Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.


Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Regional Planning

Degree Type

Master of Regional Planning (M.R.P.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



This thesis is a critical analysis of the normative planning practice in relation to the aspirational principles of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) (especially Section A, Part 1: Overall Responsibility to the Public). By exploring several dimensions of typical, or Business As Usual, planning practices in a local planning department in Springfield, Massachusetts and contextualized within larger planning concerns in the United States, I illustrate that socio-spatial, racialized oppression is deeply embedded in these common practices. Through a multimethod approach that includes historical survey, archival research, interviews, and direct observation, I argue that most professional planning operates from within antiquated frameworks that prioritize professionalism and expertise over genuine community engagement, relationality, and collective agency. This structure contributes to weakened trust in government and inequitable allocation of attention and resources, thereby reproducing inequity, particularly in disaster contexts. While these are my findings from site-specific research, I contend that such outcomes are evident in planning departments more generally. Thus, I conclude that the exacerbation of inequity during crises is not isolated, but instead a result of deeply embedded neoliberal planning practices. Specifically, I identify key barriers to equitable planning as 1) absence of care, 2) over-reliance on economic development, 3) disconnects between research and implementation, 4) degraded linking social capital and top-down public participation, and 5) illusions of objectivity in planning. These patterns contribute to what I, following Rob Nixon (2011), call slow violence against vulnerable populations through professional silence about and complicity in violent structures. Associating these trends with the violence of COVID-19 and racism, I find that planning may be participating in structural slow violence against communities of color, especially in Legacy Cities such as Springfield, Massachusetts. Finally, I call for a shift in planning practice, wherein we acknowledge and take responsibility for the unavoidable political role of the planner. I propose five steps to redirect our practices: 1) acknowledge our past, 2) reject illusions of objectivity, 3) identify injustices and define resilience collectively, 4) center care frameworks, and 5) invest in the implementation of research findings


First Advisor

Michael DiPasquale

Second Advisor

Camille Barchers

Third Advisor

Serin Houston