A Message from the Head of School at a Time of National Protest

Dear Members of the Hotchkiss Community,

We are feeling sad, outraged, and heartbroken in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, which followed the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, to name just two other recent victims of racial violence. While all of us wish for peace, as Frederick Douglass wrote, "there can be...no peace without justice." 

Across the United States, people continue to take to the streets to demand change, lacking confidence in political leadership and some civic institutions. This is occurring in the midst of the greatest public-health crisis in living memory, a crisis that has disproportionately affected communities of color in the U.S. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the lives of more than 100,000 American citizens and claimed the livelihoods of more than 40 million Americans in a few short, though very long, months. Children are going hungry in numbers greater than we have known in our lifetimes.  

While classes ended last week, and we celebrated a joyful, virtual Diploma Day for the members of the Class of 2020 on Friday, we do not suspend learning just because it is the summer. Nor do we suspend the experience of learning together in community at Hotchkiss. This is an extremely difficult and challenging period in our society. As we contemplate our role, a force we can bring to bear is the collective talent, diverse perspectives, and life experiences of those who constitute the Hotchkiss community. We can teach and learn from one another.  

From the beginning, Hotchkiss has played an important role in educating future leadership of this society, and that remains central to our purpose. The need for well-educated, ethically minded, compassionate, and inclusive leaders has never been greater. Integral to what it means to be well-educated is an informed and nuanced understanding of racism in America, one of the root causes of the racial violence and economic hardship that are so conspicuously evident at this time. I invite us all to help one another build that understanding.

In the spirit of continued learning, on May 31, we were pleased to host a special "Community Conversation" called Let's Talk About George Floyd, Police Brutality, and Protest, featuring guest speaker DeRay Mckesson. Mr. Mckesson is a nationally recognized civil rights activist, a leading voice in Black Lives Matter, and a key player in the work to confront systems and structures that have led to mass incarceration and murder by police of blacks and other American people of color. Among his accomplishments, he is the host of the award-winning weekly podcast "Pod Save The People," frequently appears in national media, and was named one of the World's Greatest Leaders by Fortune Magazine in 2015

The session, which was facilitated by Dr. Rachel Myers, Hotchkiss's director of diversity and inclusion, was open to all Hotchkiss students, faculty, and staff. It addressed painful realities such as the disproportionate statistics behind the killing of black people by police, the importance of organizing in order to drive cultural change, advice for students on how to engage, and reasons to remain optimistic even in the face of what feels insurmountable. Following Mr. Mckesson's comments, Hotchkiss students and faculty engaged in frank, emotional reflection and discussion of the issues.

I encourage you to watch a replay of DeRay Mckesson's comments here.

While this event was held in response to the events of the last week, Community Conversations have been taking place for the last two years. These gatherings provide a safe space in which students, faculty, and staff engage in meaningful dialogue about sensitive topics, such as religion and religious identity, racial ethnicity, sexual orientation, and privilege. The conversations are part of the School's commitment to enhancing learning, growing empathy, and creating an environment in which students feel safe, seen, and supported, even when openly expressing challenging ideas and emotions.

Hotchkiss is an inclusive learning community. This spring we have had to form some habits of learning from a distance, and we appreciate the power of this technology to enable us to welcome even more voices into our work. As we intensify our focus on engaging in and understanding these issues in order to drive meaningful change on campus and in the world, we invite you to join us. 

  • For students, over the summer, we will provide an optional curriculum with which you may engage if you choose. This will include structured learning opportunities, time for guided introspection, and conversation with your teachers and your peers.
  • For faculty and staff, we are engaging in dialogue and self-examination and developing training on implicit bias, among other topics, to enable the creation of a safer, more secure, and more supportive environment for all of the young people in our care. 
  • For alumni and parents, we are excited to welcome you into this process as well. We are currently designing a program that we anticipate will include forums for learning from and with alumni and parents who have expertise and learning resources to share. We will provide more information and specific details over the coming weeks.

Please use this form to share with us what you know, to suggest specific resources, or to volunteer your expertise. Your input will help guide the work that lies ahead.

At times when hope is hard to muster, I find solace in learning and in community. I look forward to learning from and with you in the weeks and months ahead.

Guided by each other, let us seek better paths.


Craig W. Bradley
Head of School

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