Administration charts school’s antiracist future

Many faculty members read and discussed Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist this summer – Bernie Rogers ’21

In response to the outbreak of systemic injustice, on June 18, Head of School Dr. John Nagl formulated a broad action plan to create a more just and equitable school. 

     Individuals from all aspects of the school community have taken an evident stance in allyship. 

“I am heartened by the commitment I see. However, I am still concerned by the amount of work that there is still left to do.” 

Head of School Dr. John Nagl

     In particular, faculty have taken a united stance on the pressing matter. Over the course of the summer, over half of the faculty read Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist

     Dr. Nagl expressed gratitude for the faculty’s commitment to social justice. 

     “From the very top of the school, to the board chair and the trustees, to all the way down to individual faculty members and students,” Dr. Nagl said, “I am heartened by the commitment I see. However, I am still concerned by the amount of work that there is still left to do.” 

     As Dr. Nagl remains quietly optimistic about the work that has been done, he, along with many members of the community, are still worried about the lack of enthusiasm for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work. 

     “It saddens me to know that there is an evident diminishing lack of energy for the Black Lives Matter movement across America,” History Department Chair Ms. Hannah Turlish said. 

     Data from a September Index poll showed that around 70% of the student body is willing to reflect on how they could strengthen our community. Some students within our community are also still concerned.

     “It is evident within social media that the Black Lives Matter movement was treated as a mere trend to some. You could see the people who posted black squares a few months ago are nowhere advocating for justice today,” Sixth Former Kethan Srinivasan said. 

     Over the course of the past weeks, the administration was mainly focused on simply reopening the school. This raises a pertinent question: does the administration have the time to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion work? 

     “We have to make time for it,” Dr. Nagl said. “We are continuing to work through the challenges of COVID, but we are also devoting significant resources to combat all forms of discrimination. We are committed to doing both at once while recognizing our limits of human endurance.” 

Zoom Call with Dr. Nagl – screenshot by Quinn Luong ’22

     While Dr. Nagl is relying on the community to continue this work, he is also conscious of the burdens it places on the faculty. 

     “There is so much strain upon the faculty who have to teach remotely and in-person and simultaneously keep working on antiracist work,” Dr. Nagl said. 

     Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Mr. Brendon Jobs has been advocating for teachers to participate in antiracism efforts and coming to faculty Supporting Educational Excellence in Diversity (SEED) workshops. 

     “Faculty in institutions are so important. I didn’t have my first male Black teacher until I was a sophomore in college,” Mr. Jobs said. “Often too many faculty and community members are nervous about how they will be received by students, but we need to show up for them.” 

     The administration has been working to diversify the community at every level; in fact, thirty percent of the board of trustees are people of color, and the faculty is the most diverse it has ever been. 

     “We still need to increase the diversity in all aspects of our community,” Dr. Nagl said. “Although we made progress, we are committed to hiring faculty that are more representative of the student body.”

     Aside from the few electives about DEI topics offered, the administration does not necessarily intend more electives. However, Dr. Nagl stressed that the administration is working on critically examining the curriculum. 

     “I don’t think you’ll see new courses be added. We want to make sure the current curriculum we teach is diverse and vetted,” Dr. Nagl said. 

     Still, students expressed dismay over the lack of topics they wanted to learn within their classrooms but were never taught. 

     “We have to understand the perspectives of people of color within our education: our history and English course cater to white students and a whitewashed curriculum,” Third Former Chase Nelson said. 

     Dr. Nagl is confident in the curriculum and courses offered, such as Modern Black Lives and Human Relationships. 

     “When I asked the upper school to create the Human Relationships course, my vision was that it would be a requirement for graduation. Human relationships are such an integral part of life and not understanding them causes problems within society,” Dr. Nagl said. 

     While it is evident that the school has a long way to go before it’s truly antiracist, this action plan and our community serve as the impetus of the greater change for social justice and equity. 

“There is still much more room to grow at Haverford.”

Dr. Nagl

     Dr. Nagl said,  “There is still much more room to grow at Haverford. We need to create a school and a society that properly values all of the underrepresented voices that make up this very rich country.”

Author: Quinn Luong '22

Quinn Luong has contributed to The Index since 2019. He currently serves as News Editor, and he has also written features and campus opinions. Quinn won the Pennsylvania School Press Association (PSPA) Philadelphia-area Student Journalism Competition for Newspaper News Story Writing and will compete for the state title in the Spring of 2020. His article "Teachers prepare for Virtue Villagers" earned a Silver Key from the Philadelphia-area Scholastic Writing competition. Outside of The Index, Quinn is a member of the Diversity Alliance, the Pan-Asian Alliance, debate and speech, and Model UN. His favorite classes are English, Spanish, and Chinese.