Confronting Racism and Other Forms of Oppression at St. Ignatius College Preparatory
"My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life." Pope Francis (June 30, 2020)
"Amigos míos, nosotros no podemos tolerar ni hacer la vista gorda ante el racismo y la exclusión de ninguna forma y pretender defender lo sagrado de la vida humana." El Papa Francisco (30 de junio de 2020)
Dear St. Ignatius College Preparatory Community,
Over the summer, we have spent considerable time discerning how we have been called to create a more just, loving, inclusive, and equitable school environment for all members of our community. We have received critical, heartfelt feedback from our students and alumni about their experiences as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and other marginalized identities. We are grateful to our students, alumni, and faculty and staff who have challenged us in the last few months to be better through their stories and leaning in to difficult conversations about racial equity and inclusion at SI.
“To do justice requires an honest acknowledgment of our failures and the restoring of right relationships between us.” -Open Wide Our Hearts, USCCB
The lived experiences of racism and other forms of oppression by members of our community have provided a clear and urgent call to action for the SI community. We are faced with our institution’s history of perpetuating systems, structures, and policies that have silenced and oppressed our already most vulnerable and marginalized community members.
Black lives matter. We are living in a racially transformative time and we need to do better to understand where and how we have failed and harmed our communities of color. We acknowledge that we have caused trauma and have been complicit in systemic racism. As a Catholic, Ignatian school, we understand that we are accountable to making SI a more safe, loving, and anti-racist community of belonging for all. The Profile of the Graduate at Graduation calls us to be open to growth. We are committed to acknowledging our failures and growing in our work to combat systemic racism. We are ready, now more than ever, to deeply engage in the work of anti-racism.
As a Catholic, Ignatian community, we believe that all of humanity is made in God's image. We unequivocally condemn all forms of prejudice, racism, and injustice towards all human beings no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental abilities, socio-economic means, or other identities that result in marginalization, hatred, and violence. We believe in human dignity as the sacred foundation of our faith.
“What is needed, and what we are calling for, is a genuine conversion of heart, a conversion that will compel change, and the reform of our institutions and society...each of us should adopt the words of Pope Francis as our own: let no one “think that this invitation is not meant for [them].” -Open Wide Our Hearts
Racism is a system that impacts all members of society and puts Black, Indegenous, and People of Color in harm. Anti-racism is our responsibility. We value your insight and opinion and want your voices to be a part of this continued conversation to make St. Ignatius healthier and safer for our current and future students, families, and faculty and staff.
It is with the love and admiration we hold for SI that we all want the future of our school community to be a powerful anti-bias force for good. We expect the entire Saint Ignatius community will support this work and lend your voices, experiences, and opinions to the progress we all seek.
We move forward in this work trusting in God, guided by the example of Jesus, and inspired by the Ignatian ideal of living our lives for and with others.
Summary of DEI Strategic Initiatives for 2020-2021 and Beyond
As outlined in our Western Catholic Educational Association Accreditation Plan from spring of 2019, Saint Ignatius College Preparatory has identified seven critical action areas of growth in the area of Equity and Inclusion. These action items direct us to:
- examine our current culture and climate;
- what we are currently doing to address racism and other forms of oppression;
- the effectiveness of our programs and initiatives, and;
- what we need over the next four years to address these issues and improve the outcomes of our community members.
This will not be a top-down initiative. We seek to involve the community in the examination, planning, and implementation of our work. It will be organized into five key areas.
Key Area #1: Conduct a needs assessment to ascertain the school's degree of inclusivity amongst students, faculty, staff, parents/guardians.
- We commit to listening and learning from the lived experiences of current students, alumni, faculty, and staff—centering the voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) through continuous opportunities for dialogue. This includes creating an anti-bias anti-racist culture, where members of our community who experience marginalization, racism, or any other form of oppression, are empowered to share their experience and be provided the support for healing, restorative justice, and return to safety.
- In September 2020, a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force will be formed to review a timeline around this assessment, review data, and update long-range Diversity Strategic Plan initially created in 2014.
- The recent testimonials from some current and former students of racist encounters while at St. Ignatius demonstrates that we must do a better job of encouraging students to engage with the school when they see, hear, or experience racist behavior or intolerance. The task force will examine ways we can assure the victim that they can safely notify us; and ensure that the process to investigate reports works as it should. This will take trust and courage on behalf of everyone, but especially those who have experienced something that is offensive and undermines the person’s dignity and our mission.
- We commit to providing faculty and staff with on-going identity and anti-bias anti-racist professional development; holding all administrators, faculty, and staff accountable to continued work in racial identity formation, racial equity, and inclusion.
- This includes providing funding for speakers and for faculty and staff to continue attending conferences to develop their racial identity and equity lens (White Privilege Conference, People of Color Conference, California Teacher Development Collaborative Workshops).
- Continued support and resources will be given for first-generation college-bound students, low-income students, and BIPOC through programs including the Arrupe Assistance Program, Affinity Groups, Counseling and Wellness, the Magis High School Program, and the Father Sauer Academy.
- Review and revision of discipline practices and policies with a critical lens on racial equity, trauma, and restorative practice.
Key Area #2: Increase opportunities for dialogue and create a communication strategy to help members of the community understand current work in equity and inclusion.
- The Director of Equity and Inclusion will be included in key administrative meetings.
- We must lean into difficult conversations to live out our mission of being people with and for others. Social, cultural change begins with voices expressed in an atmosphere of openness and trust. We are all called to be more anti-bias anti-racist and thus, will all be held accountable to lean into courageous conversation.
- We must build on programs like our faculty and staff diversity dialogues and racial affinity groups for all students, faculty, and parents/guardians to create more opportunities for the St. Ignatius community to engage each other on the critical issue of race as it pertains to all areas of the school.
- Beginning in August 2020, incoming and returning students will engage in an equity and inclusion orientation covering our community’s renewed commitment to this work, ways they will engage with identity formation during their time at SI, and how they can help create a more inclusive environment at St. Ignatius.
- We emphasize the use of Dialogue Principles and the Courageous Conversations Compass. We believe it is important to help our community become more effective communicators with each other around conversations around race and across lines of difference. (This includes classrooms, athletics, performing arts, campus ministry, and parent groups.)
- The Principal, Assistant Principals, Director of Equity & Inclusion, and the Director of Communications will meet on a regular basis to review current strategies, programs, and resources and this information will be published on the SI website.
Key Area #3: Determine where the school needs to integrate a culturally responsive curriculum, centering the voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color into the academic program, and create a plan to address these areas.
- St. Ignatius is committed to anti-bias, social justice, and culturally responsive teaching and learning that promotes greater racial literacy and critical thinking for students, faculty, staff, parents, and administrators. This commitment calls us to go beyond celebrating diversity and positive social interactions across lines of difference (multicultural education) and continue to be more culturally responsive.
- Culturally Responsive Education focuses on improving the learning capacity of diverse students who have been marginalized educationally. We recognize our need to examine how culturally responsive we are and our efforts in building cognitive capacity and academic mindset by pushing back on dominant narratives about BIPOC and integrating a cultural wealth framework across all disciplines.
- The Assistant Principal for Academics, Director of Equity and Inclusion, and Department Chairs will work in partnership to review the written curriculum and the needs assessment for inclusivity that will be conducted by the Task Force.
- We will continue to evaluate and revise our curriculum (texts, lesson plans, course offerings) to ensure that relevant, racially and ethnically diverse voices and experiences are mainstreamed and that a critical lens to recognize and interrupt inequitable patterns and practices in society is emphasized.
Key Area #4: Review co-curricular, campus ministry, and spiritual formation programs to ensure they are attentive to issues of equity and inclusion.
- The Assistant Principal for Student Affairs (APSA), Assistant Principal for Formation, Director of Equity and Inclusion, and departments included in Student Affairs and Formation will review current programs to measure the inclusiveness of our programs.
- APSA and Athletic Director will invite the Director of Equity and Inclusion to speak to coaches at all Head Coaches meetings prior to a season.
- APSA, the Athletic Directors and the Director of Performing Arts will stay in communication with the Magis Center for Equity and Inclusion when job openings occur in the Athletic and Performing Arts departments.
- The Assoc. Athletic Director will invite the Magis Center for Equity and Inclusion to speak to the Athletic Advisory Committee composed of all the team captains.
- The Student Council will work with the Magis Center for Equity and Inclusion on issues of equity and inclusion.
Key Area #5: Recruit, hire, support, and retain faculty/staff/admin of color.
- We commit to accelerating the recruitment, hiring, support and retention of racially and ethnically diverse and culturally competent educators in all areas of the school with the long-term objective that our faculty, staff, and administration demographics are more representative of our student body. While this initiative will take place over a number of years, our goal is to ensure that our students are learning from faculty and staff who represent multiple dimensions of diversity and that the diverse identities and perspectives of our stakeholders are included in all decision-making processes.
- As part of our commitment to recruit, hire, and retain faculty, staff, and administrators of color capable of teaching and leading in the Ignatian tradition, the DEI Task Force will examine and revise the practices and policies we have in this regard and map a plan forward.
St. Ignatius College Preparatory values the diversity of our school community, which is reflected in individuals of different races, genders, ethnicities, socio-economic groups, religions, physical and mental abilities, and sexual orientations; we recognize that encountering and respecting diverse perspectives is central to a Catholic, Jesuit education. In a fragmented world where people have difficulty understanding and valuing the experiences and perspectives of others, our Catholic, Jesuit tradition calls us to establish pathways through which diverse individuals connect with and understand each other. Although much work has been done in the areas of diversity and cultural proficiency, we understand our work is not finished and there are significant areas of growth for us.
We are grateful for your partnership as we continue to learn and grow and live out our mission to develop students with a profound sense of justice founded in love. Thank you for journeying with us to create a more just, welcoming, safe, equitable, inclusive, and hopeful school community, consistent with our sacred mission and human dignity.
We welcome community members to engage in this continuous and critical reflection and dialogue. We will keep the community informed as we work to establish these spaces with intention and purpose.
Eddie Reese, SJ
Michelle Nevin Levine
“Love compels each of us to resist racism courageously. It requires us to reach out generously to the victims of this evil, to assist the conversion needed in those who still harbor racism, and to begin to change policies and structures that allow racism to persist...
Racism is a moral problem that requires a moral remedy—a transformation of the human heart—that impels us to act. The power of this type of transformation will be a strong catalyst in eliminating those injustices that impinge on human dignity. Also, taking direct and deliberate steps towards change. Consequently, we all need to take responsibility for correcting the injustices of racism and healing the harms it has caused...
Only from a place of humility can we look honestly at past failures, ask for forgiveness, and move toward healing and reconciliation...” -Open Wide Our Hearts