A Message from the Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) understands and acknowledges the deep concern of our community surrounding racial inequity in our society and the trauma that people of color have suffered due to this inequity. We also acknowledge that PAFA’s leadership, including the Board of Trustees, must take active steps to address these issues.

In July 2020, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees formed a special committee (the School Review Committee) to investigate the climate and culture at PAFA, particularly in relation to the school and issues of diversity, equity and inclusion and the student experience. The School Review Committee interviewed PAFA’s leadership and administration and, with the assistance of an outside facilitator, held six listening sessions to hear from the staff, faculty, students and alumni, and fielded comments through a confidential email address. In addition, the School Review Committee requested various documents from the administration and studied key metrics.

While it is clear to the School Review Committee and the Board of Trustees that the preliminary plan outlined here cannot solve all of the concerns expressed about structural inequities within PAFA, we are committed to moving this institution toward an equitable place where Black, indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) can thrive as students, teachers, staff, and employees.

Racial equity is consistent with PAFA’s values and aspirations. We want to reiterate our commitment to the safety, professional growth, and well-being of PAFA’s students, faculty, professional staff, and employees. We recognize that we must engage a largely untapped resource in our diverse community of students, alumni, staff, faculty, and employees whose creative energy can be focused to lead to a PAFA that lives up to its mission, a PAFA we can all truly believe in.

While the work ahead may feel daunting at times, we are confident that this will be a time of extraordinary growth for all of us as we engage in honest self-reflection and admit our past and present failures to act, change or simply recognize an inequity. We also know that the realignment of this institution will be an active, ongoing process that will require bravery, clear thought and perseverance. The Board of Trustees and PAFA’s leadership have work to do. However, we know that members of our community are understandably eager to hear our plans. We commit to the following actions today while we continue to work on additional steps that will benefit our community, particularly the members of our community who are Black, indigenous, or people of color.

PAFA’s Commitment to a Safe, Equitable, and Inclusive Environment for the Practice of Instruction, Study, and Work


  • The Board will review hiring practices and will institute best practices in the hiring and retention of a well-rounded, diverse staff at all levels across the organization.
  • We continue our commitment to a diverse Board of Trustees; we will add more members who are women, LGBTQ, and people of color to our Board of Trustees and committees. We commit to the alignment of our current and future strategic plans with DEI initiatives and accomplishments.


  • PAFA hired its first director of DEI and Belonging and Deputy Title IX Coordinator in August 2020. We commit to instituting and/or enhancing training programs for PAFA staff and faculty on Cultural Awareness, Safe interactions, and Assault prevention. We are updating our code of conduct for all employees.


The Board of Trustees:

  • We will reconfigure our current school committee to a new, enhanced governing body for the college that assures appropriate levels of accountability, governance, and academic focus. The governing body will include qualified members with experience in education and alumni representation.
  • We will add new Board committees as needed to govern diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout PAFA.
  • We will adopt a zero-tolerance policy for statements or activities by staff, faculty, leadership, and Board deemed to be inconsistent with our commitment to a safe, diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment.
  • PAFA’s management, with support from the HR committee, will design and implement new goal-setting and evaluation metrics, which incorporate and place a high value on meeting DEI goals, effective communication to all stakeholders, decentralized decision-making, and furthering a healthy culture and climate for fairness to all.


  • The new governing body of the college will create a committee to review and refine the pedagogical focus of the college, incorporate inclusion of diversity in the curriculum and incorporate service to our larger community as a requirement.


  • The Board of Trustees will institute equity and uniformity in our policies for staff, faculty and employees, and make them easily identifiable. The Board will encourage management to institute clear, consistent, and reasonably frequent communications to all stakeholders.

Academic Freedom

  • The Board of Trustees encourages and supports freedom for its faculty, students, staff and, to the greater extent, our college to pursue knowledge wherever it may lead consistent with the values stated herein. PAFA will institute a revised non-affiliation policy which promotes academic independence and freedom of expression.

Responsibility of the Institution

  • The Board of Trustees believes in and will pursue fairness for all of PAFA’s employees and will support and immediately implement a living wage for all permanent, full-time employees and modify job descriptions to encourage a wider breadth of applicants who can qualify to be or become employed or promoted at PAFA.

The Board of Trustees Is Committed to Growing and Maintaining a Healthy Culture and Climate

PAFA will:

  • Grow and support our people, professionally and personally.
  • Partner to help each other throughout the organization to support our functions within the institution.
  • Say what we think in an open, respectful, and constructive way that moves us forward without fear of reprisal.
  • Engage in pervasive information sharing.
  • Institute a confidential, direct email address to allow anyone to communicate directly with the school governing body.

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.