DEI Updates by Academic Department
- In 2019–20, the department made several changes in texts read with an eye to bringing more voices into the curriculum.
- This summer the department created a policy on offensive language.
- This year two new senior electives were offered: Banned Books and CL Harlem Renaissance.
- The department hired four new faculty with highly diverse backgrounds, including two Black women, one Black man, and one Asian man.
History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies Department:
- The department created an offensive language and symbols policy.
- The department asked Fiona Mills, Kravis Center assistant director of DEI curriculum development, to conduct a presentation for the department faculty on names and terminology.
- World History, a required course taken in either the freshman or sophomore year, has been completely redesigned with anti-racist principles at its core. Renamed World History: Systems of Justice and Injustice, this anti-racist course destabilizes the narrative of world history that has long perpetuated systems of injustice, and it empowers students to use their understanding of the past to promote systems of justice in the present and future. By investigating five interconnecting networks — belief systems, social systems, political systems, anthropogenic systems, and systems of encounter and exchange — students question and challenge why and how people organize their lives, their communities, and their societies the way they do.
- In CL U.S. History, the goal of the course is to challenge students to think about how we might create a more equitable narrative of American history.
- The U.S. History curriculum also challenges students to think critically about commonly held narratives of American history though careful analysis of a wide range of primary sources while also moving fluidly between past and present.
- The Mathematics Department is piloting a new course this year that combines Algebra I and Geometry to help improve future access to advanced mathematics courses.
- The statistic courses are incorporating DEI issues into their curriculum. They choose data sets around social justice topics. For example, they looked at local and statewide data on the people stopped by police. They also have been discussing the difference between bias and chance.
- In many of the department’s other classes, faculty lead explorations and design projects that apply mathematical ideas to DEI topics.
Modern and Classical Languages Department
- In Spanish 3, faculty member Lillian Corman has her students look at an example of “neocolonialism,” the sale of water rights in a part of Bolivia to a multinational corporation and the resulting challenges for the residents.
- Faculty member Martha Ince has addressed “racism” directly as one of the “world challenges” components in her CL Spanish IV course.
- Spanish and French faculty member Rachel Nisselson has developed a lesson on grammatical gender in Spanish and efforts to use Spanish in a way that is respectful to people who identify as gender non-binary. She also has shared a lesson that asks whether the French film Intouchables successfully challenges or paradoxically promotes “the stereotypes of Black people, of immigrants, of the poor, of lesbians.”
- Modern and Classical Languages Department Head Michael Anderson has addressed slavery in the ancient world in his Latin courses more directly than in past years and has invited his level II and IIA students to think critically about the ways in which textbooks address the topic. One textbook question they analyzed — “If you were a Roman slave-owner, would you use strict discipline or relative kindness to manage your slaves? Why?” — generated productive discussion about the ethics of posing questions like this, about the challenges of building empathy, and about the value of studying the past while living in a world where social inequality is still shaped heavily by the legacy of slavery.
Performing Arts Department
- Department faculty have placed emphasis on including more global music and celebrating diversity, equity, and inclusion in music making, sharing, and learning.
- The Music Theory curriculum includes an ongoing discussion about the racist nature of music theory in general. Why is music theory so westernized? Why is classical music so western? Is classic music theory elitist?
- The department has made a strong effort in its Chamber Music program to choose music by under-represented composers. Faculty surveyed the students, and this is important to them. Women composers who will be featured this year include Clara Schumann, Louise Farrenc, and Mari Paldi.
- Loomis Chaffee Orchestra Director Netta Hadari is working with Iraqi composer Ameen Mokdad (via Cuatro Puntos), who is writing a piece for the Orchestra. Students will be able to talk with Mr. Mokdad about his experiences with music and composition in his area of the world.
- Also for Orchestra: “Elegy” (honoring the lives of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner) by Carlos Simon, a living American Black composer; “Lovely Day” by Bill Wither; and a setting of “Ya Habibi Ta’ala” by Asmahan, an Egyptian composer.
- The Chamber Singers began the fall with “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Turn Me Around” from the Social Justice Songbook and will return to this piece during Winter Term 1 as MLK Day approaches. Work on this piece has generated discussion regarding social action, social justice, and music. The Chamber Singers also are continuing a discussion about land and its meaning across cultures this season with a piece by Javier Busto.
- Performing Arts Department Head Sue Chrzanowski continues to work with voice teachers to include vocal classical works by Black composers and classical music in Spanish.
- The choral program continues to include works that represent diverse belief systems, Native American cultures, Latino composers, and Asian composers.
- The department continues to purchase and obtain instruments for use by students who receive financial aid.
- For online learning and activities, the music faculty specifically chose browser-based platforms that require a school subscription rather than software to ensure access for all students.
- Music summer reading choices have been not only inclusive (diverse authors and subjects), but thought-provoking regarding diversity and music experience. This year’s starred book choice for discussion was Beautiful Music and last year’s was White Tears.
- During the first half of the 2020–21 school year, dance classes composed and performed two large pieces centered on identity; they took their inspiration and text from the All-School Read and Write program. Dancers performed the pieces at an outdoor sampler and at the Fall Dance Showcase.
- Theater faculty and students made parallels with the fall play to real-world events, discussing and finding similarities with Black Lives Matter protests and police brutality within our play and enhancing our story with relevance for today. We sought parallels with people finding their voices even under oppression of autocratic leaders. And we discussed the ability of one voice to change the world.
- Theater classes are incorporating more diverse playwrights into scene study and monologue choices and trying to find parallels in plays that tap into real-world events. An example of the latter was the originally banned 400-year-old Shakespearean speech for refugee rights that actors learned and performed for their acting class and discussed how timely it was with real-world events.
- The public speaking class has incorporated lessons in spoken-word and slam poetry.
- Environmental Science — The curriculum includes a unit on environmental racism, the disproportionate allocation of environmental damage by class and race.
- Forensics — This term course dedicates a day to learning about criminal justice systems generally, including a discussion of disparate criminal justice outcomes by race and class and the “two-tiered justice system” that results from certain policies. Students complete a research project and present on a case of wrongful conviction. The assignment is not an explicitly race- or class-based assignment, but the persons who have been wrongfully convicted are disproportionately poor and/or BIPOC, reflecting the prison population as a whole.
- So far this school year the Science DEI Working Group has achieved the following:
- completed two training sessions with department faculty focusing on identity and one’s personal experience with race;
- extended the Science Resource Center days of operation to five days a week instead of one, with tutors in every discipline. The resource center is also sending tutors to each Peer Support Network (PSN)1 study hall;
- began analyzing data on various identity markers as they relate to student progression through the curriculum. This is a first step in evaluating whether any of the department's policies are making it harder for students to achieve their potential in science based on their identities;
- established a DEI feedback team to provide critical feedback to faculty who would like their DEI-related work evaluated.
Social Science Department:
- The department, in conjunction with the Kravis Center for Excellence in Teaching, is working on an audit of DEI authorship and content in our courses.
- The department, consulting with colleagues in the English Department, applied the latter’s policy on offensive language in psychology classes to address language used in a video.
- The department is working with the Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies on global/cross-cultural content, along with environmental content, as faculty work on their Global and Environmental Studies Certificate (GESC) courses.
- The Ceramics course has incorporated a global focus, adding studies of African, Korean, and Japanese traditions, and includes a social justice project.
- The department conceived of and designed the Black Lives Matter Self-Portraiture project, which continues to grow and will exhibit all year. Partnership with Black student leaders was critical to the success of this project.
- Visual Arts Department Head, Jennifer McCandless, launched an exhibition that looks at voter suppression in Mississippi in 1965 and today, to which many teachers have brought their students. She also launched the Suffragette show that has been extended into at least February, and she will be launching a show later this year by Rashmi Talpade, who creates social justice works.
- In the Graphic Design class, faculty member Stacy-Ann “Ro” Rowe ’97 put DEI work front and center, designing the entire term’s curriculum and final project around social justice. The final project was called “Package the Intangible.” Students were tasked with creating a package for a product that is for purchase at point-of-sale by a potential customer. The challenge is that the concept must be something that cannot be touched in the real world (courage, integrity, love, etc.); the intangible product must have to do with social justice in some way or form; and all marketing and design must support that idea. The students chose colorism, tolerance, the American dream, peace, and privilege as their products. The project is currently displayed in the Richmond Art Center (RAC) and online.
Next year, this course will be designated a Global and Environmental Studies Certificate (GESC) course and will focus on the following topics: Term 1: Social Justice, Term 2: Global Studies, Term 3: Environmental Issues.
- Faculty member Stacy-Ann Rowe hosted a webinar for students with entrepreneur and designer Ruthie Davis ’80, an alumna who has successfully lived out her dream of being a top shoe designer and whose recent collaboration with Disney has expanded her brand.
Section V: 2020–21 Demographic Data
1 PSN is a mentoring program for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and first-generation students.