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Black Urban Planners Walk Out of Meeting

By Scott W. Jacobs

A black student walk-out at the National Urban Planning Conference here this weekend has led to the creation of a new National Black Planning Network.

Sixty black students staged the walk-out at a Saturday night meeting of over 300 students and faculty from 50 city planning departments around the country.

The students demanded $10 million from two organizations of professional city planners-the American Institute of Planners and the American Society of Planning Officials-to begin three projects aimed at integrating city planning curriculums with the "realities" of black communities.

The demands include:

$4 million to set up five new black city planning schools around the country;

$4 million scholarship fund to provide ten scholarships for blacks at each of the 50 city planning schools around the country;

and $2 million as seed money for the Black Planning Network to begin community centers and a communications network for black students at different schools.

Initial Decision

Gary K. Smith, a first-year urban planning student at Cornell and chairman of the new Black Network, said the students decided to walk out early in the conference because they thought black students needed to meet together.

"Wherever we were located, we felt that our purpose in being there was for the school to exploit our knowledge of the black community. We felt we had to stop this drainage of our knowledge, and use it for our own benefit," he said.

The black students formed a separate black caucus on Thursday-the second day of the conference-and rejoined the main group only on Saturday night when they read their demands and walked out.

At its last session yesterday, members of the conference passed resolutions supporting the black demand and set up a seven-man committee-including two representatives from the Black Network-to negotiate for them.

One of the resolutions called for 25 per cent of next year's admissions to city planning departments to be members of minority groups. At present, only 4 percent of the city planning students in the country belong to minority groups. There are no blacks in the first or second-year classes at Harvard.

The resolution for a minority groupsadmission quota was one of several aimed at redirecting the emphasis of department curriculums. Others recommended revamping curriculums to include greater communications between planning students and residents in urban communities.

Larry Susskind, a city planning student at M.I.T. and organizer of the four-day meeting, said the demands were neither unreasonable nor revolutionary.

Last June, the American Institute of Architects set aside $15 million for the "solution of urban problems" after a similar confrontation with black architects in Chicago.

Susskind said the seven-man committee will go with representatives of the Black Network to the board meeting of the American Institute of Planners next month to seek the funds.

If it can get the money, the network plans to set up community centers where city planners can meet with community leaders, and non-professional planners.

Criticizing the emphasis on "physical design" in planning departments, Smith noted that city planners look on black urban communities as "workshops" and rebuild neighborhoods without consulting the community residents most affected by the changes.

He said the Black Network will incorporate several ethnic groups in addition to the blacks, trying to develop a greater exchange between professional city planners and minority group members.

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