A Message from the Dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
The Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) addresses issues of school culture and climate with the goal of creating and promoting a fully inclusive and equitable school community. The current focus of our work is to build on the school’s progress and growth from past years with a more proactive and intentional strategy to address both the long-standing and emerging needs of Loomis Chaffee’s students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
Four years ago, the Board of Trustees approved a Strategic Plan on Diversity. That plan guided much of our DEI work the past few years, but it is a living document and must be reviewed and revised regularly to meet the evolving needs of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Accordingly, the plan is currently undergoing review.
The goal of this January 2021 DEI progress report is to provide an update on the work of the school as we strive to live our mission to provide an inclusive community where all our students are inspired and able to be their best selves and serve the common good. While this report focuses primarily on an update on the anti-racism initiatives introduced in June 2020 by Head of School Sheila Culbert, our community has been pursuing many more projects — some new and some a result of longer-term efforts. These projects include:
- Continued support of the Pelican Support Network (PSN), a mentoring program for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and first-generation students to help them in their transition to Loomis Chaffee and to provide ongoing support, especially in their first year at the school. Returning BIPOC and first-generation students serve as mentors in the program, now in its eighth year.
- Creation and ongoing support for affinity groups1, both for students and for faculty and staff members. Current affinity groups at Loomis include:
- Sister Circle — An affinity group for students who identify as Black females
- Brothers in Unity — An affinity group for students who identify as Black males
- Pa’lante — An affinity group for students who identify as Latinx
- PASA (Pan Asian Student Alliance) — Both an alliance2 and affinity group for students who identify as Asian
- MultiX — An affinity group for students who identify as multiracial
- Female Empowerment Group — An affinity group for students who identify as female
- Spectrum/Brave Space — Both an alliance and affinity group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, genderqueer, queer, intersexed, agender, and asexual students (LGBTQIA) and their allies
- Black Affinity Group (BAG) — An affinity group for faculty and staff who identify as Black
- BARWE (Becoming Anti-Racist White Educators) — An affinity group for faculty who identity as White
- LC Women’s Group — An affinity group for faculty and staff who identify as women
- Establishment of the school’s first all-gender housing floor in Flagg Hall. This housing option was the result of work by an All-Gender Housing Committee in consultation with the Dean of Students Office. Leading up to the opening, Courtney Jackson, assistant dean of DEI, recorded a screen cast for faculty with information on what gender is and on what the differences between gender, sex, and sexuality are:
The faculty and resident assistants on the floor, working with LGBTQ+ Coordinator Ned Heckman, also released a webinar to provide more information about the new housing option:
- Institution of ongoing restorative justice practices to address biased behaviors.
- Work with BIPOC alumni and parents to support DEI work. In June 2020, the @BlackatLoomis Instagram account chronicled the painful and often traumatic experiences of many of the school’s Black alumni, faculty, and current students and paved the way for a more open and meaningful dialogue with the school. During these discussions, many BIPOC alumni expressed their desire to help the school better address DEI issues, offering their expertise and a list of next steps for the school’s consideration.
- Continued work as a member school of the SPHERE Consortium for DEI practices in 12 Greater Hartford independent schools, as well as with the Commission on Diversity (CODIS) within the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS).
- Creation of an inclusive language guide to help facilitate better communication in the school community.
Over the past six months, we also have reframed and reworked some existing programs to address both the realities of the pandemic and the national discussion on race and racism. One of those programs is the Norton Family Center for the Common Good’s Seminars in the Best Self and the Common Good. Launched in the 2012–13 winter term, the Seminar in the Best Self provided ninth-grade students with the time and space to encounter topics that are essential for their transition to Loomis Chaffee and their ability to flourish as members of the school community. This weekly seminar emphasized themes such as wellness, diversity, equity, inclusion, and the intersection of the best self and the common good. The 10th-grade Seminar in the Common Good, which launched in 2019–20, built upon the Seminar in the Best Self and asked students to think more expansively about their roles and responsibilities in the communities to which they belong. This weekly seminar emphasized themes such as community engagement, leadership, current events, citizenship, diversity, equity, inclusion, and the intersection of the best self and the common good. For the 2020–21 academic year, the Norton Center and the Dean of Students Office redesigned the seminar program to involve all students, ninth grade through 12th grade, and their advisors. The new Thursday Advisory Groups (TAG) program aims to deepen community and inspire action through real and brave conversations among students and their advisors about the issues of the day and our relationships with those issues and each other.
The Thursday Advisory Group program (TAG) provides an excellent avenue to educate our students and faculty about DEI issues. This year, TAG conversations are focusing on issues of identity and the following essential questions:
- What does it mean to be a student and community member at Loomis Chaffee, and how can we more perfectly enact the mission and values of the school?
- How does my sense of self connect with the world around me?
- What are ways to move from these conversations into a deeper sense of community and a commitment to action?
Another program that we reworked this year was the summer reading program. Typically, all students and faculty read a common book over the summer that introduces or relates to the school theme for the coming year. Last spring, faculty decided to transform the all-school read into an opportunity for writing and reflection about issues of race and racism, the pandemic, and how the two intersect. Some of those reflections are featured in the winter issue of Loomis Chaffee Magazine and on a dedicated Loomis Chaffee webpage.
The school has expanded faculty professional development to provide a greater intentionality and depth of programming around DEI issues, a process that began a few years ago. The Henry R. Kravis ’63 Center for Excellence in Teaching’s assistant directors of DEI curriculum development, Miles Morgan and Fiona Mills, work directly with academic departments on issues of curricular inclusion and diversity and oversee DEI professional development for faculty. Required reading materials for faculty have included titles such as Waking up White by Peggy Irving, Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, and White Fragility by Robin D’Angelo. The faculty also have had the privilege of learning from highly regarded speakers. Jennifer Bryan and Alex Myers tackled the subjects of gender identity and sexuality. Liza Talusan offered a two-hour workshop on implicit bias and identity development and also worked with the head’s administrative team (HAT)3 on processing and understanding White Fragility. This year the school is working with Derrick Gay on identity development, courageous conversations, and reframing diversity. Mr. Gay, who holds a doctorate in education, facilitated a nine-hour training for the head’s administrative team and a three-hour workshop for our Board of Trustees, and he is working with our faculty and with the DEI faculty over the course of the year. He also will lead the school through a climate assessment in 2021.
Finally, Loomis Chaffee’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion has extended to an impressive group of individuals whose responsibilities now include ongoing work with the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. They include:
- Lilian Castillo de Hutchinson, associate dean of DEI and director of international students, Spanish faculty member, and coach
- Ahmad Cantrell ’07, associate dean of DEI and associate director of admission
- Elliott Dial, associate dean of DEI, dean of students, head of Flagg Hall, and coach
- Maribel Blas-Rangel, assistant dean of DEI and French and Spanish faculty member
- Courtney Jackson, assistant dean of DEI, English faculty member, and head of Howe Hall
- Stacy-Anne Rowe ’97, assistant dean of DEI, visual arts faculty member, and assistant director of communications
- Betsy Conger, LGBTQ+ coordinator and science faculty member
- Ned Heckman, LGBTQ+ coordinator, science faculty member, and head of Taylor Hall
- Sara Markman, coordinator of religious programs and science faculty member
Our institutional commitment to dismantle racism and to be the equitable and inclusive institution that our Founders envisioned is firmly grounded in strategic work. The challenge is great, but we are committed to implementing the systemic changes necessary to become the school that all our students, faculty, staff, and alumni deserve. I am proud to be a part of this work and am eager to see how these changes positively impact our entire community.
Dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Section III: 2020–21 DEI Initiatives
1 Affinity groups are created for people who share a common and important identifier such as race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, et. People in these groups directly identify as a member of the group.
2 Alliance groups are broader than affinity groups. Members of an alliance group may or may not identify with the core identity, but have a deep investment in the issues faced by this group and want to be supportive, playing an ally role.
3 HAT membership: head of school; associate head of school; associate head for external relations; dean of faculty; dean of enrollment; dean of student life; dean of diversity, equity & inclusion; chief financial officer; director of the physical plant; director of human resources; director of COVID-19 response and crisis management; director of strategic communications & marketing