In response to Medium.com article
We would like to address the harm that was caused to any of our students throughout the past. We are specifically referencing the PSA faculty member who was mentioned in this thoughtful online article (published July 9) regarding white supremacy, transphobia in astrology.
PSA strives to create a culture of learning that includes liberation and empathy at its center. We aim to teach these principles through astrology, but we also strive to constantly learn and grow ourselves as an organization. Sometimes that growth is internal, and we fall short of updating our communities. This is one of those times, and we’d like to provide additional information and updated action for everyone now. We apologize for leaving anyone waiting for resolution. We value your voices, and are grateful for this opportunity to address you now, to heal and learn.
We have employed a faculty member who has had several incidents that have caused students to complain, feel excluded, or harmed by their specific astrological views regarding race and gender expression in the birth chart.
There was a specific culminating incident in 2018 with Andrea Gehrz and a student that resulted in an early conclusion of our beta 3rd-Year Program. Committed to change and addressing this issue, we spent the summer developing our Mission Statement, Guiding Principles, and ongoing commitments to hold the school and its members accountable moving forward. We shared these commitments in an email address to all current and past students, and to all teachers. In that email, we addressed what had happened, and outlined our steps to improve. A number of student-suggested steps were taken, including changing existing mission statement language on our website, issuing a written apology to our community. We also included longer-term solutions for the next (2018-2019) school year including removing the teacher from the PSA leadership team, ongoing professional development including trainings from Resolutions NW for all teachers, teacher evaluations from students, appointing student liaisons for each cohort, and other actions and implementations.
While the work was in place implementing improvements, we now realize that we fell short of keeping all parties informed, and treating a few of these matters with greater urgency. After implementing and executing the commitments for accountability (see above) for one school year (2018-19), we felt it was important for us as an organization to know how well those were working—the impact they were making or not making with our community.
We enlisted the services of an outside third-party equity strategist Alyshia Macaysa. Since November 2019, Alyshia has been conducting an in-depth equity assessment with our community, both alumni and current students, current teachers, and outside community members in Portland. The intention was to lay the groundwork for PSA toward long-term growth moving into future school years. This included most importantly an examination of teachers and curriculum. And while the final public Community Report was originally scheduled for June 10th, this has been delayed and rescheduled for Fall due to a personal matter with the strategist. (Rescheduled for Fall due to low-engagement during Summer months).
We acknowledge the frustration expressed about the lack of action prior to the Medium.com article. As of July 9th, (the Medium.com article date) we have not yet received the final results of the equity assessment, we did receive a preliminary report in late May. From this, we discovered continued issues with the teacher and curriculum being taught at PSA in our Year-Long Programs. We felt that for us to best honor our principles, commitments and for the safety of our students, we made the decision to remove the teacher from the upcoming school year (as we are on our summer break). This announcement originally scheduled for the Community Report on June 10th. The rescheduled announcement was then planned to coincide with our announcement of new hires. We began a hiring process for replacement on June 6th.
JP and Rhea believe that perfectionism is a facet of white supremacy, which was why we felt it was important to try to remedy after the 2018 incident, especially since Andy was an important member of our school and broader community. While we believed that trying to rectify was warranted, unfortunately the results of our equity assessment suggested otherwise. This was echoed in student responses in 1-on-1 interviews with Alyshia, who noted that Andy added a lot of value to student’s astrology education at PSA, but was also problematic.
While PSA is committed to our principles of inclusion in education and community, we deeply apologize for harm caused. Furthermore, we promise to continue to self-examine ourselves while we strive to more closely live by our own Mission and Guiding Principles.
As astrologers continue to dismantle white supremacy, homophobia, and other forms of systemic oppression, we are inspired by a community willing to speak-up and continue to have these discussions online, at conferences, in classrooms and through publications. This is how astrology gets better. We promise to continue to create space for these types of conversation to persist. And to hold ourselves accountable and continue to grow, evolve, and learn from our mistakes.
JP is available for any questions or concerns via email or phone. 503.284.6768.
Alyshia is available for any questions or concerns via email or phone. Please inquire.
Originally posted: Sunday, July 12th. Updated for Clarity: Tuesday, July 14th.