I have been encouraged to update the community on Chatham Hall's diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work that began on this campus almost a year ago at the 2019 reunion.
Chatham Hall is indeed working to acknowledge the pain of the past and use it to inform a path forward that ensures this school is practicing Bishop Michael Curry's words and the tenets of the Episcopal church. And so, I welcome Deborah Glymph, our Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to join me in sharing with you below some of what happened in 2019-2020 associated with diversity, equity, and inclusion. There is much work to do and it will be essential that Ms. Glymph is not alone if our commitment is going to be legitimate and sustained. Her partnerships with students, with me, and with her colleagues assure me this is becoming integrated, iterative work in our classrooms, activities, dorm life, and interactions with each other that will serve us both today and in the years to come.
Here are examples of our work during the 2019-2020 school year. Please note the themes for the year as they grounded every activity.
Themes: Leadership, Awareness (Global and Local), Courage, and Gratitude
Rector and Director of DEI summer reading: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Start of School Faculty Professional Development-Implicit Bias Awareness (Part One) with Trina Gary of Brown-Gary Associates
Create and launch new DEI ambassadors for the 2019-2020 academic year
“Food and Forum” Initial Meeting. Topic: What do the terms, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion mean to you?
International Day of the Girl Celebration
DEI Climate Survey Assessment for Chatham Hall (October 2019) conducted with Trina Gary of Brown-Gary Associates
Chatham Hall U! Initiative on Servant Leadership
International Men’s Day: Aligned with Veteran’s Day; Service-Gender Equality
International Student discussion sessions
“Food and Forum” Meeting. Topic: Faith: “What Do You Believe?”
An Evening with Coretta Scott King Task Force: Event Planning
Themes: Leadership, Awareness (Global and Local), Courage, and Gratitude
Martin Luther King, Jr. Chapel
Brown-Gary Associates delivers Rector’s Report of Climate Assessment
Lunar New Year Chapel Service
Writer-In-Residence: Elizabeth Acevedo, author of The Poet X and With the Fire on High
Black History Chapel honoring Madam CJ Walker
Girls’ Day: day-long student presentations
International Student Association Night
Spectrum Chapel, led by our LGBTQ+ affirming club
School-wide Rector’s summary of the Brown-Gary Associates Climate Survey Assessment
International Day of the Woman + Power of Her Week programming, in partnership with students and Assistant Director of Community Life
Creation of the Black Student Union
Rector Connell- Letter to the Community- Response to National Crisis on May 31, 2020
Pride Month Celebrations: June 2020
Coffee House Zoom Meeting
Zoom Discussion: LGBTQ+ issues
Music Video Night-Zoom Meeting
Summer all faculty reads: Under Pressure by Lisa D'Amour and White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
2020-2021 Start of School faculty meeting professional development: Implicit Bias (Phase 2) with Trina Gary
Behind each activity listed was a lot of effort by many on this campus and off. A most important element was the climate assessment conducted by Trina Gary. Mrs. Gary began her association with Chatham Hall when she visited this campus almost a year ago to facilitate an alumnae forum during reunion weekend. At that forum alumnae bravely shared their experiences at Chatham Hall over the decades. These women experienced real pain while here and they shared their stories with dignity and courage. This transparency began a few months earlier when several alumnae reached out to one another asking if others had experienced similar situations of marginalization, racism, bigotry, or bullying. The response was quick and powerful. These alumnae urged us to provide space to acknowledge this painful history—some of it recent—and so the forum was created.
From there came a summer of transition as I moved to Chatham Hall and began to get to know this place. I quickly connected with Trina Gary, who moderated the alumnae forum, and was glad to continue our work with her alongside faculty and staff for our first round of implicit bias awareness training in August 2019. After that, we scheduled a week where Mrs. Gary could conduct a thorough DEI Climate Assessment for me. The purpose of this assessment was to bring in an outside professional to help me see the many DEI layers that we would need to unpack to do this work, and to create a pathway of recommendations for me to consider for Chatham Hall in the years ahead. Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this time was appreciating the important difference between assimilation and inclusion in a community and, looking back, this really only happened when I stopped reading the report and started listening to it. The Chatham Hall community is only beginning to listen. We are only beginning to recognize the lengths some student groups, and some adults, have gone to assimilate to Chatham Hall. For us to ultimately reach full inclusion, there is a need and an opportunity to be even more open to the experiences community members bring to the school as well as how our own bias influences our decisions and our behaviors towards others—explicit or implicit.
And one more thing: teaching, modeling, and inspiring wellness across our campus in every dimension—physical, social, environmental, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, occupational, and financial—is more important than ever in the life of a teenage girl, especially those girls who have endured a life of systemic injustices. For a year now, a campus Health and Wellness Task Force has been deeply immersed in this wellness work and engaging the entire faculty. We share this because we recognize that, to be inclusive, we need to consider, include, and appreciate the interweaving layers of human experience that will have an impact on all of our girls’ dimensions of health and wellness for decades to come. It is an honor, a privilege, and a responsibility to which we must dedicate our careers as educators. This year, the next phase of task force work will benefit from student input so we make sure our programs are as relevant, timely and helpful as possible.
Many Chatham Hall alumnae have been doing a lot of important listening and soul searching in recent weeks. Some began that journey last May at reunion. Some of you have reached out to share stories of self-education. This education must continue individually and collectively if we are to be the school we need to be and the nation we need to be. Hand-in-hand with education comes action individually, locally, and nationally so listen to the stories of your friends and classmates. Push for change through advocacy, voting, and philanthropy. Amplify the voices of the ignored or unheard. This is what following the path of love looks like.
As I hope you see from above, our work began even before COVID-19 was making its way through the world but there is much more to do. Like so many other things, the work of DEI has evolved over the years and caring schools and workplaces realize the importance to the health of their communities to follow that evolution. We are committed to being a caring school. Our immediate work continues with upcoming adult professional development on issues ranging from implicit bias to the mental health of girls today. It continues with making sure we have sufficient ways for girls to meet and share their concerns, provide each other with support, and work with the school to effect change. We welcome your participation in this work, and hope you will reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to move forward together.
Rachel A. Connell, Rector
Deborah Glymph, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion