A message to the CAP community about current events from Dean EllinJun 2, 2020
Dear CAP Community,
We stand today at this historic juncture of a global pandemic and an unspeakably tragic spate of racial injustice including the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade by police and of Ahmaud Arbery, who was gunned down while jogging; the false accusation of Central Park bird watcher Christian Cooper; and the death of New York City teacher Rana Mungin, who died after being twice denied a COVID-19 test. We extend our deepest sympathies to all who have suffered and those who continue to experience pain, loss, and sadness.
These horrific events reveal weaknesses that already existed in our world, and they challenge us to strengthen them. They remind us of our shared and mutual responsibility for supporting one another’s well-being and preserving one another’s dignity. At the same time, they render us more humble in the face of tremendous adversity, more curious to understand better, more in awe of the kindness of others, more in touch with our shared humanity, and even more dedicated to igniting evolution from separateness to interconnectedness, from helplessness to empowerment, from despair to hope, and from fear to love.
Recent graffiti in a desolate Hong Kong subway station reads:
“We can’t return to normal
because the normal we had
was precisely the problem.”
(Thanks to Don Johnson for sharing this.)
Indeed, this is a time to:
Reflect on what has not been working
Re-imagine how to make it better, and
Recalibrate our thoughts and actions to
Repair our world.
Perhaps you’ve wondered what epi/pandemics might share with academics. I assumed it was “spread,” as in the spread of disease, violence, or knowledge, but I was wrong. In fact, demic means “of or pertaining to a distinct group of people” or “dysfunction, broken.” Our use of the words academics and academia dates to fourth century BCE when Plato opened his Academy to offer teachings to an exclusive group of mostly white men. The Cambridge Dictionary defines academic as “based on ideas and theories and not related to practical events in real life” and Merriam-Webster defines it as “having no practical or useful significance.”
Since Plato’s time, our institutions of higher education have changed. CU Denver, in particular, is urban, public, and a beacon of experiential, hands-on, and engaged learning. While we still have a long way to go, CU Denver has made great strides to reflect the diversity of our larger community and strives for equity and inclusion.
Here in the College of Architecture and Planning, our motto is Real People + Real Projects = Real Difference, the antithesis of the insular and exclusive Greek Academy. As the perfunctory “Hi, how are you?” has become an earnest “HI, how ARE you?” over the last few months, we have been reaffirming our social connectedness in the midst of physical distancing. And as the artificial partitions we had mounted between the professional and personal have been happily slipping, we are reminded of the sixties’ slogan “the personal is political” and our commitment to justice for all through the work we do, as well as the lives we lead.
At this time of inevitable evolution, may these terrible events ensure we don’t go back (“to normal”) and that instead we go forward.
With admiration and appreciation for the entire CAP community – our awesome students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends – for your inspired creativity and indomitable spirit, and for your deep caring and mutual support,
Nan Ellin, PhD
Dean and Professor