The Phillips Academy Board of Trustees released an email to the Andover community on September 10, 2020 that detailed plans to introduce a new Andover Anti-Racism Task Force (AATF). This task force is led by Amy C. Falls ’82, P’19, ’21, president of the Board of Trustees, and Head of School Dr. Raynard S. Kington, MD, PhD, P’24, with Gary Lee ’74, chair of the Trustee Committee on Equity and Inclusion, and Linda Carter Griffith, Associate Head of School for Equity, Inclusion, and Wellness, appointed as committee Co-Chairs.
Andover’s Anti-Racism Task Force is composed of a diverse set of selected faculty, staff, alumni, and trustees, and it plans to consult professional equity and inclusion staff from outside of Andover. The AATF plans to work with senior administrators, students and families, and, in particular, Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color to better understand the challenges they face on campus and find effective ways to address them. According to their charge, the AATF aims to address issues such as institutional systems and policies, diverse representation, community culture and experiences, cultural inclusion, and more.
“In pursuit of its charge, the Task Force will execute a comprehensive review of the status of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Task Force will also explore many dimensions of school function, including formal and informal traditions and cultural practices, that may be particularly rooted in anti-Black sentiment and actions that adversely affect the student and adult experience. While the Task Force’s main impetus is to disrupt and dismantle racist behavior and racism, thereby reducing the harm inflicted on Black people, it will also examine how racist behavior and racism have unjustly affected Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian racial groups in the Andover community,” states the AATF charge.
According to Griffith, anti-racism is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, structures, and policies to create positive change in the Andover community.
“Often we focus too much on whether or not we are a good person or worry about finding the exact right words when discussing race. But, are we going to stand up? Are we going to stop someone from treating someone else differently because of their race? So, anti-racism work is about action,” said Griffith in an interview with The Phillipian.
According to the AATF charge, efforts of the AATF will culminate in a comprehensive report of actions and plans for addressing racism and racist behaviors. This report will be presented to the Board of Trustees and the Head of School in early Spring 2020 and final decisions decided by the Board and the Head of School will be distributed to the community later on.
“The [AATF] report will provide direction for prioritizing policies, practices, and initiatives to sustain and improve our current diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and further mobilize anti-racist efforts. To maintain Andover’s position as a leader among its peers in these areas, the Task Force may also make recommendations for more sweeping, longer-term policies and initiatives that extend beyond the campus community, understanding that [Andover] is deeply integrated in and integral to a larger social and cultural fabric,” states the AATF charge.
As Andover heads into the 2020-2021 school year, with a widespread community, the task force is adapting to the current pandemic as they begin their work in the coming weeks. Griffith believes that the importance of the task force’s work is centered around the health, safety, and well-being of the Andover community.
“Right now, what is of importance in this process is health and safety, no matter what. We did not want to let a pandemic stop us from moving forward and improving the quality of life for everyone on Andover’s campus because the truth is, an anti-racism task force benefits everybody. So we’re moving forward. If we’re able to be in-person safely, we will, but if not, we’ll do it remotely,” said Griffith.
According to Griffith, she has been committed to justice, equity, and inclusion ever since she was a child, and her devotion has not wavered during her time at Andover. She hopes that the AATF will contribute to the betterment of Andover as an inclusive and equitable community.
Griffith said, “When I was asked [to Co-Chair the task force], I have always had a vision for an Andover that is inclusive, that is equitable for all students. Being a part of this task force, at this time in history, is both critical and essential. The last time we had this kind of racial reckoning in this nation was during the Civil Rights Movement, and I think that the current movement in our nation is forcing the same kind of energy upon all of us. Andover must do it’s part too!”