Q & A With Head of School John Palfrey:

**The Phillipian** : _What is the role of the faculty, students and the administration in regards to this conversation of race? Whose responsibility is this?_

**Mr. Palfrey** : “I think this is the kind of topic where yes, you have to be deliberate and say right now we are talking about race or we are talking about gender or we are talking about whatever the discipline. I think it’s also something, though, that is most effectively done when it is a common cultural commitment: a commitment that we make as a community.

I think we should all be teaching one another. Everyone should be approaching this, underrepresented minority or not, and should start with good will. I think the idea that presuming the person across from you may be different but is also human and can relate on some level and try to find that common ground. I think it’s important, as I mentioned before, not to put all the burden of the race conversation on someone who comes from an underrepresented minority background. They certainly have, in the conversation, a point of view that is going to be different and is valid for lots of good reasons. I think it’s really just a shared commitment as opposed to your role as this and my role as that, and is something that each of us should come at it with a sense of equity.”

**The Phillipian** : _How can we, as a campus, work to make sure students of every race feel safe here? How can the school and its students educate each other to promote a culture of inclusivity?_

**Mr. Palfrey** : “That’s a wonderful question, and put really well, because I think the hallmark of Andover has always been one that has strived toward equity and inclusivity more than our peers in some respects. It’s been something that from the founding of the school has been an aspiration. Now, we’ve not gotten it right always, and we still don’t get it entirely right, but we’re working on it. So I think for one thing to call it out as something good, that we perceive as important institutionally–and by institutionally I mean the school thinks this–but also individually, that we all do and we all take this on as a shared endeavor.

I think a second thing would be [that] I am interested in what mean when we talk about ‘excellence’ here at Andover. I think that one of the things we are finding is that cultural competency, the ability to relate across various forms of difference, is in fact a form of excellence that we value. Why do we have an intentionally diverse community? In part because we value that. We value the fact that people come from different places and bring different strengths and are not easily defined by their GPA or not defined well by test scores or not defined well by how far you throw the javelin or how well you play the violin. I am intrigued by the idea of a common discussion of how we redefine excellence, and how we build cultural literacy and cultural competency into that. When you then get out into wherever else you are, in a college or job or graduate degree program, in any of these environments you are going to have to work in a team, particularly in a global environment where people come from lots of different places. So I think that there are lots of reasons why this is important, and I think we have to make this a part of what we think it means to be a successful student at Andover.”

**The Phillipian** : _What would you say right now to a student on campus who is afraid of participating in this discussion of race?_

**Mr. Palfrey** : “I would say it’s totally understandable to be afraid to participate, but it is a mistake. I think the idea of stepping back when we have these differences is an instinct that I can understand, but something I think we need to resist. Stepping forward into it, I think, is again making a common commitment to addressing issues that are in front of us. I don’t think anybody on this campus could say race is not an issue at [Andover] right now. And if that’s so, it’s much better to confront it than to run the other way. I think the challenge, for sure, is if it’s not something that you’ve been doing all your life and having conversations about race, if it’s not been something you’ve been doing at the dinner table or that you’ve thought that much about, there is an extra onus on you to seek out people in the community who are comfortable with talking about it and who are able to help you become literate in that particular way. Again, that’s where I go back to this idea of excellence including cultural competency, and I know there are lots of people on this campus for sure who are open to being helpful in that respect. I feel like even if you’re not comfortable at this moment, you might say, ‘Over the course of four years here, this is something that I want to develop, and I can do that through course selection, mentorship, how I choose my friends and where I sit in Paresky on a daily basis.’ I think that’s an unbelievable skill, no matter what background you’re coming from, to be able to emerge from high school with.”