By Taylor Stockdale
As we promised in late July, we are writing the entire Webb community with an update on our progress in addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at Webb. Since our June 3 and July 26 letters, the Webb community has reached out to us to share their personal stories, hardships, and hopes for the future. Alumni in particular have offered important perspectives on how we heal our community and make our school a better, safer and more welcoming place for everyone moving forward. We are thankful that every part of our community has been engaged in this intensive, restorative and reparative work. We know that we cannot remain a leading national institution without continuing to pursue and accomplish the goals we set forth below.
ACTIONS TAKEN (SUMMER 2020)
We have begun engaging in deep conversations with members of our Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) alumni. We have been listening and learning. We know their experiences have not always led to a full sense of belonging, and we acknowledge our role as an institution in this harm. This is why this work is so important. We can and will do better.
The Board of Trustees has formed a Task Force to guide our actions. We are committed to exploring our history and legacy, to listening, learning and implementing critical programs and processes that reinforce our mission and values and our goal of becoming a better, safer, more inclusive institution.
As we announced in early August, partnering with our student-led Empowering Student Voices Initiative group, we have created an online community forum for the discussion of these important issues and launched a new resources page on our website. We invite everyone to join and be part of the conversation. • We have broadened our online reporting platform, Lighthouse, to enable members of the Webb community to share incidents of bias, harassment, racism or intimidation.
We have appointed a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator who has begun to engage with students, faculty, staff, alumni and the Board of Trustees. Recognizing that the day-to-day experience of underrepresented community members can be challenging in independent schools, our Coordinator has already sponsored identity groups for faculty, staff and new students to support their Webb experience and ground their sense of belonging.
In late August, the senior administration, faculty and staff and student leadership participated in an intensive educational program led by diversity educator Rosetta Lee titled “Interrupting with Care and Facilitating Courageous Conversations.”
The entire faculty completed Implicit Bias training with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in preparation for our Opening Days.
We have implemented a Community Reads Program involving students, families, faculty and staff beginning with Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-Racist.
We have highlighted Webb’s explicit commitment to pursuing anti-racism across all aspects of our community and the ramifications of non-compliance in our student and employee handbooks and at opening meetings.
THE WORK AHEAD
Knowing that this endeavor requires the perspective of independent external experts, we are pleased to announce that we are engaging The Glasgow Group, a nationally renowned diversity, equity and inclusion consultancy. Dr. Rodney Glasgow and his team will design and implement for Webb an immersive climate assessment, including conversations with focus groups, as well as audits of recruitment, hiring and retention efforts and enrollment and admission efforts. In doing so, our partnership with this firm will build on the results of our 2018-19 implementation of the National Association of Independent School Assessment of Inclusivity & Multiculturalism and the spring 2020 recommendations of our faculty and staff Diversity and Inclusion Committee. In addition, The Glasgow Group will work with our alumni office and in our archives to help us research and acknowledge our history.
With this consultancy, we will engage all constituencies, from current students and alumni, to parents and faculty/staff, in a process that is thoughtful, comprehensive and will lead to profound and lasting changes. In doing so, we will create a series of major goals and timelines so that we will be accountable to ourselves and our community. The Senior Administration and the Board of Trustees see the following priorities emerging from this strategic planning process, though we expect to build out these goals with our consultancy partners:
We will increase BIPOC faculty representation at Webb by strengthening our hiring, promotion and retention practices. We know representation is key to shaping the experiences of underrepresented students in our community and achieving excellence as a national educational institution. Our initial goal is to reach a 50% increase within the next five years while simultaneously building new supports for our current faculty.
We will increase BIPOC student representation, both by strengthening Webb’s recruitment, admission and retention practices and providing additional internal supports to address the unique challenges BIPOC students face in independent schools. Examples of these supports include a BIPOC alumni-student mentorship program and BIPOC faculty student-advocate leadership positions.
We will increase BIPOC representation across key volunteer leadership groups, including the board of trustees, alumni and parent groups, through strengthening our nomination and leadership development processes. Our initial goal is to reach a 50% increase across all leadership groups within the next five years.
We will review our core curriculum to ensure it reflects our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and embraces pedagogies that support all students in the classroom.
We will craft specific investment and budget goals including additional student financial aid, travel and support funds, and faculty recruitment and professional development funds by the close of the 2020-21 school year.
We will create regular assessment and reporting mechanisms to measure and communicate our community’s progress toward our shared DEI goals.
We know the coming months will be difficult even on the best days. Yet, we are fully committed to learning and moving forward together. As an educational institution approaching its centennial, we know these commitments will be essential to living up to our values of honor and moral courage and making Webb the best it can be for The Next 100 and beyond.
Sanjay Dholakia ’87 Chair, Board of Trustees Taylor Stockdale, Head of Schools Dr. Theresa Smith Associate Head of Schools