In the 2018-2019 school year, Xaverian underwent a rigorous self-study process, involving all stakeholders in our community, including students, faculty, staff, administrators, parents, alumni, and the Board of Trustees, as part of the school’s 10-year New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) reaccreditation process. Despite passing the re-accreditation at the highest level for each of the 13 standards of assessment, the Xaverian community identified that there is work to be done with regard to diversity and inclusion. As a result, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee was formed.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION COMMITTEE ESTABLISHMENT
This committee began its work in February 2020, with 30 members of the faculty and staff volunteering their service. The members of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee are committed to educating themselves and our community about systems of power and privilege, and celebrating the diversity that exists in the Xaverian community, ensuring that student identities are heard, represented, celebrated and respected. Their work is grounded in the Xaverian mission and our Catholic identity, with the goal of equipping students with the knowledge, skills, and disposition to be promoters of justice and peace within a multicultural world of many, diverse perspectives.
There are five Diversity and Inclusion sub-committees:
-Mission, Identity, and Vision
-Recruitment and Retention
A STATEMENT ON RACIAL JUSTICE
In the wake of the George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, on June 2, 2020, Head of School Dr. Jacob Conca ’94 and Principal Mr. Michael Nicholson released a statement on racial justice to the school community, entitled “Who Is My Neighbor?
FACULTY AND STAFF SMALL GROUP DISCUSSIONS
The Diversity and Inclusion Committee recognized the need to provide for support and discussion among faculty and staff with regard to racial tensions surrounding the deaths of Mr. George Floyd, Mr. Ahmaud Arbery, Ms. Breonna Taylor, and countless others. As such, during the week of June 8, 31 faculty and staff members met in small groups, each with two members of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee as facilitators, to help process the social unrest, the need for racial justice, and to begin thinking about how we can help build a more just, fair, and equitable society though our work as educators.
OUTREACH TO STUDENTS OF COLOR
Members of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee personally reached out to all currently enrolled Black students to support them as the news of George Floyd’s murder spread across the country and inspired renewed commitment to racial justice. Our message was one of support and care. Additionally, we extended open invitations to students of color for facilitated Zoom discussions regarding their Xaverian experiences.
PRAYER SERVICE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE
Seeking to take action that demonstrates their support for racial equality and social justice, senior members of Xaverian’s student council reached out to the administration to request a prayer service. As a result of their proactive initiative, on Thursday, June 18, all members of the Xaverian community were invited by Head of School Dr. Jacob Conca ’94 and Principal Mr. Michael Nicholson to raise their voices in prayer via an online prayer service assembled by representatives of the student council and members of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Included in the prayer service invitation was a link to an update on diversity and inclusion efforts at Xaverian.
In conjunction with the prayer service invitation sent on June 18, all Xaverian alumni were invited to complete a survey about their experience as students. The invitation read:
As an alumnus of Xaverian Brothers High School, we need your help in our ongoing efforts to strengthen Xaverian with regard to diversity and inclusion. With an awareness of the current dialogue surrounding race in America, in particular at schools, universities, other private institutions, and frankly every sector of our society, we know that we are not immune to these concerns here at Xaverian. We hope you will complete this survey as we seek to learn more about the day-to-day experiences of our students, particularly the experiences of our Black students and students of color. Whether you are speaking from personal experience or as a witness to someone else’s experience, we believe each of you have important information and perspectives to share. We have already been in touch with our current students of color, but we are hoping that you as alumni will take time to offer your valuable perspectives as well. Your responses to this survey will help us in our work to ensure a fair, just, and equitable community for all.
The initial closing date for the survey was June 28. That date was extended by the school in response to the outside creation of the @Black_at_XBHS Instagram account. As of July 16, 73 alumni responded to the survey.
On June 27, an Instagram forum was anonymously founded for alumni and students to discuss their experiences as Black or persons of color at Xaverian. This is not a Xaverian Brothers High School account. However, Xaverian’s administration responded within 24 hours via comment on the page and direct message to its founder, noting that as a result of the page, the school would extend the alumni survey deadline to allow continued opportunity for alumni to submit feedback to Xaverian. Additionally, it was noted that the school would monitor the account for information relating to the student experience at Xaverian. The message read:
We hear you, and we are so sorry that these were your experiences at Xaverian. We know that we cannot grow without understanding the reality of the Black and POC student experience at our school. We are taking note of everything posted here and adding it to the results of our survey (emailed on June 18), because we want your voice in the discussion. If you did not yet have the opportunity to complete the survey (which can be done anonymously) and would like to do so, please check your inbox for the June 18 email. We will keep it open beyond the original closing date of June 28 to allow for your submissions. If you need a link, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send one to you.
On Friday, July 3, 2020, Head of School Dr. Jacob Conca ’94, Principal Mr. Michael Nicholson, Director of Theology Mr. David Palmieri ’97, and Assistant Director of Admissions Mr. Anif McDonald ’12, invited several Black alumni from the Classes of 2018 and 2019 to meet and discuss their recent experiences at Xaverian. Several of the invited alumni had previously posted commentary to the @Black_at_XBHS Instagram account. What transpired was nearly three hours of collaborative conversation rooted in lived experiences, idea sharing, and a genuine interest by all in attendance to help Xaverian become stronger in terms of the lived Black experience. We intend to hold additional meetings with these alumni, as we chart our path forward together.
CRITICAL CONVERSATION SERIES
During the summer of 2020, members of the Diversity and Inclusion committee hosted “Critical Conversations” for faculty, staff, and administrators. The five discussion topics included race and media, becoming “color brave” rather than “color blind,” gender equity and justice, bias and identity, and understanding the Black student experience.
The new school year began with the launch of a new club on campus, X-Represented, co-moderated by Mr. Anif McDonald '12 and Mr. TJ Manning '09. Through small group conversation, guided discussions, and personal experiences, this group will provide a forum where all students can learn about and understand the contributions of Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color to society, and how they as students can share what they have learned and make positive contributions themselves. Additionally, X-Represented provides an opportunity for students to discuss their own experience at Xaverian.
Over time, the hope is that this group will help coordinate learning sessions for the Xaverian community. These sessions will be geared toward students, faculty, staff, administration, and parents. Sessions might include outside speakers, workshops, and events celebrating and promoting cultural awareness.