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Academic Bias and Selective Prejudice in Architecture

May 10 '13 8 Last Comment
dmorton
May 10, 13 3:19 pm

I have become aware of some very appalling attributes of the professional field that have been overlooked or kept quiet. I feel these issues need to be discussed. 

1) An academic bias within firms that selectively pick individuals from schools that a majority of the firm contain, or hire. It seems like a bias towards constructing a "social club" of alumni from schools that are most known or possibly affiliated with prestige or accolades. In which, the individuals from the architecture schools not being an interest to the firm are overlooked and bypassed. In return, completely disregarding the high education or experience of an individual and replacing with biased school affiliation, which is ridiculously backwards and borderline malpractice and unjust. 

2) The incredible sense of needing to keep a certain "face" of a firm by only seeking white employees. In doing so, this keeps the staff and teams majorly caucasian to carry a sense of marketable superiority that is as old as the practice itself. There is a lack of diversity, especially with African Americans, which makes no sense to me because you cannot place a color on a mind, vision, work ethic, or gift. It is a narrow-minded perception of a conservative "elitist" historical belief and a failure to the evolution of not only professionalism but societal and cultural progressions.

This is open for full discussion. 

 

boy in a well
May 10, 13 3:55 pm

ahhh, I see you opened a door and stepped outside.

Welcome!

Kevin W.Kevin W.
May 10, 13 4:10 pm

In almost 20 years, I have experienced neither. The firms I have worked at have been melting pots of varying educations and cultures.

observant
May 10, 13 4:19 pm

^

I have seen (1).  I have not seen (2).  Amazing, because these were large(r) markets.  However, they were able to keep the alumni thing going, and they did.  As for diversity, there was more of that, though, because you just can't get around that, given that architecture programs have very diverse pools of students and graduates.  However, all principals have been white, married, materially comfortable, surprisingly conservative, most came from silver spooned backgrounds, and some were just pissy ass holes who you could visualize storming out the door in a huff of indignance as they threw a scarf around their neck.  Not scarf weather, though, but you can be pissy in any weather, I suppose.

EKE
May 10, 13 4:20 pm

You may be presuming motivations that aren't really there.

Firms often hire multiple employees from the same school, if they know that graduates from that school come out with a particular skill set that they find valuable.  We do this.

Firms often hire the best employee available for a particular position at a particular time, and aren't paying attention to the race or sex or sexual orientation of the candidates.  We do this. In our 25 person firm, we currently have no African American employees, although we have had many in the past.  This is certainly not because we are trying to present a Caucasian "face" to the marketplace.

JayCon
May 10, 13 4:20 pm

In all fairness to this statement, I recognize all firms are not created equal.  I also know that of the case of schools, I'll use mine as an example.

The school I obtained my architectural technologies degree from was in a very rough inner city neighborhood.  I stress this because the ratio of white to black in the classrooms was rather astounding considering the school's location.  This school is not selective in their application process and had many options for financial aid since the school actually pulls from a trust set up a hundred years ago by the school's founder.  In a studio class of 23, I think there may have been 4 African American students at any given time. 

That's not to say that discrimination doesn't happen, but I got an Intern job originally held by my studio buddy Patrice (Black) with a little bit of his help since there was some competition for the opportunity.  I don't know necessarily if we can pin-point one specific issue as the reason why this is the case across the board, it could very well align with the reason Baseball's African American representation has dipped while NBA and Football has skyrocketed.  Would you say the NHL is specifically restricting black participation in favor of Russians and Canadians?

I do believe you are correct in your assertion that many firms prefer a crowd from one University over another and I think a lot of that has to do with office chemistry as well as the firm's comfortability with the type of student coming out of a particular institution.

I (being white) got shot down left and right without ever showing my portfolio and resume off.  When I finally met my current employers at a job fair, it literally took 3 months to get in, and I had even had some heavy hitters for my referrals (a mayor they had previously worked with, a lawyer who was currently working with them on another project, an architectural teacher who went to school with one of the architects, etc.). 

Those were all identified before I could even show off my portfolio.  So where I could see where you may feel that way, recognize that may not be the case as well.  You're best to just stay positive and confident and with a few breaks and some luck, hopefully you'll get in with a firm that will gel well with you

observant
May 10, 13 4:31 pm

The TRUE good firm is one that does decent design work, even if it's not all awarded prizes, pays the correct market rate of pay and lets its licensed professionals join the AIA and pay for their continuing education, hires from different schools, hires across different demographics, and is happy to have you on their staff rather than make you feel like it is a privilege to work there. 

Ha.  They exist, but they are not many.  I have never gotten all of those variables at the same employer.  And those who work at these firms stay there as long as it is workable for their career and personal goals.

EKE
May 10, 13 4:37 pm

I agree with most of that, but I just don't get why it's somehow wrong to hire lots of folks from a particular school.

observant
May 10, 13 5:13 pm

^

If you have 10 people, it may not be that unusual, but it shouldn't be 10 out of 10.  If you have 100 people, it would be a problem and a huge red flag.  In fact, I don't even think it would be feasible with that many people.

What's a drag is when you have a degree from a school that can get you slotted into a few major markets, because the school is held in high esteem there, and those markets don't interest you.

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