We met with SCOPE (Student's Coalition Organizing Progressive Movement) leaders Anuja Das and Tamanna Tiku to discuss their new organization.
WHAT DREW YOU TO START SCOPE AND WHAT ROLE DID YOUR WORK IN DESIGN PLAY INTO IT?
Anuja: As fourth year students we all go in different directions and I think when we come back into thesis year we design after cultivating more refined points of view. For example, given current events, many of us were interested in social justice issues and how to incorporate that into thesis. The impetus for SCOPE came out of the 2016 election and the conversations that came from perceived differences in views. The tendency to exist in echo chambers made us question what our place, of design’s place was in this changing and evolving world. This extends to design’s relationship with topics of identity or gender, capitalism, urban history.
Tamanna: The real question is: ‘why do these questions not appear earlier in our education? 'Why can’t first year or second year students be talking about politics and identity within the scope of architecture?
Anuja: I would say so. SCOPE gives students a voice and encourages students to ask questions and to engage in conversations they don’t normally have in studio.
Tamanna: If you provide a platform, there are people willing to participate. I measure our success by the freedom of being able to share your opinion, and develop a free, safe space for them to share things with us.
Tamanna: We are a new organization so it is difficult to recruit members, but we developed a solid core that regularly participates in SCOPE. We are currently trying to broaden the scope of our endeavors as a student led organization to broadening the conversation of design.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER TOPICS THAT YOU WANT TO ADDRESS WITH YOUR TALKS? WHAT OTHER TOPICS DO YOU WANT THE DESIGN COMMUNITY HERE TO DISCUSS MORE?
Tamanna: We have had six events until now and have two more to go. We just had a Skype conversation with the WAAC, which is the Alexandria branch of the School of Architecture. Through that conversation, we talked about American urban history and the first amendment and how this is a spatial issue. In two weeks, we have a conversation on crisis in architecture. So in that, we are trying to talk about the refugee crisis, housing for refugees, or housing after disasters. On the 26th of April is a conversation about cross-disciplinary conversations, cross-disciplinary design.
Anuja: We found topics by questioning what interested us. We sat in front of the blackboard and yelled out topics that were of interest... We have something like Architecture and Capitalism, but then we also have something like Women in Craft, which is a lighter topic but I think is still very relevant, and again, it’s not discussed. SCOPE simply aims to widen a designer’s education by providing more information to make informed decisions.
Anuja: We want to keep the conversation series at the heart of SCOPE because it is a very intimate platform. We want to be able to go outside of the environment of our school and have people from outside come and talk about different topics regarding design. So we want to expand within the school and also outside of the school and bring in very interesting topics that have not been previously discussed.
Tamanna: We learned that lesson very late. A massive election debacle had to take place for us to say, ‘okay we're thesis students, we have some social capital within the school let's start something’. Hopefully, even if it's not in the form of SCOPE itself, students in the school will start taking charge of their education.
Anuja: That in itself is engagement on a level that isn't happening right now, and I would say most professors would be very happy to hear a student ask for that. We have had faculty support, which can serve SCOPE well in the future. I just think we're trying to encourage students to not be afraid to have a say in how they're learning and how their education is panning out.
WHAT IS CRITICAL ABOUT SCOPE FOR YOU?
Tamanna: My last remark is that SCOPE stands for: Students Coalition Organizing Progressive Engagement. I think the three keywords in that are: student, progressive, and engagement. We really want to let students define their own ideas of progressiveness, what they want to perceive as progressive.
Anuja: We don't want to push just one side of the story. We're trying to have, many different views to help people empathize. Being able to empathize with other people is something that we hope SCOPE can push for
Interview by Chloe Molinos and Jee Yun Kim
Photographs by Chloe Molinos