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Greater diversity and inclusion in the Department of Art and Art History, some important changes

July 2020

Dear Students in the Art and Art History Department,

I am writing as chair to announce some important changes to the curriculum and general culture of the department. These changes are the result of intensive discussions among the faculty this summer, which were, in turn, prompted by several eloquent letters we received in early June from students and alums urging us to make the department a more inclusive place.

Among these changes—

In Art Practice

An ongoing commitment to diversifying the tenure-line faculty

An ongoing commitment to diversifying the adjunct faculty

A commitment that the Department’s Holt Visiting Artist be predominantly from under-represented groups, starting as soon as these visits resume

The elimination of course fees for undergraduate Art Practice and Film Production courses, starting in AY 20-21

An ongoing focus on decolonizing the Art Practice curriculum

The creation of a new Art Practice IntroSem about pathways into artists’ careers, focusing on artists of color, starting in AY 20-21

The elimination of a minimum GPA requirement for eligibility for admission into the Art Practice senior honors cohort

The opportunity for Art Practice majors and minors partly to fulfill their Art History requirement by taking approved visual culture-related courses in CCSRE, IDA, AAAS, or other courses as approved by their advisors

Increased outreach and recruiting to artists-of-color, including at HBCUs, as part of the MFA admissions process

In Documentary Film

Changes to Program Requirements and the Curriculum:

Moving from a total of 76 units to 62 units, 6 electives across six quarters - 3 films studies, 1 art history, 1 art practice, 1 choice elective

As a side benefit to these changes, students in our program would now enroll in two quarters of 11-18 units, and four quarters at the 8-10 unit level, substantially reducing tuition overall across two years

Include an MFA representative at every program meeting, who will be part of non-confidential parts of this meeting and who can bring concerns of the larger MFA student body to the meetings (This representative will also attend the monthly all faculty department meetings)

Offer a survey on Doc Film Student Opinions and Student Input to Program at Large   

Use Google forms to anonymously survey student opinions on curriculum, issues of inclusion and diversity --  solicit feedback on other issues and matters related to MFA Program as a whole

Monthly Doc Film Town Halls

Each faculty/ staff member to host a monthly doc film town hall to gather and socialize and discuss important issues.

Strengthen Diversity Among Guests/Visitors

Use Special Guests funds for a series of visitors to address relevant anti-racism issues as they impact the Doc Film field (filmmakers of color, and guests who address these issues in their work outside of filmmaking as well).

Work more closely with IDA for programming

Increase diversity recruitment and outreach to impact admissions and teaching faculty

Increase advertising and visibility of the program via direct outreach emails to program directors at HBCUs and through Instagram; host events featuring our students interacting with organizations such as Brown Girls Doc Mafia and Firelight Media

In Art History

An ongoing commitment to diversifying the tenure-line faculty

The creation of a new set of degree requirements for the major, effective starting in the 2021-22 school year, establishing a greater focus on artists from under-represented groups and on questions of art, privilege, and power. Among these new requirements:

A mandatory new team-taught core course called “Art and Power.” The course will introduce students to a wide range of art and artifacts across different cultural and historical contexts.  It will demonstrate how art and its history are shaped by structures of power and inequality and, conversely, how power relations are represented, reinforced, or subverted by art. The course will be taught by two professors specializing in different historical periods and cultural traditions

The change of the title of Art 1A to “Decolonizing the Western Canon: Prehistoric through Medieval,” to reflect better the course’s critique of the western canon

A focus on questions of diversity, race, and inclusion in the topics covered in the required WIM and Methods seminars

The creation of a new IntroSem titled “Race, Gender, and Seuality in Contemporary Art”

In Art History and Film and Media Studies courses generally—

 A commitment to teaching more art of people of color, manifest in new courses to be taught in the 2020-21 school year

An ongoing commitment to diversifying the tenure-line faculty

In departmental culture more broadly

A commitment to topics concerning Black art, delivered by Black professors, curators, critics, and artists, across all the Department’s lecture series for 2020-21: the Weintz Lectures (Art History), the Studio Lecture Series (Art Practice), and the Christensen Lecture

An undergraduate representative from each area (Documentary Film, Art Practice, Film and Media Studies, Art History) at faculty meetings. The representatives will report on issues of concern from their different parts of the program

The continuation of the Department’s diversity committee, which will report at each faculty meeting on issues of diversity and inclusion in the department and at Stanford more broadly

The establishment of an anonymous suggestion box—via a link on the department’s website—in which members of the departmental community can voice their ideas for faculty consideration

The convening of town hall meetings at which all members of the department, at which students, professors, and staff can discuss questions of diversity and inclusion in the department, and in practices of teaching, art-making, and scholarship

The establishment of mandatory anti-racism training for all members of the Department

As we adopt these changes, the Department of Art and Art History reaffirms its commitment to anti-racism and the fundamental truth that Black Lives Matter.

Alexander Nemerov