A Letter to the Choate Rosemary Hall Community from Alex Curtis, Head of School | June 4, 2020

The following message was shared with the Choate Rosemary Hall Community on June 4, 2020.

Dear Members of the Choate Rosemary Hall Community,

Over the past week, I have engaged in sustained reflection about the race-based violence and inequities plaguing our country. I am outraged; I am saddened. I have pondered what I personally must do to combat inequality, and what we as a school must do to combat it. And I feel compelled to write to you again. But, to be very clear, sending out letters is not enough: we must act.

Let me start by acknowledging publicly our past as an institution. We did not begin as a school that welcomed students of all backgrounds, identities, and beliefs. While we have made significant progress throughout the history of our school, there is more to be done. We must recommit ourselves to examining our past and present in order to ensure that we create in the future the most just, inclusive, and equitable Choate Rosemary Hall that we can.

Students, alumni, staff, and faculty of color, I see you. I affirm you. I value your presence in and contributions to our school. And I know that you are hurting. I recognize that the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others have caused trauma, and I want our school to be a place where we can support you in that trauma. I stand with you, ready to listen, to support, and to work alongside you in the struggle to make meaningful change.

Despite the gravity of recent race-based violence, I recognize that the unrest exploding across our country right now does not result from the murder of one Black American, or two, or three, or four. It results from four centuries of unjust treatment based on race and the systems that perpetuate that injustice. We must take hold of this historic moment as an opportunity to make progress together on behalf of real justice, equality, and peace.

It is in the spirit of that progress that I share with you the updates below.

WHAT WE ARE DOING

The Current Events Resource Group (CERG) is a group of adults on campus charged with providing resources and support to the Choate community when events in our local community, nation, and world prove challenging, divisive, or especially complex. They have done excellent work in the past to provide opportunities for conversation and educational resources in response to a variety of complex issues, and in light of the protests and unrest in our country right now related to race-based violence and systemic inequities, I have asked CERG to take the lead on important follow-up conversations and support mechanisms for adults and students in the Choate community at this time. As students, staff, and faculty are aware, CERG has already begun to share resources with the campus community and opportunities to engage in supportive and educational dialogue; those resources are available to interested alumni. CERG welcomes your constructive feedback (cerg@choate.edu) about additional steps we can take to support our community at this time and craft meaningful efforts toward ongoing education and action.

We are replacing classes this Friday, June 5, with a Day of Conversation and Reflection, which will provide structured opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to engage in conversations about understanding the historical and systemic contexts of racial injustice, the history of police brutality, and being an effective ally, among other topics, alongside opportunities for students and faculty to engage in affinity spaces. It is my hope that these conversations will catalyze important ongoing work about how each of us can help promote equitable treatment of all people at Choate and in our society.

WHAT WE WILL DO

We have come a long way on our journey to be an equitable, inclusive, and diverse school. But we have not done enough, so we must continue that journey together.

Our upcoming Strategic Plan will further our existing strategic efforts to support students, staff, and faculty of color and ensure that they feel safe, included, valued, and seen within our school community. We look forward to sharing details of this plan with you when it is published.

Beyond the Strategic Plan itself, we will take time in the months ahead to craft an institutional statement about racial justice and our school commitment to fighting bias and inequality. As I stated in my recent message to all of you, Choate's values run entirely counter to racialized violence, systemic injustice, and other forms of inequity, as articulated in core school documents. But it has become increasingly clear to me that, in the context of division, unrest, and violence in our world today, and of the long history of racial oppression and injustice in this nation, we need to make more explicit the connection between our values and their specific application to race. We cannot afford to leave any room for confusion or debate about where Choate stands on this topic.

We recognize the need for the School to make a financial commitment to support racial justice. We have created a restricted fund, now named the Choate Fund for Justice, that will exist solely to support non-profit organizations that work toward this goal and will be funded by individual donations. I have seeded the fund with a personal contribution, and I have been joined by members of the senior administration as well as numerous members of the Board of Trustees.

In concert with these concrete actions and strategic goals, we will redouble our efforts to confront and fight the evil of injustice in ways consistent with our institutional mission and values: by training adults, by supporting and educating students, and by equipping students and adults alike to make a difference both within and beyond our campus community.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

If you have identity-based privilege, work to recognize it and use it to support those who have been or continue to be marginalized or oppressed. Speak up and use your voice against violence toward people of color. We must take courageous action to promote equality.

If this resonates with you, please join us on the journey. Consider making direct contributions to organizations that support racial justice and fight systemic bias and inequality, especially Black-led and racial justice organizations on the local level, or to the Choate Fund for Justice, as a tangible act of support for our Choate community members of color and all people of color in our society.

CONCLUSION

Race-based violence is not isolated, or abstract, or faraway, or fake. Until all members of our school community and global community can walk the streets of this nation and our world without fear of unjustified violence because of the color of their skin, and have equal access to the rights and benefits of living in this society, our work is not done.

The common good, and our shared future, depends on what we do—individually, jointly, and institutionally—today. And every day. Let us fight the fear that grips our friends, neighbors, and community members of color with action that produces hope, justice, equality, and peace.

I can and must do better; Choate can and must do better; this nation can and must do better. I pledge to be part of the solution as an individual human being and as the leader of this school. I ask you to stand with me.

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Alex Curtis
Head of School