This is a summer of change for New Hampton, as it has been for so many other institutions, communities, and countries as we have all faced challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, recent high-profile killings of Black people have brought to the forefront the realities of systemic racism in our society.
As we plan to re-open campus for students, we do so with a commitment to change. We feel it is our responsibility, both for the health and safety of all community members, but also for upholding our core values of Respect and Responsibility as we work to ensure that we are the inclusive community we say we are.
I have been moved and am uplifted by the level of honesty in the conversations I have had with current students, alumni, and former faculty about their experiences as Black people at New Hampton. While it is hard to hear that Black students, faculty, and alumni endured a variety of difficult experiences at New Hampton, I have also learned that our Black alumni valued their time as students at New Hampton. Even more encouraging is that despite their difficulties, they now want to help improve the New Hampton School experience for future Huskies.
Please know that you are heard. Your stories directly impact how we move forward so that New Hampton changes in positive ways. For those I have not spoken with directly, please know that I am available and interested in talking with you about your experiences when you are ready.
Learning and Changing
I aim to be transparent with the work New Hampton has engaged in recent years, decisions that have transpired this summer, and work we have committed to doing going forward. I also want to acknowledge the leadership our current students have shown toward this movement has been most inspiring.
In recent years, we:
- Launched an Equity & Inclusivity Committee that meets weekly during the school year to discuss programming, policies, and awareness.
- Created a Diversity Club for students of color and allies.
- Sent faculty to the annual People of Color Conference and students to the Student Leadership Diversity Conference to engage in workshops on diverse topics related to the experience of people of color in independent schools.
- Invited a consultant to facilitate employee education and training on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Focused our all-school read on diversity topics to include The Hate U Give, Tears We Cannot Stop, Not Light, But Fire, and One Goal.
- Joined the National SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) Project, committing to prepare faculty annually to guide our community in conversation to acknowledge systems of power, oppression, and privilege better and to drive change toward social justice.
This summer, we:
- Held a Black student forum with some of our Black alumni to provide support and conversation about the experience of our students. Students and alumni worked to generate actions and initiatives they hoped New Hampton would consider.
- Received a proposal for a new course from a current student titled Acknowledging Discrimination. The Curriculum Committee approved this course, and it will be taught in an evening seminar format to provide greater student access starting this fall.
- Worked to update our Student Life Handbook to include more specific language regarding racist behavior and the corresponding disciplinary ramifications.
- Continue to work with a consultant on faculty and staff training, unconscious bias, and how we handle issues of race in class content.
- Launch a comprehensive strategic plan for diversity, establishing long term commitments spanning the full program of the school and associated deadlines, advanced with input from the Board of Trustees, employees, students, parents, and alumni.
- Develop an Alumni of Color Committee, which will serve in an advisory capacity to the Head of School on issues of climate, student recruitment, and hiring, while also being direct support to students.
- Support the growth of the Black student affinity group, which was formed last year.
- Strengthen reporting mechanisms and avenues for students to come forward for support and to identify acts of racism within our community.
- Expand upon issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our Student Life curriculum.
- Commence a curriculum review to include course offerings, content, and texts used.
I want to be clear that Black Lives Matter at New Hampton School. I acknowledge that we have work to do dismantling systemic racism and express my commitment to executing the work here at New Hampton. I am here to listen, to learn, and to move us forward. I pledge to seek my own professional development on issues of race and racism and have asked my colleagues to do the same.
I truly believe we are a community that transforms lives. Our dedicated faculty and staff commit themselves in the service of others because they believe in our transformative purpose. In this, our Bicentennial year, and with Our Story serving as our school theme, we stand ready to re-write the narrative for Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and our New Hampton community as a whole.