Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
A Message from President Nunan
July 5, 2020
Our nation just celebrated Independence Day. Amidst a growing, global pandemic and deep, social unrest, our country marked July 4th, the anniversary of our founding. Even as we honor our freedom, we cannot help but ask, “Are all free?” and “What does freedom really mean?”
In the gospel for Sunday, July 5th, taken from Matthew, are these famous and familiar words of Jesus:
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.
Does anything seem “easy” today? Does anything seem “light”? Indeed, like Jesus’ audience, I sense that we feel “burdened,” and that we “labor” to make it through this exceptionally challenging time in history. How—and when and where—can we find this “rest” of which Jesus speaks?
The Bishop Fenwick community does not have the answers to all of these questions. As Fenwick’s President, I can assure you that neither do I. Like you, I struggle to make sense of our broken world, battered by institutional racism and besieged by COVID-19. Like you, I wonder how to make sense of this moment in which we live—in which every communication regarding the above seems to be an accelerant, a source of escalation, and a cause of ever-increasing division.
How can we be instruments of authentic healing and transformative hope?
I ask this question not in relation to the novel coronavirus. Today, I ask this question in relation to the inequities and injustices of racism, and most particularly racism against black women and men. What is Fenwick’s response? How can Fenwick become a voice for change and a witness for justice? Where can Fenwick grow in its awareness of its past, in its assessment of its present, and in its approach to its future? What will Fenwick do to embrace its mission and serve its students by becoming an intentionally and purposefully community of inclusion and equality?
Let’s begin by acknowledging the fundamental truths of our faith: we are each created in God’s image and likeness, we are each invaluable and unrepeatable gifts of our loving God, and we are blessed with immeasurable dignity and worth by virtue of being children of God. We are called to love God and to love our neighbor, recognizing that Jesus, himself, is present in and through our neighbor. And we have a special concern—a sacred duty—to care especially for those neighbors who are suffering. This is the Christian vocation. I believe it is the human vocation, our shared sense of sisterhood and brotherhood in our universal human family.
Let’s also acknowledge that our efforts will require heroic faith and fervent prayer. We cannot do this alone; we need God’s grace, Jesus’ friendship, and the Spirit’s gifts. Even as we acknowledge our profound reliance on God and on our commitment to prayer, we must also understand that changing a country and a culture with a centuries’ long history of institutional racism and social injustice will require more than the oft-heard “thoughts and prayers.” This endeavor will require significant work, substantive, change, and a relentless–even radical—shift in how we think, act, and live.
We affirm at Fenwick that Black lives matter. Why state this? Because in our country’s history, Black lives have not mattered. From slavery to bigotry, from lynch mobs to jail cells, from Jim Crow to cross burnings, from segregated education to policy brutality, from unfair housing practices to unjust legal statutes, Black lives have not mattered here—at least not as much as other lives. We must confront this horrible truth and proclaim that Black lives matter.
Does this mean that other lives matter less? No. To draw such a conclusion would be to contradict both our mission and our faith. Again, we are all—and each—created by God. As our motto at Fenwick reveals, we are called to show Goodness to everyone and Loyalty to all. Each of us matters. All of us matter. It is only because of this fundamental reality that we are able to state, unequivocally, that Black lives matter. The alternative is not that some lives matter more than others. The alternative is that no lives matter.
Where do we go from here? Bishop Fenwick resolves to address the issue of racism and all forms of inequity on a variety of fronts in order to reflect its mission as a Catholic school. The initiatives below outline our approach to confronting the evil of racial injustice:
1. Strategic Curricular Reflection and Revision: We will review carefully and thoughtfully our curriculum in each department and in each grade level to remove any texts or sources that promote or seem to accept/approve racial intolerance or social injustice, and most importantly, to include appropriate lessons, texts, and sources that address unconscious racial bias, acknowledge the realities of racial inequity, and challenge students (and adults) to examine how we each may contribute to institutional racism. We will begin this process over the summer with our school-wide project, “Racism, Equity, and the Pursuit of Happiness for All,” and continue making improvements throughout the coming academic year. We will create a page on our website highlighting these initiatives, recognizing that we will be engaged in this work for many years. We are grateful to so many alumni who have already identified an array of outstanding resources, and we look forward to partnering with our alumni in moving Fenwick forward.
2. Faculty and Staff Professional Development: We will ask our faculty and staff to join in workshops, conferences, and training to develop a clearer and better understanding of the school culture at Fenwick, explore how that culture has been perceived by students, and take the steps we need to develop a more inclusive, welcoming, affirming, and purposefully anti-racist culture. We began this process with a short survey at our closing meetings in June and we will continue this process with our Faculty/Staff Professional Days in August/September. We are blessed to have an incredibly team of dedicated, devoted professionals who care only about serving our students and advancing our mission. Together, we will make a difference.
3. Equity and Diversity Committee: We will form a special working group comprised of faculty, staff, students, parents, and alumni to help us address issues related to racism, equity, and inclusion at Fenwick and in our wider community. This strategically focused group will be created in the coming weeks and have its first meeting before the start of the 2020-21 academic year. The committee will be charged with gathering input and feedback from various Fenwick constituencies, reviewing Fenwick’s policies and procedures, developing targeted and school-wide programming to address racism, and working with the School’s President, Board, and administrative team to ensure that Fenwick lives its mission with regard to equality and justice. The process for forming this committee will be shared by the end of July and the members will be made public in August.
4. Admission and Recruitment Initiative: We will create a new scholarship that provides need-based financial aid to deserving Black students, with the goal of increasing the diversity of Fenwick’s student body. Fenwick’s President, Admissions Director, and Admissions Team will seek to develop partnerships with area elementary schools in order to attract students of color. The President, the Advancement Director, and the Advancement Team will engage alumni and other benefactors to fund this scholarship. Our goal is to raise $30,000 by December 31, 2020 that will assist with tuition, transportation, and other expenses. We hope to award these first scholarships in January of 2021 to select members of the Class of 2025.
5. Hiring for Diversity: We will approach each new hire search as an opportunity to address a critical need on our faculty and staff—the lack of diversity. As of this writing, Fenwick does not have a person of color on its faculty and staff; this has been the case for much of Fenwick’s history. Now is the time to confront this issue and to create a better Fenwick. Understanding the challenges of hiring for diversity, the President and the Principal will work with outside hiring firms and consulting groups to identify, recruit, and retain faculty and staff of color, recognizing that Fenwick must have a team that represents our community and reflects our student body. Hiring team members of color is a major priority for Fenwick’s President, and Fenwick’s Board of Trustees affirms this priority.
In conclusion, we return to our mission. We are here to graduate young women and men who are informed and engaged, wise and just, courageous and compassionate, moral and virtuous, passionate and prayerful, good and loyal. Fenwick has a rich legacy and proud tradition of being an exemplary Catholic, co-ed, college prep school that is student-centered and faith-driven. Comprised of good-hearted and multi-talented young women and men from hard-working and values-grounded families, Fenwick has a 60-year history of forming students and transforming futures. It is this legacy we must continue and this tradition we must advance. Integral to this legacy and tradition is the cause of social justice and human dignity.
We will be sharing our progress on the above measures in the coming months and we look forward to working with everyone in our Fenwick Family to create a better and brighter Fenwick. If you have thoughts, comments, questions, or concerns, please contact us. We have a designated email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, for you to share your response.
Thank you for your time, your consideration, your investment, and your support. Know that you are in our thoughts and prayers, and that, together, we will move Fenwick forward.