly to me, and its members come from throughout the School:
Delinda Collier, Interim Dean of Graduate Studies
Jefferson Pinder, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Academic Affairs

Sampada Aranke, Assistant Professor, Art History, Theory, and Criticism
James Connolly, Assistant Professor, Adjunct, Film, Video, New Media, and Animation
Olivia Gude, Professor, Art Education
Jenny Lee, Assistant Professor, Art History, Theory, and Criticism
Dan Price, Associate Professor, Sculpture
Maria Gaspar, Associate Professor, Contemporary Practices
Daniel Quiles, Associate Professor, Art History, Theory, and Criticism
Roberto Sifuentes, Professor, Performance
Kirin Wachter-Grene, Assistant Professor, Liberal Arts
Martine Whitehead, Assistant Professor, Adjunct, Contemporary Practices
Adrian Wong, Assistant Professor, Sculpture

Dio Aldridge, Special Assistant to the Dean and Provost on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Robyn Besana, Disability Specialist
Michael Blackman, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs for Student Support and Conflict Resolution
Craig Downs, Executive Director of Media and Instructional Resources
Dawn Gavin, Dean of Undergraduate Studies
Jaclyn Jacunski, Director of Civic Engagement
Molly Scranton, Associate Director of Faculty Affairs
Jimmie Swaggerty, Senior Administrative Director, Department of Fashion Design
Katrina Valera, Director of Student Affairs for Diversity and Inclusion
Timeka Young, Employee Relations and Training Manager

Zemaye Okediji, graduate
Carly Trujilo, undergraduate, Resident Assistant, and member of the Native American Student Association (NASA)

In addition to these members, we are also in dialogue with an additional student, faculty member, and a member of the board of governors who may also join the committee. While ARC will be an indispensable agent for progress at SAIC, changing our institutional culture will rely on all of us participating in ways large and small. ARC will also establish a series of subcommittees that will include additional members of the community, establish opportunities for feedback, and regularly share updates, working hard to provide many avenues for participation so those who want to be involved will be able to contribute.
Naming Facilities 
An important element of the contemporary movement toward racial justice involves examining the world's historical record and recognizing how dominant narratives typically advantage people of privilege, who are usually White, and obscure the perspectives of those from historically marginalized groups, often people who are Black, Indigenous, or of color. Many colleges and universities now confront the legacy of campus buildings and spaces named after renowned historical figures and lesser-known donors who participated in racist or colonialist practices. At SAIC, the way we refer to the School building located at 280 South Columbus Drive has been called into question by many individuals, and I agree that our naming practice should be reconsidered.

The School facility we commonly refer to as “Columbus” is not its official name. Rather, it is a default practice at SAIC to refer to buildings by their street name and number when they do not have an existing name or prior to a naming opportunity being realized. A naming opportunity occurs when an element of our operations, such as a scholarship, endowed professorship, or building, is named to acknowledge a donor’s significant support of the School. For example, before the MacLean Center was named along with a gift from Barry and Mary Ann MacLean, and before classes were held at the Lakeview Building (116 South Michigan Avenue), the facility at 112 South Michigan Avenue was called the “Michigan” building.

Changing the name of the Columbus building, therefore, will require changes to our internal habits and policies. First, we should change our habit, School-wide, for how we refer to buildings without existing nomenclature. Second, we should look to establish processes and articulate values for renaming facilities that align with our anti-racist initiatives while also permitting us to retain important fundraising opportunities that advance our mission. Today, I announce steps we are taking to address both these practice and policy goals.

Beginning immediately, our official policy will be to refer to unnamed buildings by their street number alone. That means the “Columbus” building will become the “280” building. Similarly, the residence hall at 162 North State Street will be the “162” building. Because this is a change of habit for our community, it will take time for us to internalize this new practice and reflect it throughout our speech, publications, and the website. Your attention, effort, and patience as we make this transition together is appreciated. Already-named buildings, such as Sharp or Jones Hall, will retain their names for the foreseeable future. In preparation for unforeseen futures, the offices of the dean and advancement are working toward a process by which the School community can advise on the naming of a building, space, professorship, or department.
Throughout the coming academic year, we will keep you abreast of the anti-racism work being undertaken at SAIC through campus-wide emails, including communications from ARC, as well as new and updated resources being developed for the website, including this page, which lists many of the DEI initiatives we have undertaken over the last ten years. If you have any questions or are wondering how to get involved, please email the members of ARC at saicdiversity@saic.edu.

Elissa Tenny