Bridging the Gap

“As a school, we have committed to anti-racist strategies and goals. In what areas of your life at Andover do you experience these efforts? What is your role in these efforts? Where could we better? Is there room for your personal growth?”

When students first came across this question on the annual Mid-Year Reflection, many felt confused and conflicted. Many wondered, what anti-racist strategies and goals are they referring to? Were we supposed to have experienced these efforts? While the reflection question is a sincere one, it clarified the existence of a significant disconnect between the students’ and the administration’s perceptions of Andover’s involvement in anti-racism work.

The start of the year looked promising for the school’s active engagement with and verbal dedication to social equity. Students participated in various rounds of programming during orientation revolving around the values of community, justice, and joy. Some students also felt hopeful about the newly formed Andover Anti-Racism Task Force (AATF) and about the school’s involvement in this work. It seemed as if both the administration and the students were ready to work hand-in-hand to pursue Andover’s mission of anti-racism.

However, as the year progressed, the school’s previously direct engagement with anti-racism initiatives seemed to dissipate, with activities relating to its original anti-racist mission statement resurfacing only recently during MLK Day programming. The most recent updates from the AATF merely detail its mission statements. It is still unclear to many of us what the school is doing to stay committed to these strategies. This potential misunderstanding has also pushed responsibilities onto students, particularly students of color, forcing them to shoulder the burdensome responsibility of anti-racist work on campus. Consequently, many students feel as though they are not truly experiencing these efforts.

In the past, rifts between students and the administration have been exacerbated by a gap in proper communication between both groups. Everyone within the Andover community must make clear their intentions, plans in action, and final goals for collaboration if tangible progress is to be made. Ultimately, realizing Andover’s commitment to anti-racist strategies requires work from both sides. Any efforts on behalf of the administration become fruitless without the active engagement of students, but this work of alleviating institutional racism and inequity cannot be placed on students alone. Institutional progress requires genuine collaboration between the administration and students, with the first step being clarity from the administration on what actions they have taken, and how students can be proactive in taking part. To this end, we anticipate the AATF’s forthcoming update, which is expected to be released before the end of the month. Perhaps then we will be able to better gauge our role in Andover’s commitment to anti-racism and assess the institution’s progress as well.