UC Berkeley has suspended Nezar AlSayyad, professor of architecture, city planning, urban design, and urban history as punishment for "a pattern of sexual harassment," in the words of Benjamin Hermalin, vice provost at the school. The decision was reported today by the San Francisco Chronicle, after apparently having been made public by the school this month. The professor will remain on leave for three years and is planned to return to the school in the fall of 2021, according to his profile page on the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design website. As the Chronicle reported, AlSayyad's suspension centered around his abuse of his former student, Eva Hagberg Fisher. She originally brought forth accusations against him in 2016, and it has taken three years for the school to make a decision about the case. AlSayyad has been barred from teaching since Hagberg Fisher came forward, but the Chronicle says that he had continued to receive his six-figure salary since then. The faculty senate at Berkeley decided the case, and they originally recommended that AlSayyad be suspended for one year after finding that the professor had indeed harassed Hagberg Fisher and created a hostile environment for other faculty and students at the school. Carol Christ, chancellor of the school and the last word on disciplinary measures, decided to triple the length of the leave. Because AlSayyad is a tenured faculty member, it would likely be difficult to fire him or suspend him indefinitely. The Chronicle reports that AlSayyad and his lawyer are considering retaliatory legal action.
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With only a couple of days left until the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018 (A’18) brings thousands of architects to New York City, many industry professionals are taking the opportunity to raise awareness about inequality, discrimination, and harassment in the field. A flash mob, workshops on #MeToo, and a resolution requiring ethical and equitable workplaces are all in the cards for this year’s conference. The rise of the #MeToo movement and the harassment and assault allegations against Richard Meier exposed fault lines in the architectural community that some say were always buried just below the surface. Women in architecture have been speaking up as a result, and architects are using this year’s convention as a national platform to make their voices heard. Frances Halsband, FAIA, co-founder of Kliment Halsband Architects, started a petition asking the AIA to amend their code of ethics to require that member workplaces must be free of discrimination, harassment, and abuse. Halsband’s petition and accompanying Fellowship is Leadership resolution, originally sent to 60 AIA Fellows, has signatures from nearly 500 fellows at the time of writing, over ten times the amount required to bring an item to a vote. "When I looked around, other architectural organizations were dealing with what had happened much more swiftly, and it seemed to me that the AIA was not doing enough," Halsband told AN. "I felt it was up to the Fellows to take a stand. If we’re supposed to be setting the standard, then we should set the standard." She added, "It’s one thing to belong to an organization that speaks for you; that’s a passive role. It seemed to me this is so important that individual people wanted to say, 'I believe this; I’m doing this.'" The petition was quickly codified into a resolution that Halsband brought to the floor of the AIA Conference on June 20 during the Business Meeting. Each of the delegates representing all AIA members will be given the chance to vote on whether to adopt the amendment. The measure passed overwhelmingly, with 4272 voting in favor of amending the code of ethics, 13 opposed, and 136 delegates abstaining. Carl Elefante, FAIA and AIA President, says that for their part, the organization is working to initiate a full suite of equity, diversity, and inclusion plans. The #MeToo movement and allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other high-profile men have brought a sense of urgency to the proceedings, said Elefante, but the AIA is a massive organization. Changes need to work their way through the appropriate committees and efforts to combat harassment and create a more equitable professional workplace have already been included in the 2016 – 2020 strategic plan. Ultimately, there are three levels in the AIA’s structure that need to be addressed: the national, at the 217 local AIA chapters, and on a member level. At the local level, Elefante discussed the coming harassment policy and training that chapters must adopt by 2019. Unfortunately, he noted, the AIA is an organization. Architects are either AIA members or they aren’t, and it often falls to firms to police their own culture. For their part, the AIA is working with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and with firms to raise awareness of the issues. On Friday, June 22, a flash mob intending to raise awareness of the discrimination and harassment that women in architecture experience, similar to the one staged at this year’s Venice Biennale, will gather at 12:30 pm at the AIA "member lounge" in the Crystal Pavilion on 34th Street and 11th Ave at the Javits Center. Beverly Willis, FAIA, of the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, a nonprofit that advances the recognition and contributions of women in architecture, and Caroline James, who started the petition to retroactively award Denise Scott Brown the 1991 Pritzker, will be leading the charge. The AIA is hosting its own handful of workshops on equitable practices in the workplace as well. On Friday, June 22, visitors can attend the “Harassment in the Workplace, Part 1—Compliance and Culture: Building a Respectful & Harassment-Free Workplace Culture” workshop from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM. After learning how to recognize and avoid harassment in the workplace, conference guests can follow up with “Harassment in the Workplace, Part 2—Community and Resources: Hearing Voices & Exploring Conversation Strategies,” a panel on Saturday from 8 AM to 9 AM. Syracuse University’s Fisher Center at 19 East 31st Street will be holding a hackathon for equality on Wednesday from 1 PM to 5PM, where established architects and emerging voices can come together and present radical ideas for making architecture practices more diverse, equitable, and open spaces. Back at the Javits, interested visitors can stop by “The Missing 32 Percent (Women) & Missing Small Architects” on Thursday from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM and learn about the roadblocks that women in architecture face on their paths towards representation and recognition. The Architecture Lobby will be using the conference as a springboard for its own set of talks and workshops on Friday and Saturday. Saturday’s “Infrastructure: The Architecture Lobby National Think-In” will gather a diverse set of participants and build a dialogue about how to fix both the hard and “soft” (intangible) problems plaguing architecture. At the Think-In, the “Labor” session from 2 PM to 3:15 PM will address the problems of low wages, long hours, and the lack of job security facing architects; the “#MeToo” session from 3:30 PM to 4:45 PM will tackle the backlash that accusers often face when coming forward; and the “Alternative Forms of Professional Organization” session from 5 PM to 6:15 PM will examine how architecture practices and architects as individuals can best order themselves and create mutually beneficial professional structures. All of these sessions will be held at Prime Produce, a nonprofit gathering space at 424 W 54th Street.
Architecture has been grappling with its own #MeToo moment since the reports of sexual harassment allegations against Richard Meier broke. The responses have varied, ranging from statements condemning sexual harassment and promoting workplace reform to the creation of a “shitty architecture men” list. The conversation also underscores existing challenges within architecture: the field is almost completely white, overwhelmingly male, and shrinking. But so far, most responses have addressed symptoms rather than structural issues. We need to talk about how architecture’s crisis is deeply rooted in its culture. If architecture is to be saved—from the Richard Meiers to the unpaid internships—we must expand how architecture is evaluated and rethink how it is taught. Expand the Terms of Architectural Value Our definition of good architecture is woefully myopic and outdated, beginning with the cult of personality. A list of important architecture is analogous to a list of individuals or acronyms synonymous with individuals. The dominant narrative (think the Pritzker Prize) recognizes design excellence as an individual rather than office-wide achievement. And though important scholarship is deepening our understanding of the canon by recognizing the contribution of overlooked women like Anne Tyng or Charlotte Perriand, the office-wide effort, fundamental to architecture, remains unseen. The production of the design—from the labor practices to the contributions of team members—should be considered when evaluating architecture. We should be asking: How is the office structured? Is the office environment oppressive? Is there pay equity? These questions are as fundamental to architectural quality as a building’s relationship to its surroundings or the detailing of a corner. This will help to debunk the sole creator myth, recognize the profession’s collective nature, and establish the importance of the practice of architecture. In this light, Meier’s projects would be rightly seen as bad architecture. Well-rounded criticism will expand the realm of architectural value beyond its narrow-minded focus on the building to examine and celebrate architectural practice. As architects, our offices are the only environments we can completely design, implement, and control. So it is maddening that they are so often toxic and inhumane. In response to the allegations against Meier, the Pritzker Foundation reaffirmed his 1984 award, stating: “We do not comment on the personal lives of our laureates.” This is ridiculous. Meier did not harass in his personal life; he harassed in his professional life. It is scandalous to valorize architecture made in such an environment. Change Architectural Education to Change Practice Design studio, which is based on a master/apprentice relationship, is a unique and valuable form of pedagogy. But its unequal power dynamic is too often exacerbated by the harmful and inappropriate behavior of some studio instructors, an ill-defined student/teacher boundary, and an acceptance of hostile and aggressive crits. Studio sets expectations for the kinds of workplaces and mentor relationships that young architects will seek or accept. Painfully, against this backdrop, the allegations against Meier are not shocking. They are just over the line of what many students and young architects have learned to put up with. Studio also establishes overwork as a cornerstone of architectural excellence, reproducing the belief that good design is never done. Saying yes to another parti, model, or rendering forces us to say no to meals, sleep, and social life. We also learn that, trapped in a service industry, we should expect to be underpaid (or unpaid) and under-appreciated. School-taught expectations shape our decisions to work at offices despite the overwork, underpay, and toxic environments (not to mention our student debt!). Many offices rely on and enforce this culture of overwork to offset the cost of uncompensated competitions, low fees, accelerated schedules, or scope changes. Poorly compensated labor props up many firms, allowing them to win critical acclaim while operating sham businesses and undercutting the industry as a whole. Pedagogy should project the ideals of practice, not reflect its worst tendencies. Universities should temper the always-yes culture and advocate for boundaries. They should establish guidelines for studio organization, schedules, workloads, deliverables, and time-management in concert with students. They should also clarify the codes of the student/teacher relationship and teach students that their time is valuable and that architecture can be done without lopsided power dynamics and overwork. If we learned in such a setting, why would we go to offices that pay little, expect us to work nonstop, and serve abusive, ego-driven individuals? Firms built on unpaid or underpaid labor would be rightly seen as pariahs regardless of their designs’ originality, not celebrated as they are now. The professional practice track should also be strengthened. A sequence of courses in this vein could teach real-world responsibilities and reinvest in architecture as a circumscribed discipline, fostering scholarship around the history and theory of architectural practice. Leading professionals from various types of offices could speak about the nuts and bolts of running their practices. Students could learn to creatively and effectively run an office, as well as to design. Imagine if we learned the profession and studied the typologies and history of offices in order to think critically and innovatively about practice. Only then could we say that school truly advances the future of architecture. Rebuild Architecture’s Credibility On top of our internal structural issues, architects’ expertise and authority is eroding and our necessity is being questioned. In our desire to limit liability, we have ceded responsibility to other parties: architects of record, consultants, engineers, contractors, and owner's representatives—shrinking our professionalism. Yet we trumpet architecture’s ability to address social and global challenges: the future of work, housing, urbanization, climate change. To credibly take on these issues, we need to tend to our discipline from the bottom up, starting with expanding architectural value and repairing education. Our problems are not intractable and there are a few downsides. But without change, architecture is undergoing a brain drain. The #MeToo reckoning adds urgency to the profession’s troubling trajectory. With its abysmal diversity and the discipline's shameful state, it’s hard to see why anyone would want to be an architect. And yet we do. Those of us who love architecture—its history, worldview, and optimism—must refuse to say yes to its unhealthy and degrading demands. Architecture has never been more important to the world’s realities. But to meaningfully contribute and fully realize the #MeToo moment, we must rebuild architecture from the ground up. Miles Fujiki is a young architect working in New York City.
Four more women have come forward with sexual harassment allegations against Richard Meier, adding to the five who already came forward in a March 13 report by The New York Times. All four are former employees of the firm, one of whom told the paper that she reached a settlement with the company for $25,000 in 1992 after Meier threw himself on top of her. Beyond a recounting of their experiences with Meier in the office and at his Upper East Side home, the latest news focuses on the firm itself and a culture where, according to many employees, Meier's behavior towards women was an open secret that no one took any action to address. Responding to the earlier allegations, Richard Meier announced a six-month leave from the office and released an apology prefaced by the words, "While our recollections may differ," which some readers called a non-apology. The firm's latest statement to the Times similarly avoided directly engaging with the allegations, instead distancing them as decade-old, "personal" allegations that should not sully the reputation of the firm:
“The allegations involving Richard Meier, the most recent of which were nearly a decade old, do not reflect the ethos and culture of the firm, and it would be irresponsible to allow these personal allegations to tarnish the company.”But it is the firm's senior management who really takes the cake in demonstrating how the firm may have viewed Meier's alleged misconduct. A senior associate who was with the firm for 20 years, and who was told about Meier's inappropriate touching of an employee by the woman herself, admitted to the Times,
“It’s not something that was a secret."In response to the allegations, Robert Gatje, one of Meier's former partners, stated:
“That was 25 years ago. Things were a lot different back then.”A former partner, Gunter R. Standke, who worked at the firm for 12 years and told the paper he knew Meier "was attracted to young women" and invited them to leave the office with him at the end of the workday, explained his inaction to the Times:
“I had all the European projects...I had no time to watch what Mr. Meier was doing.”Yikes.
How "The List" works Thanks to the #MeToo movement and the Shitty Architecture Men list, many survivors of harassment and assault in the architecture industry will, for the first time, experience the sense that they are believed and validated. They can recognize that the abuse of power follows recognizable patterns, and is neither unique nor deserved. While discrete "whisper networks" in the field have long helped people avoid or confront misconduct, now people can find each other and realize they are not alone. For many on the receiving end of intimidation, bias, assault, and harassment in architecture, the scope of what has been revealed is old news. But some people have told me that it has already deepened their understanding of the systematic nature and urgency of the problem. As a compendium of case studies identifying specific behaviors as misconduct, the list rejects the normalization of bullying, coercion, and abuse of power as standard architecture culture. By describing a wide range of behavior beyond clear-cut instances of sexual harassment and assault alone, the list also signals how institutions and workplaces can respond to the full spectrum of issues. For example, a university administration’s acceptance of one professor’s casual bullying and racism might predict a tendency to dismiss complaints about sexual harassment and assault. The experiences shared on the list also reveal how some benefit from the current culture, while others are constantly doing the work of avoiding, processing, recovering from, or confronting misconduct. These dynamics play out unequally along gender, race, class, and disability lines, all of which constitute a profound burden on those who bear the brunt of impact. That labor is layered on top of all of the other work that comprises being an architect. The list’s impact is immeasurable; it might alter where someone decides to study (and invest their money) or work (whom they allow to benefit from their labor). Ideally, harassment and abuse will diminish, and it will become typical to practice active consent and foster environments of mutual respect so we can all equally focus on design. So you are on the list... For those who find themselves named on the list, or who are not named but recognize therein behaviors they have enacted or defended, there are many resources to support one’s accountability and transformation. Cooper's 6 Levels identifies a spectrum of harassing behavior. The Predator Within shares the account of someone who reins in predatory tendencies by intentionally declining positions of authority over his target population. So You've Sexually Harassed or Abused Someone: What Now? provides a step-by-step accountability plan that applies to many situations — not only sexual harassment and abuse, but other types of harm. Before taking any action, activating your PR defense, or beseeching the moderators to remove your name, take the time to steep yourself in the fact that you are on the list. You are on it because you have harmed someone so deeply that they are compelled to warn others about you. Your inclusion means that someone doesn't trust you enough to confront you directly. Acknowledge all of the feelings that arise — fear, guilt, indignation, grief — before you do anything else. Some of you must admit that you are unfit to hold power over the populations you target for harassment and abuse. This includes those who have not harassed or abused anyone outright, but who protected or minimized such behavior. Some of you must resign from your positions, and transfer authority and decision-making powers to others. Return your awards and honors. Decline your funding so others can benefit from it. Move out of the way. You must pay your debts. Apology is not enough. Ijeoma Oluo’s So You've Sexually Harassed or Abused Someone: What Now? discusses the toll of misconduct in terms of lost resources. Multiple contributions to the list describe faculty and administrators who undermined their students’ education through sexist and racist harassment, bullying, intimidation, and assault — or who allowed perpetrators to continue unimpeded. This is, in effect, a theft of their tuition. The list also describes many types of workplace harassment. If your colleague takes a sick day to seek medical attention after you assault her, then you've stolen hours from her employer and you’ve stolen her pay while making her appear less dedicated to the work compared to you. If he avoids spaces where you might be present after you bully or harass him, you are depriving him of vital networks. In the long run, you have activated trauma, leading to depression and anxiety, which can lower capacity and cause many other distressing effects. All of this can accrue into a lifetime of suppressed wages and promotion denials, in addition to medical and therapy bills, on top of the immeasurable impact of the psychological and physical harm. This is how to calculate the cost of your misconduct. The personal, professional, and financial burden of recovering from harassment and assault typically falls upon survivors. To reverse this pattern, actual cash reparations from aggressors, institutions or workplaces will materially restore some of what was nonconsensually taken. Make student loan payments for the student you assaulted or bullied, commensurate with the tuition for the class or degree in which your misconduct foreclosed their opportunities. Pay the medical and therapy bills of the colleague you harassed. Do this without expecting forgiveness, or forcing any interaction beyond the barest logistical minimum. Money cannot undo trauma, but it can eliminate some stressors that compound it. What everyone (especially bosses, clients, and institutions) can do: Many have been saying, “The culture must change,” but what does that actually mean? It means that the institutional conditions that encourage aggressors to flourish need to be eliminated. It means that we must all share the work of confronting harassment and assault, whether on the spot or over the long term. It means we cannot address sexual harassment and gender disparity as if they exist in a vacuum — we must simultaneously confront racism, classism, and other forms of systemic oppression that make architecture a source of displacement and exclusion. Changing the culture means fostering an environment where openness and support are normalized. Supervisors and administrators should open dialogue with people who seem to be struggling, rather than penalizing them. Offer to revisit workloads and move deadlines so impacted people don’t have to ask. State upfront that if someone must leave due to personal circumstances, they can still reach out for introductions and references. Offer to serve as a reference for a colleague who was unfairly fired, or a student who drops a class due to harassment or similar misconduct. Allocate funds for survivors who drop classes or take time off work due to violence and assault. Model asking for support, to normalize such behavior. All of us (especially those who are disadvantaged in a power dynamic) should be able to approach a colleague or supervisor with a problem, and trust it will be taken seriously and addressed promptly without risking one’s livelihood. Changing the culture means devoting time and resources to designing actionable processes. People who have been impacted by bullying, harassment and assault should know what steps they can take and what resources are available to have the time to recover individually. And cultural recovery requires that those who perpetrated sexual misconduct or other kinds of violence must also have restorative processes available to them. Accountability processes cannot continue a carceral culture of “throwing transgressors away.” Instead, they must focus on fostering transformation. Otherwise we risk simply moving the problem to another school or workplace. These are just some suggestions and ideas. Much more can be done, and architects, who address complex issues in their work, are more than capable of orienting themselves to the task of cutting out their own “shitty” behavior. You teach in the world’s most elite institutions. You figured out how to construct unprecedented skyscrapers. You master-planned entire swaths of major cities. You can figure this out. S. Surface is a Seattle-based curator of art, architecture and design.