Community Update: DEI Task Force Progress and Initiatives

Lawrenceville’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force continues its efforts in making “recommendations aimed at increasing our overall diversity while building a more equitable sense of belonging among all community members,” according to the School website.

Lawrenceville’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force continues its efforts in making “recommendations aimed at increasing our overall diversity while building a more equitable sense of belonging among all community members,” according to the School website.

Last spring, all members of the Lawrenceville community, including staff, faculty, parents, alumni, and students, took the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM Survey). The survey had a 91 percent and 86 percent response rate for students and faculty, respectively, making those two sample groups adequate representations of campus demographics. The information gathered from the AIM survey allows the Task Force to “gauge and improve the inclusiveness of the School community for all members,” Alison Easterling P’20 said. It will also be used to compare Lawrenceville’s diversity with that of other independent schools’ and expose the trends among various demographic groups regarding the emotional experience of attending the School. Faculty members learned about the AIM Survey results during their late August in-service meetings. Before the fall term concludes, the Task Force plans to hold a town hall information session, allowing students to ask any questions regarding survey results. A summary report will be written and published later in the school year.

To gather student input and share its goals, the Task Force led a Lunch and Dialogue Explorations event last spring. For the remainder of this school year, the Task Force aims to host more Lunch and Dialogue events in its effort to increase transparency with the student body.

On the Task Force’s communication with the students, Esha Akhtar ’21 said, “It can be hard to always keep the student body aware and in the loop, but the School really is making an effort to improve on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.” A lot of students on campus have expressed concerns about Lawrenceville’s recruitment and retainment of faculty of color, gender, and religion, but “many of us [aren’t] aware that the School has actually been taking active steps to improve this issue,” she said.

This year, the Task Force has began diversifying faculty demographics to make them reflective of the student body’s. “Since students may have a harder time relating to a faculty member who is different in appearance and prior experience, we are working to form a faculty that represents the diverse student body,” Co-Chair of the Recruitment, Hiring, Retentions committee Charise Hall said. To accomplish this goal, Lawrenceville is now advertising itself to many venues, such as the NAIS, New Jersey Association of Independent Schools (NJIS), and other consulting firms, to guide prospective teachers “because certain groups of candidates may not apply to Lawrenceville due to the lack of knowledge of boarding schools,” Hall said.

The DEI Task Force will also focus on faculty training. In May, the DEI Task Force wrote up a report for the Board of Trustees outlining recommendations to diversify the campus, such as faculty summer reading suggestions. As advised in the aforementioned report, the Task Force has arranged to hold several workshops for faculty about implicit bias, a growth mindset, and similar topics throughout the school year. When asked about opportunities for student training, Easterling said, “The adults [faculty] are responsible, to a large extent, for the students here, [their] education, and opportunities for [them] to reflect and grow.” The Task Force will currently concentrate on faculty training, since it aims to develop this dynamic between students and faculty. In the future, it will expand to include educational opportunities for students.

The administration, under the guidance of the DEI Task Force, is interested in implementing a Director of Diversity and Inclusion position. “We’re envisioning this [...] as a senior staff position that would be looking at the entire community very holistically and be doing work with many different parts of the Lawrenceville community,” Easterling said.

On the improvements that can be made to the DEI Task Force, Dami Kim ’20 said, “I haven’t heard much about the DEI Task Force [...] There should be more transparency so that students can not only be aware of [its] goals but also provide more input.”

Ndeye Thioubou ’21 believes another area for improvement is “helping those who are coming from lower income communities with the adjustment to Lawrenceville.”

On the program as a whole, Easterling said, “The Task Force doesn’t have an end date. We’re a standing committee that will ask questions, raise awareness, and eventually make movements to hopefully improve everyone’s quality of life.”

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