Alumni, students send letters to the school requesting internal action to help attain racial equality


Ethan Lachman

In response to nationwide protests against racial injustice, alumni sent two letters to the administration this week asking the school to more directly address racism within the school community and play a greater part in the movement toward racial equality. Though both letters recognized the school’s attempts to establish a diverse and inclusive environment, they called for increased curriculum-based action and for the school to place its own practices under scrutiny.

Former Chronicle Managing Editor Sophie Mancall-Bitel ’07 and former Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Nikila Sri-Kumar ’07 co-wrote a letter signed by over 1600 current students and alumni, requesting that the school develop a more extensive plan to address systemic racism and raise socially-aware students.

Keren Johnson ’02, a Black alumna, and Anita Schmidt ’02 drafted the other letter, which was signed by approximately 50 alumni. They pointed out the strong and caring nature of the school community while also recognizing the school’s inherent shortcomings, asking the administration to more strongly support the struggle for racial justice.

In an email sent to the school community Monday, President Rick Commons said that although it was difficult to reckon with inequities within the immediate community, he is gratified to have received the letters. Keeping the school’s mission statement in mind, which, in 2014, pledged a greater commitment to diversity and inclusion, Commons said the school will strive to improve by increasing communication between the office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and students and alumni.

“To amplify [the ideas of the mission statement], we set forth six “Visions for 2020” as critical to fulfilling our new mission, one of which was, ‘Our commitment to inclusion will enable every member of our community to feel an equal sense of belonging,’” Commons said. “We have arrived at 2020. Witnessing the injustice all around us and listening to the despair in the voices of members of our community, I confess that those words, such a source of hope and inspiration for the last five years, today are ringing hollow. Those words—’diversity,’ ‘inclusion,’ ‘equal,’ ‘belonging’—will only be full and clear if we can listen to our students and alumni and find new and meaningful ways to answer your call to action.”