The American writer and activist James Baldwin, who spent his life advocating for racial, sexual and class justice, wrote that, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
Head of School John Packard built on Baldwin's thought in a letter to the Brooks community sent on June 18, 2020, the second of two letters Mr. Packard sent in the days after police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, killed George Floyd, a Black man. "There is a moral imperative in front of us to face the systemic racism that has oppressed the Black community for centuries," Mr. Packard wrote. "While our immediate ability to change the country might be limited, when it comes to changing Brooks School we are only limited if we allow ourselves to be. This must be the beginning of a transformational movement on our campus."
The following article, adapted from the fall 2020 issue of Brooks School's Bulletin magazine, intends to update the Brooks community on the state of that movement. The school intends to build on the previous good work of individuals at Brooks, and also on its own longstanding commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), as it works in new ways; as it tries differently and with a clear goal of becoming an anti-racist institution. This space is an accounting of what the school is, of what the school wants to become, and the steps we need to take along the way.
We have been fallible, and we remain fallible. We will, even with good intentions, misstep. We do not seek your praise for what we have done; we hope, though, for your insight, your partnership and your faith in our ongoing effort. [This article describes] mostly top-down, administrative actions: committees we formed, statements we drafted, rules we hammered out, mandatory trainings in which the faculty engaged. We are proud of those steps. We are also clear-eyed about the organic, ground-up culture shift that needs to occur at Brooks in order for those committees, statements, rules and trainings to effectively improve the day-to-day experience of our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) community members. We are committed to creating an accountable community that promotes social justice; a space in which that culture shift towards anti-racism can build over time.
This summer's renewed attention to this country's ongoing fight for social and racial justice led to new, urgent and necessary conversations on the experiences of many of our BIPOC community members. Brooks is a predominantly white institution, and we acknowledge the seen and unseen work that BIPOC employees and students have done for so many years — work and weight that the school has not adequately honored or helped to carry. These Brooksians entered into this work with love and care for each other and the school. We plan to build on that individual work on an institutional level. Our objectively and relatively few BIPOC faculty members, along with our Black Student Union and Alianza Latina affinity groups, have been sources of support and safety for our students. It is time for the school to make it an institutional priority to share this work and weight, and to make carrying it the collective responsibility of our entire community.
At this moment, the school has a clearer understanding than it may ever have had before of what it means to be an anti-racist institution, and of the gap between what it is and what it needs to be. In his June 18 and November 6, 2020, letters to the Brooks community, Head of School John Packard gave readers a sense of the current demographics of the school, described ongoing work in diversity, equity and inclusion, expressed goals that the school wants to achieve in the 2020–2021 school year, and noted actions that had been taken to date to achieve those goals.
GOVERNANCE AND LEADERSHIP
In order to engage effectively in diversity, equity and inclusion work, the school has dedicated resources, time and the endorsement of its leaders through a new board committee, the diversification of key leadership, and the creation of a larger and dedicated team of faculty tasked with leading the school in its efforts.
- A Board DEI Committee In spring 2020, the Brooks School Board of Trustees confirmed the creation of a board-level committee focused on diversity, equity and inclusion at Brooks. The DEI Committee was populated and began work over the summer and into this fall. The committee's task is to partner with school leadership to define goals and hold the school accountable as we aim to achieve those goals. The DEI Committee is chaired by school trustees Cristina E. Antelo '95 and Belisario Rosas P'15, P'21. Antelo and Rosas have been attending a range of committee and community meetings at school over these last few months. All community members are welcome to contact the board's DEI Committee with their questions, concerns and suggestions via email at boardDEI@brooksschool.org.
- The Diversification of Leadership In June, the school made a commitment to diversifying school leadership, including the board of trustees, the alumni board and the school's senior administration. At present, the 28-member board of trustees includes four trustees of color. The board plans to add two additional trustees of color to the board by July 1, 2021, and has taken active steps to do so. The alumni board has formed a DEI advisory group to support on-campus initiatives and the addition of alumni of color to the alumni board. The hiring process for senior administrative and faculty positions for the 2021–2022 school year has not begun yet; however, the school will post openings for faculty in each academic department in the hopes of widening its candidate pool and attracting potential BIPOC faculty to Brooks without waiting to react to specific departmental need.
We are grateful for the conversations this transformational movement aimed at stamping out racial injustice has generated on our campus and amongst so many in our community who are right to expect action more than sentiment. We are grateful to those of you who shared your own stories and experiences that illuminate in powerful ways the opportunity and responsibility our school has to be actively anti-racist. I want to be explicit as I begin this letter: Black lives matter. We are committed to being actively aligned with this movement and all efforts seeking to achieve equity and justice For the BIPOC community. — Head of School John Packard in his letter to the Brooks community on June 18, 2020
- The Expansion of the DEI Team Over the summer, the school added Kenya Jones and Michael Veit to the school's DEI team, alongside Dean of Community Life Ashley Johnston. Jones became the school's director of multicultural affairs and outreach. Veit became the school's director of DEI curriculum and programming. The DEI team coordinates and organizes events to address DEI issues; connects and works with the school's alumni office; supports affinity groups and promotes DEI values within the Brooks community; collaborates with senior leadership in the development of DEI initiatives in the school's curriculum; and is currently developing a set of equity grievance protocols through which Brooks students and employees will be able to address microaggressions and macroaggressions through a formal, standard process. The group meets regularly with Mr. Packard and Associate Head for Faculty Affairs John McVeigh.
The Diversity Leadership Council (DLC) is composed of adults at Brooks who support and advise the school's affinity groups, and those adults who are deeply engaged in the work of diversity, equity and inclusion at Brooks through their professional roles at the school. The DLC was formed more than a decade ago. Apart from the general goals of the large group, DLC subcommittees recently focused on drafting bias grievance protocols, drafting an anti-racism statement, and drafting policy to help students and adults engage in the 2020 presidential election thoughtfully and with empathy. The DLC's ongoing work will include more focused work done by subcommittee as the school's needs and action items continue to take shape. The DLC is chaired by Dean of Community Life Ashley Johnston, who can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A large part of our effort to become an anti-racist institution rests with our faculty. For too long, Brooks faculty have been able to "opt in" to working toward greater equity and inclusion in the classroom, the dorm and day-to-day life on campus. That choice is no longer viable and is no longer available: All Brooks faculty are now expected to understand and contribute to the school's goal of becoming an anti-racist institution.
- Faculty Learning Opportunities Beginning in August 2020 and continuing through fall 2020, faculty attended two required virtual workshops aimed at giving them tools to create an anti-racist community. Dr. Ali Michael, who is the cofounder and director of The Race Institute for K–12 Educators, spent a day with the Brooks faculty. She presented a set of sessions and workshops titled "How Race Matters: Building an Anti- Racist Classroom." In addition, four faculty are being coached by Michael in preparation for leading white anti-racist learning spaces and creating a white anti-racist group for adults on campus. All faculty also engaged in a series of three workshops by Dr. Liza A. Talusan: Faculty trained on how to move DEI work forward through productive conversations; acknowledging and dismantling their own problematic biases; and leadership and change management. Talusan has also held implicit bias training sessions with academic department chairs and faculty members directly involved in the hiring process.
- Faculty Attendance at Conferences In addition to the required attendance at the professional development described above, 15 faculty chose to attend the Association of Independent Schools of New England's (AISNE) Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Conference this fall. In addition, Brooks sent a cadre of faculty to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference in December, and the school prioritized the attendance of BIPOC faculty.
- Heads of School Anti-Racism Working Group Mr. Packard is part of a Heads of School Anti-Racism working group that has met periodically this year. AISNE coordinates these conversations, which are facilitated by DEI consultants and school practitioners.
- Future Bias Grievances Brooks has retained the Suffolk University Center for Restorative Justice to train the school's DEI team and senior administration on handling future bias grievances.
- An Outside Consultant Brooks has retained Cecilia Ramirez '01 to consult with the school in its effort to advance DEI work and move toward becoming an anti-racist institution. Ramirez is the chief of staff at Equal Justice USA, and she has been a race equity trainer and practitioner for more than 15 years. In her consultancy for Brooks, Ramirez will serve as a race equity coach and resource for the board of trustees, senior administrative team, DEI team and Mr. Packard. She will also help the school assess data it receives from its first distribution of a climate survey (the details of the climate survey follow).
This is a time when we need to ascend to a higher plane, and make clear our firm commitment to taking great care of one another. This must matter to all of us. — John Packard on June 2, 2020
POLICY AND PROTOCOL DEVELOPMENT
The school moved a large amount of policy and protocol forward this summer and fall. Our challenge now is to adhere to the letter and spirit of these policies and treat them as expansive, while also continuing to review, refine and draft protocol as we actively and continuously move toward our goal of becoming an anti-racist institution.
- A Mission Statement In February 2020, the school's DEI mission statement committee began work on the school's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Mission Statement. That mission statement has been adopted and can be viewed in full on the school's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion page.
- An Anti-Racism Statement Over the summer and into the fall, a subcommittee of the school's Diversity Leadership Council (DLC) drafted the school's Anti-Racism Statement (see below). The statement was incorporated into this year's Student Handbook and Community Directory.
"Brooks School strives to be an anti-racist school, understanding that this work is continuous and is central to our role as an educational institution. Racism and other forms of systemic oppression are deeply rooted in all institutional and societal structures: We condemn institutional racism and white supremacy in all forms, including those that exist at Brooks. As a community that values each member's sense of belonging, our goal is to foster an inclusive environment in which everyone can live, work and learn free from prejudice, discrimination and marginalization. While we recognize that racism occurs both intentionally and unintentionally and is often a result of unconscious bias, we also know that its presence hinders our ability to provide the most meaningful educational experience our students will have in their lives. Therefore, at Brooks School we are united in the fight to identify, acknowledge and dismantle systems of oppression and inequality. In order to do this work effectively, we will draw on our foundation: strong community, core values, and commitment to the care, support and growth of every member of the community."
- Modifications to Existing School Policy The DLC subcommittee that drafted the school's anti-racism statement this summer also modified three sections of existing school policy to further the school's goal of becoming an anti-racist institution. First, the subcommittee drafted a "Racist Actions" policy that mirrors, but is separate from, the school's existing policy on bullying, discrimination and harassment. Second, the subcommittee modified the school's dress code with an eye toward inclusion and equity. Third, the subcommittee classified intentional racist actions as a violation of a major school rule, subject to the purview of the school's Discipline Committee. These policy modifications have been adopted and are in effect.
- Development of Bias Grievance Protocols The DEI team is developing bias grievance protocols to ensure that students and adults at Brooks have recourse when confronting micro-aggressions and macro-aggressions. These protocols continue to be refined through structural and professional development considerations, and the DEI team has already been able to use the protocol framework to address grievances this year.
- Land Acknowledgement Last year, the school debuted its land acknowledgement, which was drafted by a third-form Winter Term class studying the history and current struggles of Native Americans from the land that Brooks School stands on today. The school noted and displayed the land acknowledgement throughout last spring and into the fall on formal occasions, both in print and in speech.
As the country and world wrestle with a relatively new pandemic driven by a deadly virus, and a racial inequality pandemic that has been with us for centuries, [former Massachusetts] Governor Patrick urged us to not return to any version of normal that has perpetuated the painful inequities that have prevented this country from being true to its highest ideals. . . .There is and will be important institutional and individual discomfort along the way, and therein is the opportunity for the school to keep finding its way to higher ground. — John Packard on November 6, 2020
In addition to the initiatives described above, the school is committed to continuing its DEI work. Our goal of becoming an anti-racist institution is, by definition, ongoing.
- A Climate Survey The school distributed the Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism to the entire school community over the course of the fall. The assessment was designed by the National Association of Independent Schools. Brooks will use the data and findings from that assessment to guide its DEI work in the near future, and will distribute the assessment on a bi-annual basis moving forward.
- Self-in-Community Curriculum The Self-in-Community curriculum will be reorganized to dedicate more time to intentional conversations about race, white privilege and active anti-racism.
- Time and Space for Affinity Groups In order to help affinity groups meet more regularly, the school reserved a biweekly affinity group meeting block in the academic schedule. As physical distancing restrictions and the COVID-19 pandemic ease, the school will explore finding dedicated physical space in which affinity groups can meet to find community, and a sense of permanence and place at Brooks.
- Continued Review of Policies We will continue to review the school's discipline and behavioral policies to ensure that they are fair and equitable, both on their face and in their application and impact.
- Vendor Relationships The school will strive to cultivate relationships with external vendors who are committed to anti-racism, and will pursue relationships with Black-owned businesses and businesses owned by members of the BIPOC community.
- Conversations with Law Enforcement We will reach out to local police departments to understand their policies on anti-racism and their commitment to ensuring the safety of our BIPOC students and employees.
BY THE NUMBERS
The school's leadership team is predominantly white. The senior administrative team includes one person of color. One of six academic department chairs is a person of color, as is one of six endowed faculty chair holders.
Over the past nine years, the school's domestic student of color population has grown from 67 to 95, in the 2019–2020 school year. Of these 95 students, 27 percent identify as Hispanic/Latinx; 25 percent identify as Asian American; 20 percent identify as Black/African American; 15 percent identify as Multi-Racial; 11 percent identify as Indian American; and 2 percent as other. In total, BIPOC students make up more than 25 percent of the student body. In addition, we have 32 international students from 12 different countries at Brooks this academic year.
The most substantial recent step the school has taken in pursuit of its goal of diversifying its student body is the creation of the Davis Scholar Program in partnership with Andrew Davis '81. The program, which has benefited Brooks for four years, currently supports the tuition of 12 students, each of whom is a person of color who will be the first person in their families to go to college. As of this year, the program also sponsors a Davis Faculty Fellow. Mr. Packard emphasizes the transformative effect of the Davis Scholar Program. "While work remains on how we foster belonging and inclusion of BIPOC students once they are in our care, we have not had a donor who has done this much to ensure our opportunity to make Brooks accessible to first-generation students in the United States," Mr. Packard says.
In the 2019–2020 school year, our full-time faculty members of color made up 9 percent of the school's overall full-time faculty. Full-time faculty members of color in 2020–2021 are 18 percent of the overall full-time faculty.
We have increased our financial aid budget substantially over the past 10 years, which has allowed us to grow the percentage of students receiving a need-based grant from less than 23 percent to more than 32 percent in the 2020–2021 school year; 55 percent of the school's 2020–2021 financial aid budget is being used to support domestic students of color; 43 percent of students receiving a need-based financial aid grant are domestic students of color. We continue to partner with a range of organizations and schools in our effort to recruit some of the exceptional BIPOC students we are so fortunate to have at Brooks.
In future issues of the Bulletin, we hope to highlight the good work that our BIPOC alumni have done and continue to do to confront systemic racism and to fight for racial equality. If you would like to be profiled, or if you know of someone who you think might like to be profiled, please contact Associate Director of Alumni Relations Carly Churchill '10 at email@example.com.
OTHER RECENT STORIES
Revving Up Brooks Internet
A new construction project upgrading the network cables on campus will give students faster and more reliable Internet connections — even when everyone is online at once.
Sharing Our Land Acknowledgment
Teachers were invited to present their students' initiative to recognize campus' indigenous populations at a conference for educators.
Listen Up: Brooks Has a Podcast!
This fall, Ryan Kelleher '24 started "Brooks Talk" — and a conversation that's helping students get to know one another better.