Graduate Letter

Letter from PAFA’s Graduate Student Body

June 2020

The graduate student body is resolute in our conviction that Black Lives Matter and are appalled by PAFA’s spineless responses to the Black Lives Matter movement.

We condemn the administration’s recent email intimidating and threatening faculty members who signed the Philly Arts for Black Lives letter. This is one of many wrongs exposing the institution’s superficial solidarity with Black lives, complicity in upholding white supremacy, and inability to address and correct systemic injustices.

Lisa Biagas stated that civic involvement “is separate from our roles at PAFA.” We assert that civic involvement is inseparable from institutional participation, whether as students, faculty, staff, or administration. Furthermore, the Black Lives Matter movement extends far beyond a political affiliation. This is a human rights crisis. PAFA’s inability to fully support this movement is reprehensible.

In a recent response, David Brigham claims that the request to faculty was apropos to the letter’s stance on defunding the police. We firmly believe that defunding the police is integral to the Black Lives Matter movement and the redistribution of these funds to human resources is a necessary measure toward racial justice and liberation. In failing to publicly endorse the defunding of police, PAFA continues to reinforce the very structures that actively murder and suppress Black Lives.

We call for a complete restructuring of leadership at PAFA as well as further support and resources for Black students and BIPOC lives. We stand in solidarity with the affiliated letters from the undergraduate students, alumni, and Alumni Council. Our specific demands are as follows:

1. The immediate resignation of David Brigham.

  • David Brigham abused his power in: the silencing of faculty and staff who supported Philly Arts for Black Lives; the documented negligence of Title IX cases at PAFA; and the lack of transparency regarding PAFA’s Covid-19 response and planning. The intersection of these issues disproportionately affect Black lives.

2. The immediate search for a BIPOC President and CEO led by a primarily BIPOC search committee.

  • Restructuring the leadership at PAFA needs to begin with redistributing power to BIPOC people within the institution, as well as recruiting BIPOC faculty and board members.

3. A policy guaranteeing job security for faculty who actively support Black Lives Matter, defunding the police and the redistribution of police funds to human resources.

  • This non-retaliation measure would protect faculty from threats such as those sent by PAFA regarding the Philly Arts for Black Lives letter.

4. The immediate diversification of the voting members of the Board Review Panel.

  • This includes a redistribution of voting power to alumni, with priority to BIPOC alumni.

5. A public review of the Board of Trustees as well as the Women’s Board.

  • An in-house town hall that reviews each board member and any affiliations they may have with organizations that directly oppose the Black Lives Matter movement.

We implore you to meet our demands and enact these long-overdue and vital changes.
If they are not met we are prepared to take further action.


*Signatures still being collected

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