December 1, 2020
Dear Members of the BIPOC Coalition,
In the months since we received your letter, “An Invitation to Meet and a Call to Action,” the administration, faculty, staff, and board members at Gonzaga Prep have engaged in reflection, dialogue, and prayer on the topics of racial equity and justice. The sharing of your experiences of racism and bias while at Gonzaga Prep has been particularly powerful, and has led us to challenge our views of ourselves and our perspectives regarding the experiences of our BIPOC students. It is our shared desire to grow in ways that will support the educational success of every student at Gonzaga Prep.
In each of our interactions with members of the coalition, your love for Gonzaga Prep has been self-evident, along with your heartfelt desire to see your school live up to the bold ideals articulated in our mission. Your letter was especially thoughtful, and communicated concrete and attainable requests for changes at Prep that will lead to substantive and measurable improvements. Our leadership team has sought to carefully consider each of these requests, including both the desired outcomes and the proposed solutions. To broaden our discernment, we have established an Equity and Inclusion Task Force, that comprises a diverse group of board members, administration, faculty, and alumni.
In addition to supporting the school’s response to the Coalition’s requests, the Equity and Inclusion Task Force is charged with developing an institutional strategy and goals for equity and inclusion at Gonzaga Prep. When complete, the task force will publish its work on the Equity and Inclusion pages of our website.
REQUEST: INSTITUTE A MANDATORY ANNUAL IMPLICIT AND EXPLICIT BIAS TRAINING FOR ALL FACULTY, STAFF, AND ADMINISTRATORS
Gonzaga Prep commits itself to providing periodic and mandatory bias training for faculty, staff, and administration, and additional professional development that will support all employees in advancing our goals for equity and inclusion.
In 2017, Gonzaga Prep implemented mandatory training for all faculty, staff and administrators based on the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). The IDI is a form of implicit bias training, which involves an individualized assessment of a person’s intercultural competency and outlook. Every member of Prep’s faculty, staff and administration has taken the IDI assessment, and received a personal debriefing with the Director of Equity and Inclusion who identified individualized recommendations for growth and development. In addition, faculty and staff received ongoing professional development regarding the IDI on several occasions between 2017-2019. The IDI will remain an important element of the school’s strategy for equity and inclusion, and all new employees will receive the IDI assessment and training.
In 2020, the school engaged the services of Dr. Terri Givens (GP ’83), to provide a six-month bias training for all faculty and staff. More information about Dr. Givens and her course can be found on her website. Following the completion of this course, Gonzaga Prep commits itself to continuing professional development for all faculty and staff that will further our goals for equity and inclusion. Information regarding professional development will be posted on the equity and inclusion pages of our website to promote transparency.
REQUEST: IMPLEMENT A BIAS COMMITTEE
The suggestion to implement a bias committee is a new idea for the school, and we are actively learning from similar initiatives at universities and high schools. The implementation of a bias committee is complex, and must involve all aspects of the organization in order to be successful. The consideration of implementing a bias committee has challenged the school to reassess its current practices for 1) educating students to understand bias, 2) providing clear direction for a student to bring forward an instance of bias, 3) addressing bias that is committed by students, and 4) addressing bias that is committed by adults.
To move this process forward, members of the Equity and Inclusion/School LIfe Committee are working on a plan to advance three key goals: 1) enhance our ability to support students who have experienced bias, 2) implement a consistent educative response to instances of bias, and 3) gathering of institutional data to support the school’s leadership and community in assessing the culture and educational needs of the organization. When this plan is complete, administration will identify the appropriate personnel for leading this process, and the most appropriate organizational structure to support their efforts.
REQUEST: REEVALUATE YOUR OFFICE OF EQUITY AND INCLUSION
The school acknowledges the coalition’s request to broaden the Office of Equity and Inclusion to include multiple perspectives and a team approach. We share the coalition’s appreciation for the professional challenges that accompany the establishment of this office, especially during its first years of implementation. We are grateful for Dr. Krauss’ commitment to excellence in this important work, and his partnership with our Principal, Ms. Reopelle, in evaluating the impact of their efforts. We have been grateful to receive the feedback of the BIPOC Coalition regarding their hopes and aspirations for this office, as well as their appreciation and disappointments regarding the structure, programs, and impact of the office over the past three years. This input of the coalition is being considered in the school’s evaluation of the office and planning for the future.
Another request of the Coalition was that the school establish a method of measuring the school’s progress towards equity and inclusion, perhaps through student surveys. The Advancement Department is currently working on the implementation of a comprehensive student survey strategy, and will ensure that student surveys include opportunities to evaluate student experiences regarding equity and inclusion. A key aspect of our survey strategy is a commitment to sharing survey results with our community, and we look forward to utilizing our equity and inclusion pages to provide regular updates.
REQUEST: HIRE AND RETAIN MORE BLACK FACULTY AND FACULTY OF COLOR
It has been a longstanding goal and effort for the school to recruit and retain a faculty, staff, and board that reflects the diversity of our student body. As the school’s student body is more diverse than the general Spokane population, the school is committed to recruiting and retaining a more diverse group of employees who are people of color. In recent years, the diversity of the faculty and staff has improved, however, the diversity of the student body has increased even more quickly. As a result, there remains a significant discrepancy between the diversity of the school’s adult and student populations. School administration recognizes that success in this effort will require new approaches, including building relationships with diverse communities in Spokane, and targeted recruitment of diverse candidates. To support transparency in our progress, the school will maintain current statistics regarding the diversity of its faculty, staff and board on the equity and inclusion pages of its website.
REQUEST: REFRAIN FROM PENALIZING CURRENT STUDENTS AND STAFF WHO SPEAK OUT AGAINST RACISM
The school pledges to not punish, penalize, or in any way burden members of our community (students or adults) who speak out against racism at the school. The school welcomes the opportunity to grow in its critical awareness of implicit and explicit bias within the Prep community. We accept with gratitude the work of the BIPOC Coalition, and other members of the Prep community who are willing to help raise our awareness regarding the evil of racism and other forms of discrimination.
As a Jesuit school, the faculty, staff and board of Gonzaga Prep is called to accompany youth in the creation of a hope-filled future. We acknowledge, with gratitude, the powerful ways that the BIPOC Coalition has shared with us its vision for a better future for Gonzaga Prep and its students, born out of painful experiences of racism and bias. It is our heartfelt desire to embrace and learn from the experiences of our BIPOC students, as we commit ourselves to excellence in the work of equity and inclusion. On behalf of the adult community of Gonzaga Prep, thank you for showing us that way, and accompanying us as we work together to create a more just and reconciled world.
Michael Dougherty, President
Cindy Reopelle, Principal
Sept. 29, 2020
On September 25, 2020, the faculty and staff of Gonzaga Prep welcomed the invitation of a coalition of students and alumni who offered to share their experiences of racism at Gonzaga Prep. In the meeting, which took place over Zoom, members of the coalition shared their own stories, as well as the anonymous stories of their peers who could not be present. The coalition’s leadership opened with prayer, established the safe space for sharing, and closed the meeting with an Ignatian examen.
Also present at this meeting were members of the recently formed Task Force for Equity and Inclusion, which is supporting the school in its response to the coalition’s letter that articulated specific requests for change at Gonzaga Prep. Leading the Task Force is alumna, Dr. Terri Givens `83, a professional bias trainer, who will guide the faculty and staff in reflecting on our students’ experiences of racism, and provide a six-month training for promoting greater awareness of implicit biases. Dr. Givens’s work with faculty and staff will build upon previous professional development for equity and inclusion that has taken place over the past two years.
Our students' experiences of racism create a powerful opportunity for the school to reevaluate its existing strategy and programs for equity and inclusion, and to recommit ourselves to depth and excellence in this important work.
The school has asked the coalition for permission to share the stories presented to facilitate continued dialogue within our community and training for new faculty and staff. Our Jesuit tradition calls us to accompany our youth in the creation of a hope-filled future, and it is with deep gratitude that we acknowledge our students and alumni for their courage to call us forward in our growth as individuals, and as an institution serving the greater Glory of God.
Dear Members of the Gonzaga Prep Community,
Last week, a column was published in the Inlander newspaper written by a Gonzaga Prep alumna, describing her experience of racism while at Gonzaga Prep (“Silence is Deafening,” Inlander, 7/23/20). This column has evoked strong responses from members of our community, ranging from students and alumni who have expressed similar painful experiences and calls for action, to others who do not identify with the author’s portrayal of Prep, and are hurt by her conclusion that our community is complacent and silent in the face of racial injustice.
As I stated in a recent letter to our community, I believe that Prep’s work for racial equity is best understood in the context of the Jesuit call for each of us to be companions in a mission of justice and reconciliation (Universal Apostolic Preferences). To work for justice demands that we listen to the experiences of others, paying special attention to the voices of the marginalized, in order to develop a critical consciousness that seeks to understand what is true, right, and just. In addition to listening, working for justice calls each of us to engage in earnest dialogue, and to speak up for the dignity and equality of all life.
The pursuit of justice, while essential, is not enough. Our work for justice must be married to our deep commitment to reconciliation with God, neighbor, and especially one’s perceived enemies. I am extremely concerned by the divided state of our communities, nation, and Church, and I cannot help but trace at least some of this division to well-meaning people who are in serious disagreement about what they believe is right and true. I am equally concerned that it is becoming increasingly unsafe for a person to share their opinion without risk of being vilified by those with opposing viewpoints. This is a grave situation for an educational program that seeks to promote critical thinking, free thought, and intellectual discourse. Our commitment to reconciliation requires that we reach out to build bridges of understanding, empathy, and forgiveness, most especially as we work for justice. The work of justice and reconciliation are inseparable, and neither can reach their fulfillment without a fundamental commitment to being in relationship.
The Inlander column referenced a coalition of Gonzaga Prep students and alumni who have authored a letter to our board, administration, faculty and staff, requesting a comprehensive strategy for promoting racial equity at Prep with measurable results. We have since received the coalition’s letter, titled “An Invitation to Meet and A Call to Action,” and earlier today members of our administration met with leaders from the coalition. We have co-published the coalition's thoughtful letter, which you can read here. The school is forming a task force in order to support our understanding of the coalition’s requested action and carefully discern our ongoing work to improve equity and inclusion in light of Gonzaga Prep’s Catholic, Jesuit mission and identity.
I share this information with a commitment to transparency and improving communication on our efforts. To support this goal, we are establishing this page that will be regularly updated to help our community stay abreast of this important work, as well as our conversations with the coalition.
It is in this spirit of justice and reconciliation that I welcome this opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations with our students, alumni, and greater community about racial equity. I invite all members of the Prep community to come together in respectful dialogue, as companions in our shared mission. I am convinced that we learn more from our differences than our similarities, and our work must be to create spaces that promote critical awareness, reflection, and discourse. Thank you in advance for all that you do in support of our students and mission to educate them to be leaders who offer their gifts in service to a more just, loving, and peaceful world.
In service to the greater glory of God,