I greet you from the office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What an academic year we have had, wedged between two public health crises, COVID-19 and racism. Recent acts of racism heightened our curiosity to learn, ignited our awareness of unfair mistreatment towards marginalized groups, and increased our sense of urgency to act. We engaged our students in conversations regarding race and how it affects us all. Although the protests have simmered and national coverage has decreased, it is our Jesuit duty to not lose vision and to continue exciting our students on social justice topics and combating systemic racism. We must continue our journey to being an antiracist community while supporting those that are most often discriminated against. We have a responsibility to help young people understand the past and present, good or bad, so that they can create a future that doesn’t continue to carry the same elements of hate and ignorance.
As we know, DEI efforts were present in each area of the school and continue to be a big part of our daily agenda. The following are highlights I would like to share to not boast or give a sense of completion, but to motivate us in our journey towards a new normal.
Diversity Committee was hard at work this year, volunteering their time by giving three topics of concern focused attention to help our community continue to grow: formalizing funds for students in need beyond tuition, hiring and retaining faculty and staff of color, and creating a required DEI training for all newcomers to the school. This group remains passionate about institutional change and continues to be committed to these topics. Diversity Committee collaborated with HR and Advancement to share creative ideas and best practices; improving and creating programs and initiatives to support these important topics. While progress has been made in these three areas of concern, the hard work is ongoing and will continue into the upcoming year.
Accomplished goals from Diversity Committee’s work in 2020 spilled over to include the approval of the Diversity Statement by the Board and introducing it to the entire community. Now it is everyone’s duty to embed it in our learning and adopt it as part of our identity. Plans for public display are underway so the statement is a visible reminder to all. Also, the BC High website will highlight our commitment to DEI with a page dedicated to our ongoing efforts and beliefs. This page is very near launch and will be updated periodically with all the up-to-date happenings and resources.
In addition to the constant reviewing and rewriting of departmental curriculum, below are a few highlights this year:
• English - As Department Chair, Mr. Charles Shaw led the English faculty in taking on the n*word. They created a department statement defining a unified stance on the use of the word in class and generated an extraordinary reading list with a diverse collection of voices for the summer requirements.
• Religion – Freshmen worked on a lesson about images of Jesus. Students could bring in their own images from their house/family, but the lesson examined what the historical Jesus might have looked like as a Palestinian Jew.
A model of a Galilean man created in 2001 by forensic anthropologist Richard Neave for the BBC documentary, Son of God, working on the basis of an actual skull found in the region prompting people to consider Jesus as being a man of his time and place.
• Social Studies – In addition to extensive work done to the overall curriculum, faculty designed and are launching a course on the American Civil Rights movement.
• Science – Visual displays highlighted the impact of scientists from many ethnic backgrounds. Dr. Brian Sears and the Lab Rats Chemistry Club won the door décor DEI initiative by designing a fabulous display of diversity in science. Ms. Maggie Ruddy assembled a beautiful gallery honoring chemists of color.
• Modern Language – Madame Shannon Atkeson did great work in a French cinema course this year exploring Black Lives Matter in the United States and France, comparing and contrasting the response in each country to different incidents of police brutality.
• Classics – Mr. Emil Peñarubia recruited a phenomenal woman of color to teach in the Classics Department.
• Arrupe Division –Students assembled insightful documentaries on Influential Black Pioneers assigned by Ms. Keren Greene, Mr. James Houser, and Ms. Jennifer Piedade and formally presented their work in the Bulger Performing Arts Center.
• Speaker Michael Curry, Esq. joined us in his presentation of Quantum Leap, teaching us Black History as all our history. The 2.5 hours recording is accessible for all teachers to use in their classrooms.
• Diversity Cabinet received overwhelming positive feedback regarding the open forums they hosted for students to express their concerns and be heard by the community. They are looking to continue these in the future and hope to offer more opportunities for interested students to participate.
• The Black and Latino Student Union (BLSU) met the challenge of the MLK Prayer Service being virtual. They took charge more than ever, selecting the program content and alumni speakers. BLSU will continue to meet and welcome visitors to hear their concerns and share in open dialogue.
• With the guidance of Trustees Fritz Friedman '68 and Brian Lee '02 the Asian Culture Club changed to a more fitting name of Asian American Pacific Islander Collaborative continue to be a very active co-curricular on campus.
• Catholic Gay-Straight Organization (CGSO) and Hispanic Latino Association (HLA) continued their planning of events and cultural awareness for the community.
• All Affinity groups continue to provide a safe space for students to celebrate and have open discussions regarding their inclusion at the school.
• A Survey was given to the Class of 2021 focusing primarily on DEI during their time at BC High and received responses from 206 participants.
• Acknowledgement and ownership of our history, namely experiences shared on the Black@BCH Instagram and involvement in the slave trade among our Founding Fathers. This history has been incorporated into social teachings for our freshmen, the base for moments of reflection and sharing stories, and discussions on compassion and how to love one another.
• Participation in our first all faculty/staff DEI extensive training with Courageous Conversations. We leaned in and accepted that after mastering our listening skills, internal work was in order. We took a deep dive into what DEI meant for us individually, and how race has affected our lives and daily interactions.
• Took the next step in prioritizing DEI work by designating three faculty and staff members as DEI Practitioner Leaders: Ms. Lizzy Corsetti (faculty development), Ms. Katie McKiernan (curriculum and resources), and Mr. Terrell Diggs (student support). These leaders will lead us in next steps of embedding this work deep in our daily norms.
At the year-end faculty-staff retreat, the newly-assembled DEI team was honored. Here they are in the Center for DEI's new home in McQuillan Hall. (L-R) Principal Adam Lewis, Ruth Evee P’18, ’22, Katie McKiernan, Lizzy Corsetti, Terrell Diggs.
• Families were invited to engage through six segments of Our Journey featured in the Eagle Update. Various topics and resources were supplied to readers to continue the conversations at home and to learn more about DEI issues and perspectives. This will continue with an accessible resource board.
•The NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC), flagship of the National Association of Independent Schools' commitment to equity and justice in teaching, learning, and organizational development, was once again attended and beloved by 11 faculty and staff members, although it brought a virtual experience this year. BC High attempted to include the student experience of SDLC but were not selected in the lottery. Plans continue to try again next year.
• Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) certification was completed by the Director of Equity and Inclusion (Ruth Evee) and will be used as an assessment tool to help people think deeper into our differences, beyond race and into culture. The Administrative team began their engagement by taking the assessment and receiving a team debrief by guess speaker Ben Krauss. Individual debriefs will be conducted by Ruth on a one-on-one basis.
• Year-end 2021 Race/Ethnicity Diversity statistics: Students of color make up 26% of the student population including grades 7-12. Board, Admin., Faculty/Staff of color make up 12.77% of the adult population. Further breakdown of AHANA is available upon request.
DEI success takes the entire community and come this Fall semester we will continue to create opportunities for every desired member to join us at the table to continue this timeless work in progress. Our focus will continue with all pillars of Diversity (race, culture, age, sex/gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, socio-economic status) in our community and welcome a diverse body of reflective voices. We anticipate and appreciate continued support from our administration and Board of Trustees to prioritize this important piece of our mission so designed by our founding Jesuits seeking equal access for those facing discrimination. Thank you all for your attention and continued support.