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AIA enlists Eric Holder, Jr., for new award recipients vetting guidelines

The AIA is signaling that it is taking harassment seriously. (@elevenphotographs/Unsplash)

The AIA has launched a review of its selection processes for its Honors & Awards and Fellows programs, and has hired Covington & Burling, LLP, and, by extension, partner and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., to help guide the process.

The architecture industry, along with too many others, has been embroiled in a series of #metoo-related scandals, as architects have come forward with their claims of sexual harassment, assault, and belittling at every level. As revelations about once-revered designers emerge, organizing bodies have grappled with whether they should revoke the awards given to offenders. While Richard Meier was able to retain his Pritzker after a New York Times article early last year alleged that he had engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment, AIA New York chose to strip Meier of his 2018 Design Award.

Now the national AIA is trying to put procedures in place for vetting the professional conduct of its nominees and to develop a standardized protocol for dealing with allegations that arise after an award or fellowship has been bestowed. The AIA’s Board of Directors and National Ethics Council will work with Holder as part of an advisory group to build out the new guidelines addressed above.

Additionally, in the same press release, the AIA touted four rules it had recently changed to demonstrate that it was serious about stamping out harassment:

  • Standardizing rules across awards: The guidelines underpinning the Institute Awards now apply to Knowledge Communities awards program, which are geared towards specialized topics.
  • Making all letters of recommendation confidential, so that potentially troubling behavior can be brought to the AIA’s attention without fear of reprisal.
  • Members of the AIA’s leadership groups are now able to put forward confidential messages about a candidate, which will be appended to the candidate’s confidential review.
  • The AIA will now conduct random background checks on its award and fellowship nominees.

AN will follow this story up once the AIA’s review is complete and the new guidelines have been developed.

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