Administration introduces anti-racism plans

Ethan Lachman

In response to schoolwide calls to take greater action against racism, the administration released a comprehensive list of initiatives July 24 to foster an anti-racist environment on campus.

President Rick Commons, Associate Head of School Laura Ross and Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Janine Jones signed the email that was sent to the school community. The statement said the administration adopted a multi-faceted approach to eliminating racism on campus, divided into three main sections: DEI work, curriculum evaluation and additional educational opportunities.

The administration said the plan was created after a realization that the school must devote more effort to working as an ally to Black students and people of color within the community.

“We must first acknowledge that Harvard-Westlake’s own practices have contributed, however unintentionally, to the racism and injustice that people of color have experienced at our school,” the email stated. “Furthermore, we cannot be content with gradually reducing the number and intensity of these experiences and gradually improving the quality of the experience of people of color at Harvard-Westlake. Instead, we must recognize that this is an urgent crisis that demands immediate adjustments as well as long-term strategic plans to ensure that Harvard-Westlake becomes an anti-racist institution.”

According to the email, the DEI team, led by Jones, will continue to provide open, honest spaces for students of color to share their individual experiences.

 At the Upper School, French and Spanish courses will be revised to focus on racial inequality and inequities within their respective countries and the historical implications of colonialism. Teachers will also redesign United States History classes in order to emphasize the Reconstruction Era and the legacy of Black people in American history.

For middle school students, teachers will introduce literary works by people of color into the curriculum and focus on addressing issues of race within the classroom, especially in the newly designed eighth grade World Civilizations class. On both campuses, students and teachers will be prohibited from saying the n-word aloud.

Outside groups that focus on improving diversity will aid the school in its efforts, such as The Glasgow Group, which will assess the school’s curriculum by grade level. Additionally, companies like the Jones Inclusive, Blink Consulting and the Grading for Equity Project will help further train faculty members and school leadership in anti-racism.

Regarding the admissions and hiring processes, the administration will also focus on adding more faculty members of color and on ensuring that the over 60 people involved in admissions further understand their implicit biases. 

All disciplinary proceedings will have a member of the DEI office present, and the school will search for new ways to conduct those meetings, paying specific attention to the ideas of restorative justice.

Though the school acknowledged that it still faces issues of systemic racism, the administration said the community will continue to strive to become more diverse and inclusive through its DEI efforts.

“The steps we have taken in the last several years provide an important foundation for the urgent work before us, but they are far from being enough,” the email stated. “In keeping with our DEI Commitments, and in response to the forceful call to action from students, alumni, parents, faculty and staff, we are redoubling our efforts to improve our current practices, to make our DEI work more integrated and far-reaching, and to make anti-racism an essential element of our curriculum and culture.”