As a big movie buff, I rushed to see which blockbusters would be vying for the Academy Awards this year. But scrolling through the nominations for Best Actor and Best Actress, there was one thing I could not help but notice: every single nominee was white. In fact, white actors, writers and directors dominated the categories, snubbing non-white candidates, most notably the acting and directing cast of the critically-acclaimed movie “Selma.” This lack of diversity in the nominations is reflective of the predominantly white, elderly, male Oscars judging board – a look at the nominations speaks for itself.
Andover is not immune to the effects of a lack of diversity. In January, Patrick Farrell, Dean of Faculty, announced the appointments of Martha Fenton ’83, David Gardner and Tedd Parker as next year’s new Cluster Deans. While I have no doubt that each one is extremely qualified and fit for the role, this means that, next year, all of the Cluster Deans will be white, running into similar dangers as the Oscars judging board. Because of the deans’ similar experiences as an unoppressed majority, their opinions and perspectives may not speak for the students of color that comprise nearly half of the student body. Again, I must emphasize that I am not trying to condemn any specific individual, but rather point out the very real risks of having an all-white board making decisions in the best interests of a more racially-diverse community.
That said, I believe that — with some proactive measures — our new Cluster Deans can avoid the pitfalls that the Oscars face. They should handle any upcoming issues with students and faculty of color in mind. In addition, Cluster Deans need to be in-touch with the community of diverse students and faculty members within their clusters to make sure the opinions of minority groups are represented in their decisions.
While I applaud the school for its efforts to increase faculty diversity, I still feel that there should be an even bigger focus on recruiting a more diverse faculty body. While our motto “Youth from Every Quarter” clearly demonstrates a mission of finding students from various backgrounds and lifestyles, our faculty population does not share the same diversity. As of this year, only 22 percent of the faculty are of color, compared to 42 percent of students, according to an April 11, 2014 Phillipian article.
Andover seems to sometimes ignore this disparity, but I feel that more attention should be paid to it. Students of color need adult representatives who can genuinely understand their views of issues.
The school should try to hire more faculty members of color, and while it will be difficult to change the faculty demographics in the short term, Andover could also hire a diverse group of teaching fellows.
Our diverse student body needs an equally diverse group of adult community members to ensure that students of color have adult voices that can speak up for them when their voices are not heard.