Making Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Matter at Loomis

Amy Song '23, Contributor

The recent nationwide discussions on racism and inequality in America have placed focus on some of the injustices that African Americans face in our society. During this time of unrest, academic institutions ranging from private preparatory schools to universities created “[email protected]” Instagram accounts that cataloged moments of racism and experienced by black students, and other Persons of Color (POC) within their respective communities. Loomis Chaffee was one of such institutions that were called out for instances where the school created or enabled an environment where BIPOC students felt unsafe on our campus.

In light of these recent developments, the Loomis administration has made additional steps over the summer to incorporate DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) into its community. During the summer, the school implemented new training for faculty, created policies, and established a committee to oversee DEI progress on campus. Currently, the school works with alumni to set new protocols and disciplinary rules and is in the process of adding courses on race to departments.

Before the start of the school year, the senior administrative team, Board of Trustees, and faculty received training from Dr. Derrick Gay, a diversity and inclusion strategist who works with various organizations to install more inclusive policies throughout their communities.

The school realized that DEI at Loomis is entitled to schoolwide attention, and an independent committee was established for DEI at the board level. The DEI office also took up a new structure involving several new bodies, including deans and coordinators for LGBTQ and religious groups.

Additionally, each academic department completed a reflection on DEI regarding its coursework and the English Department set a new policy on appropriate language when reading out loud in classrooms.

“Certain bias and language has been associated with a hate that will not be used in the classroom, and won’t be uttered,” Dean of DEI Elizabeth Parada said.

Since the summer, Loomis has taken up more plans and measures in its commitment to DEI. DEI is continuing to expand by increasing community involvement with black alumni— specifically as mentors for current black students.

Ms. Parada said that “we’re hoping this will serve as a model for other groups of alumni who perhaps also want to connect with the students on campus of their particular identity.” Ms. Parada aims to have the project ready by Fall Term II.

Loomis has also taken steps to ensure that students feel comfortable reporting instances of injustice. Since “[email protected]” has shed a light on how students can find themselves scared or reluctant to report a bias incident. In order to properly oversee and handle bias occurrences within the Loomis community, the DEI team is also working to create a new system to mitigate this reluctance.

This system, with an objective to methodize reports of inequality or racism in school, will utilize successful college and university approaches. Making students comfortable in reporting these incidents is an important matter for the Loomis administration because by addressing these incidents, Loomis community members will become educated on their own internal biases.

In the summer, the topic of disciplinary action was brought up in numerous “[email protected]” posts on Instagram. Sheila Culbert, Head of School, stated that an analysis done by the school does not show the DC’s bias against black students that multiple posts addressed.

However, Dr. Culbert said that “…it’s also what happens in the dormitories. It’s in those kinds of interactions where I suspect that there is some targeting going on.”

The school is currently working with a consultant to further examine the numbers behind these cataloged instances of racism. Dr. Culbert said that perhaps they could use help from the Student Council as well.

In addition, a racial climate study is at the forefront of Loomis’ work plans.

The study will be led by Dr. Gay, said Ms. Parada, “because by having a third party, it gives us a clear perspective of what’s working and what isn’t at Loomis.”

From an educational stance, there are various courses focusing on race that have been added by the History Department. Dr. Culbert mentioned Eric LaForest as a teacher who has been instructing a course on race for the past few years. The English department has also added new courses on the topic of race.

When it comes to cultural competence, Dr. Culbert wants faculty to require discussing the issue, and students to tackle the components of it. She isn’t sure, however, if the remote curriculum would make it adequate to do so this year.

Already, there have been changes and advancements noted among students since the school year began just about a month ago. Ever since the office of DEI reassigned the different student activity groups, Ms. Parada is seeing the birth of more affinity groups—which are for people who share a specific identity—and more engaged students.

“I think reclassifying these groups has given some clarity as to why they exist and where their purposes lie,” Parada said.

Dr. Culbert echoed a similar idea in the importance for students of all identities to start practicing diversity, equity, and inclusion through involvement in meetings about racial and social justice.

It’s clear that while Loomis is making an active effort to make BIPOC students feel more comfortable on campus, the school still has extensive work to do to realize these goals.

The administrator for the “[email protected]” account, Aigner Picou ’10 added that it “is clear from these stories and experiences, some of which go back to the 80s, … that Loomis has not done enough to support Black students over the years. It doesn’t really matter what’s changed if students are still reporting feeling unsafe and discriminated against by faculty and their peers.”