Introduction from the Head of School
One of the reasons that students choose to come to a school like Loomis Chaffee is our diversity. Bright students understand and appreciate the intellectual and social capital that is created when an institution reflects the full diversity of the world around it. They want to be in an environment where they will meet and befriend people of different identities and from different backgrounds and countries, and the academic and social culture will challenge the ways in which they think. As a school, Loomis has successfully attracted students from myriad racial and ethnic groups and from around the world. Our students come from different faiths and are male, female, nonbinary, straight, gay, bi, and questioning. One third of our students are on financial aid—although the Annual Fund and the endowment subsidize each and every student. Enrolling a diverse student body is not about charity or paying lip service to the current cause célèbre; it is about fully embracing our Founders’ legacy and our present mission to be an inclusive and antiracist school. This mission is both relevant to the times in which we live and urgent in its necessity.
Unfortunately, we have not always lived up to the promise that we make when we enroll a student—to provide each and every one of them with an experience that allows them to grow into their best possible self. As was made clear from the Instagram account @BlackatLoomis and from conversations with our Black and Brown students, alumni, and employees, too many of our community members of color have felt marginalized or diminished by their experience at the school. Students and alumni have talked about both overt and more subtle racist statements made by fellow students and even by adults in the community, about inappropriate and disparaging comments focused on their appearance, about lowered academic expectations and attempts to dissuade them from taking advanced classes or applying to a particular college, and about a pervasive ignorance concerning white privilege and all the benefits it affords white people. Our alumni and students also have raised questions as to whether our Black and Brown students are targeted disproportionately by the disciplinary system or over things like the dress code.
We often refer to these careless, ambiguous, perhaps unintentional comments and behaviors as microaggressions. This term, however, underplays the hurt and harm that these actions can have on students, a fact made abundantly clear by the @BlackatLoomis account. The constant barrage of microaggressions, whether intentional or not, leads to real trauma in our students, and such trauma is not what we promise them when we admit them to the school, and it stands in the way of their education.
As a school, we need to do better. We need to hire more faculty and staff of color. We need to do more training of all the adults and students at the school around issues of inclusion. We need to take a deep look at our curriculum to ensure that it is inclusive in content and in pedagogy. We need to ensure that every student, no matter their background or identity, has a sense of belonging and ownership over their place at the school. And more.
Saying that we need to do better, however, is only the first step in this challenging but hopeful journey that we are on. We need to take action and to hold ourselves accountable for the work before us. This report is one step in that direction. It is the start of an annual reckoning of our goals and our accomplishments, of our shortcomings and our victories, of what we have done and what we still need to do. This public report will provide our whole community with an opportunity to reflect on the values that we hold so dear and to see how well we are meeting our stated goals around diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice.
Last June I committed the school to a set of anti-racist initiatives to focus our efforts in 2020–21. In Section III of this report, you will find an update on each of those initiatives, and in Section IV of the report, you will find examples of the DEI work in which each of our academic departments is engaged. I would like to highlight one of the success stories of the past six months, an example of what we can accomplish as a school community—the establishment of the Black Alumni Mentoring Program.
When I met with Black alumni late last spring, several expressed a strong desire to work directly with our Black students to provide them with an additional level of support that they wished that they had had while at Loomis. I asked our Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion to work with alumni to develop a mentoring program. Throughout the summer and early fall, alumni and school administrators developed the program, recruited and trained alumni mentors, and paired alumni and interested Black students. The first meeting of mentors and students happened in mid-November. I cannot thank our Black alumni enough for proposing the idea, developing it with the school, and now volunteering. The promise of this program is great—I look forward to seeing where it will go.
The newly formed Trustee Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is working to update our strategic plan and mission statement for this work and will provide us with both direction and guidance. While there is still much to do, I am proud of what we have accomplished so far, and I am especially proud of the many students, faculty, and staff who have committed themselves to making Loomis Chaffee a model for inclusion.
Head of School
Section II: A Message from the Dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion