Diversity, equity, and inclusion work is an ongoing journey. We are continually engaging our community in an effort to increase capacity and awareness, and begin to shape an institution that cultivates belonging.
Implicit in our understanding of the complexities around issues of race in our nation and at our school, we know that we must create programming to meet the needs of students — programming that allows our students to unpack and process these issues in order to understand and, hopefully, to lead by becoming agents of change. This takes more than assigning reading and scheduling speakers: this takes action. Our students are active participants in the School’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, often leading initiatives and collaborating with the faculty, staff, and administration to advance this work.
- DivCo: The Diversity Council (DivCo) strives to create an inclusive environment at Lawrenceville by providing students with opportunities to engage in conversations about social issues, identity, current events and culture. By engaging with these issues, Lawrentians can work towards the goal of inspiring the best in each to seek the best for all. Student leaders selected for DivCo serve as discussion facilitators at weekly Lunch and Dialogues, in addition to planning annual events each term like Community Potluck, International Night and Community Day.
- Let's Talk About: Created and led by Fifth Formers Ije Achebe and Ava Conyers, this program seeks to provide a space for education, awareness and conversation on delicate subject matters. With oversight by The Office of Multicultural Affairs Diversity Coordinators, topics of conversation are facilitated in an environment that provides for an ease of exchange on issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice. Fall sessions presented by student leaders focused on police brutality, colorism, White Privilege, and gender and sexuality. This initiative is also a feature of Lawrenceville's virtual Parents Weekend.
- VILLEage Groups: In response to student feedback for desired spaces to get to know others outside of their Houses and Forms, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, in collaboration with the Dean of Students Office, created VILLEage Groups. Students and faculty are divided into groups of 10-12 and gather several times a term to have often-difficult discussions following particular programs and initiatives, including all-school reads, school meeting speakers, and important world events.
- Student Diversity Leadership Training: The Office of Multicultural Affairs, in collaboration with the Dean of Students Office, secured workshops for our student leaders prior to the start of the academic year with Cultures of Dignity and The Anti-Defamation League. The two organizations worked with approximately 90 student leaders, consisting of Prefects, Student Council and Diversity Council, in an effort to prepare them for leading the remainder of the student body. They were trained in facilitation skills and anti-bias education. Additionally, Cultures of Dignity was brought back to do a virtual workshop on the aforementioned for our entire student population in October.
- Microinequities Workshop: Dean Holifield presented a workshop to the entire student body on the hurt and harm created by microinequities and microtriggers, giving them similar language and frames of reference as the faculty workshop. Students debriefed in advisee meetings following.
- Close Up Initiative: Eighteen students are registered to participate in an international program titled Impact 2020: Task Force for Community Engagement with students from five countries and 20 states. This is facilitated through Close Up, an organization dedicated to helping students develop the knowledge and skills they need to become informed, active, and engaged citizens. Close Up’s trained instructors will facilitate small group discussions and guide students through their project work. Over the course of nine weekly 90-minute sessions this fall, students will network with diverse peers nationwide; hear inspiring stories from young activists on strategies and models of advocacy and activism; deepen their understanding of issues and root causes in their communities; and work together to create meaningful solutions. Students will join a cohort around an issue about which they are passionate. Together, they will construct an action plan on their initiative to be presented to a panel at the end of the nine-week period.
Faculty & Staff Professional Development:
We need to prepare our community, and specifically our teaching faculty, with language to help them navigate through race and to address the racist incidents brought to our attention by the Black@Lawrenceville Instagram account. We also know that training in certain areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion will improve our understanding of ways to minimize unintended harm.
- Workshop on Microinequities: Faculty and staff completed training on anti-racism and microinequities and microaggressions during the in-service days in advance of the academic year, using the @blackatlawrenceville Instagram account as a guiding platform. While often unintended, microinequities cause significant harm. Through training, faculty and staff learn to recognize microinequities they may have perpetrated, witnessed, or experienced and — perhaps more importantly — learn how to be allies and upstanders. Once we understand microinequities and microaggressions, we can govern ourselves because we have a common understanding and ideology around what an inclusive community looks like.
- Workshop on Difficult Conversations on Race: Faculty and staff engaged in readings of Ijeoma Oluo’s “So You Want to Talk About Race” and James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time” as part of their summer reading. The workshop was implemented to prepare the faculty and staff for navigating the complexities of race conversations, while also developing an understanding of the issues faced by many marginalized and minoritized community members. In addition to annual check-ins for teaching faculty by the Dean of Faculty, Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement Rick Holifield will work directly with faculty and department chairs as individuals or in affinity groups to provide support and help ensure progress toward the goals they established during the workshop.
- Implicit Bias & Cultural Competency Training: Dr. Bryant Marks, Professor at Morehouse College and Executive Director of the National Institute on Race and Equity, will conduct half-day workshops on Implicit Bias and on Culturally Responsive Teaching on our in-service training day, currently scheduled for January 4. The latter is in response to a recommendation by the newly formed Classroom Language Task Force, as we look to address dehumanizing language in the curriculum and in the classroom.
- Classroom Language Taskforce: This group, co-chaired by Head of School Steve Murray and Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement Rick Holifield, is examining dehumanizing language in the School’s curriculum and developing associated policies and practices. The task force created an interim policy around the use of the “n” word in speech and in writing, and is continuing to conduct culturally responsive teaching training for faculty.
- Building Antiracist White Educators (BARWE):
The School has made BARWE available to faculty and staff in an effort to build culturally competent anti-racist educators. The organization operates under the principle that White educators must be responsible for dismantling White supremacy. Through unconscious bias training, and building solidarity with Black, Brown, and Indigenous students and faculty, BARWE seeks to create more inclusive and trusting learning spaces. Some of the key topics for study include, but are not limited to:
- Why White teachers need to talk about race
- How to identify and challenge implicit bias in our own practice
- How to support colleagues of color and build anti-racist work environments
- How curriculum can challenge dominant and oppressive ideologies
Several Lawrenceville faculty participated in BARWE over the summer, working with educators across the country, delving into readings, listening to podcasts, and sharing tips and strategies for making their classrooms more equitable places for all, most notably BIPOC students, while also aligning themselves as allies with BIPOC colleagues. Our faculty wrote a curriculum for future workshops, and are sharing the initiative with their fellow colleagues.
- How to have conversations with White students about anti-racism
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council:
The newly formed DEI Council is dedicated to overseeing the implementation and outcomes of our early action steps, reporting to our community on progress, and engaging in a longer-term process of strategic planning for DEI at Lawrenceville. The group’s initial charge is to review the three diversity action plans that have been presented to the School: the original plan by our DEI Task Force approved in 2019; a plan conceived of by members of the Board of Trustees and submitted in June of 2020; and the plan from the Lawrenceville Black Alumni Association (LBAA), submitted in July of 2020. Together, these plans constitute 219 recommendations. The plans have been consolidated and categorized, and will provide an important basis for a more focused strategic plan that will cover overarching priorities, including:
- Enhancing student life through training, handbook revisions, diverse speakers and anti-racism resources, and anti-bias reporting;
- Increasing faculty impact through training, handbook revisions, accountability measures, and recruitment and retention;
- Elevating education through professional development and curriculum review; and
- Achieving equitable outcomes through a climate survey and equity audit and resulting enhancements to the School community.
Task Force on Diversity Recruitment and Retention
The Task Force on Diversity Recruitment and Retention focuses on enhancing the diversity within our community, while supporting professional growth and leadership of faculty and staff of color. In addition to a cross-section of faculty and staff, the Task Force will include Teressa Moore Griffin of Spirit of Purpose as a thought partner and resource.
The Task Force will develop key elements of a strategy to broaden our sources and networks for recruitment and retention. In addition, the group will consider and present recommendations to Head of School Steve Murray, including goals for diversifying the faculty and staff, measurement of progress over time, and a system for tracking the early opportunities of advancement and professional development.
This proven framework is an option for healing our community with a focus on accountability, making amends, and facilitated meetings between all parties involved in a situation that caused hurt or harm. Senior Staff members were led in a summer restorative practice exercise, and the School is developing plans to implement this more widely in an intentional way.
Anti-Defamation League and Cultures of Dignity
Prior to the start of the fall term, the Anti-Defamation League ran an anti-bias training for student leaders focusing on language and identity, while Cultures of Dignity presented “Dignity and Allyship at Lawrenceville.” This work was extended to the full student community in mid-October. National Center for Civil and Human Rights
The School is an affiliate partner of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, a museum that seeks to inspire ongoing dialogue about human rights throughout communities. In addition to access to resources and experts provided by the museum, the partnership program also provides professional development workshops led by Center staff on contemporary pedagogical methods and techniques that align with human and civil rights curriculum. Additional Partnerships
The School has also received expert counsel from the Equal Justice Initiative, HiTOPS Adolescent Health & Wellbeing, the Stanley King Institute, and others. As the work and climate evolves, and as the perspectives, needs, and priorities of our community become more clear, we will continue to seek partners who can best assist us in building a stronger culture of belonging.
To best provide all students with the support needed to carry out equitable and optimal lived experiences, three new Diversity Coordinators have been appointed to the Office of Multicultural Affairs: Dr. Nuri Friedlander, Kelly Wise, and Beth Foulk. These dynamic faculty members will serve alongside Sam Washington, Director of Multicultural Affairs, and Rick Holifield, Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement.
As we establish our leadership structure for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Board of Trustees has formed a working group to ensure clear communication and trustee engagement. The group will be composed of Head of School Murray, Dean Holifield, the chairs of key Board committees, and other senior staff and faculty members, and they will periodically report to joint sessions of the Board's Academic and Faculty Affairs and Student Affairs Committees. A Faculty Diversity Council, DEI Curriculum Committee, Alumni Diversity Council, and a DEI arm of the Alumni Association Executive Committee, will help advance this work throughout all aspects of the Lawrenceville experience.