Co-Presidents of the Board of Trustees and the Head of School Announced the Formation of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee

Dear Members of the Hotchkiss Community, 

Over the last several weeks, across this country and around the world, we have witnessed the beginnings of change. As a rising tide of individual voices becomes unified in its refusal to accept anti-Black racism, institutions of all kinds must engage in their own self-reckoning, focusing on the systems, practices, and ways of being that have allowed racism and prejudice to endure. 

At Hotchkiss, we are committed to doing that essential work. In recent days, we have had numerous conversations with Black alumni, and, in some cases, current Black students, in order to better understand their experiences as students in our care. We have listened to stories of microaggression, marginalization, and outright bigotry at Hotchkiss. These are not the faded experiences of long ago. They are recent, and in many cases, they are openly shared on social media. Members of our community have also offered constructive ideas on how we can -- and must -- do better. 

Let us state this clearly: the lives and experiences of the Black members of our community, and of this nation, matter. As a learning community, we have a responsibility to ensure that every student in our care, no matter where they come from or what they look like, feels safe, seen, and supported. Though the School has taken strides in attempting to strengthen its culture over the past few years, by providing anti-hate training for the entire community, evolving our recruitment processes to correct for implicit bias, and diversifying our student body, it is clear that there is far more work to be done, particularly as pertains to our Black students.

To that end, and with an understanding of the central importance of this work to the healthy functioning of our community, the Board of Trustees will establish a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of the Board. This body will provide purposeful support to School leaders as they work to devise a diversity, equity, and inclusion plan that will include, but will not be limited by, goals to achieve the following: 

  • Recruit, support, and retain faculty and staff members who identify with groups historically under-represented at Hotchkiss, with an initial focus on those who identify as Black;

  • Ensure cultural competence and anti-racist culture among our Trustees, all employees on campus, and students through continued, mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion and anti-racism training for all members of these groups;

  • Comprehensively assess the School's curriculum and pedagogical approaches to ensure they are anti-racist and cultivate belonging for all members of the community;

  • Evaluate the state of the School's ability to provide meaningful, intentional, and authentic support for students who are Black , Indigenous, and People of Color, including an honest assessment of Hotchkiss's failures in this regard; 

  • Promote clarity and accountability as pertains to expectations around community behavior and values. All current community members -- faculty, staff, and students -- must be held responsible for promoting an anti-racist culture at Hotchkiss; and 

  • Continue to identify ways to honor and celebrate Black alumni to ensure that their impact both on campus and in the world is recognized and serves to inspire current students. 

The Committee will be comprised of the following members, and will convene to begin this work immediately:

  • Chair: Raymond J. McGuire '75, P'21, Vice President, Board of Trustees 
  • Rhonda Trotter '79, Trustee
  • Rebecca van der Bogert, Trustee
  • Craig Bradley, Head of School
  • Tom Seidenstein '91, P'24 President, Board of Governors and Trustee
  • Danielle Ferguson '97, Board of Governors
  • Annika Lescott '06, Board of Governors
  • Ninette Enrique, Chief Advancement Officer
  • Merrilee Mardon, Associate Head of School and Dean of Faculty 
  • Steve McKibben P'22, Dean of Community Life
  • Erby Mitchell P'21, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid
  • Yassine Talhaoui, Director of Diversity and Inclusion (effective July 1, 2020)

The Co-Presidents of the Board of Trustees, Elizabeth Hines '93 and Robert Gould '77, will also attend meetings and remain closely involved in the work of the committee. 

We are grateful to the many members of our community who have stepped forward to share their experiences, and in so doing, helped spur the School to do better. And we will. This fall, 42% of the new students who will arrive at Hotchkiss self-identify as being people of color. That is an important milestone in the history of this school -- yet we know we must do more to ensure that their experiences are as robust and fulfilling as those of any other student at Hotchkiss. We must work t o build equity and inclusion into the DNA of this institution . 

The work that lies ahead for Hotchkiss, and for our society at large, will be as difficult as it is necessary. We have no choice but to commit to a fulsome and honest understanding of our present culture and our history in order to move toward an ideal of equity and inclusion. We look forward to your partnership in this important work.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth G. Hines '93
Co-President, Board of Trustees

Robert R. Gould '77
Co-President, Board of Trustees

Craig W. Bradley
Head of School

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