Final Report of Andover’s Anti-Racism Task Force Delayed Until Winter Term

Eight months after its last official progress update, the Andover Anti-Racism Task Force (A.A.T.F.) shared that the final report would be delayed for several months, planning for release in Winter Term. The report was originally scheduled to be released in the spring of 2021, according to the A.A.T.F. launch letter. The delay is partially due to the pandemic, according to Linda Carter Griffith, one of the committee’s Co-Chairs and Associate Head of School for Equity, Inclusion and Wellness.

In an email sent to faculty members and in a news update article on the Andover website, Head of School Dr. Raynard S. Kington stated that despite the ongoing effort by the A.A.T.F. to process the data collected last academic year, delaying the final report would be inevitable.

“The Task Force managed an extraordinary amount of data and information and has briefed trustees on its initial findings. Given the abundance of material and the rapid pace of the year (closing of spring term, summer break, and opening of school), this process has taken longer than we anticipated,” wrote Kington in the newsletter.

The update additionally announced that each committee of the task force—representation, systems, experience, and cultural competency—has submitted a working paper. After the A.A.T.F. has synthesized this information, the trustees will include the most essential of those recommendations in the final action plan. According to the update, some initiatives supported by the A.A.T.F. are currently underway.

Seeing the A.A.T.F. develop from the beginning, Aren Egwuekwe ’22 expressed frustration for the institution’s lack of transparency and timeliness during the process. The A.A.T.F. update was not sent to the student body.

“So [the final progress report for A.A.T.F.] has been delayed a couple times, and I think that’s kind of frustrating from a student perspective, because the transparency on this report is really important. And considering [that] we had a lot of momentum going into last summer and now it is going to slow down, I am hoping it will come out soon, and [bring] some progress and change,” said Egwuekwe.

Arim Lee ’24 perceived the update to be unhelpful, considering that Kington’s letter did not directly address the information students have been waiting for.

Lee said, “I think that even if there’s a lot of information to process, if the report was originally scheduled to be released now, they should at least release a report of what they’ve been doing because students don’t really know what’s going on. I want to know more about [A.A.T.F.’s progress] because the topics [they cover] are important to me.”

Covid-19 was a significant factor in hindering the process of the Task Force, according to Griffith. She touched on how each faculty and administrative staff had to adjust during the time of uncertainty and changes to continue their research.

Griffith said, “The uncertainty of Covid-19 and trying to bring the community back to school in-person definitely interfered [with the A.A.T.F. process]. Because there were numerous and unexpected decisions to make to keep the campus community safe and constant transitions to be made due to the chronic challenges of living through a pandemic, our school administrators and faculty were working non-stop and those demands on individuals were urgent and pressing.”

“Still, we engaged with over a thousand members of the community in focus groups, interviews and surveys. While we are certainly excited about progress made to date, we’re still synthesizing and breaking down all of the data— interviews, survey results, and revisiting data we had previously collected. We should anticipate having an official rollout of recommendations early this winter. We remain hopeful that the efforts of the Task Force will have a lasting and positive effect on the community,” added Griffith.

Gary Lee ’74, chair of the Trustee Committee on Equity and Inclusion and also a committee Co-Chair, shared some information to expect from the final report and expressed why the formation of A.A.T.F. was significant overall.

“[The Task Force] did find that there were some areas that needed to be addressed urgently and some areas that would take a bit more time to figure out the best and most appropriate way to address them. I believe coming out of the report will be recommendations for some things that can happen quite quickly with the endorsement of the board and some that will take further consideration and deliberation. And as Raynard Kington pointed out, I believe that some of the areas of recommendation are already underway,” said Lee.

Lee continued, “What we, as a leadership group, realized is that even though Andover had done a lot of work on equity and inclusion over the years, there were still some unaddressed issues. There’s also the fact that in our community discussions, the central focus had, up until the beginning of the Task Force, really centered around diversity, equity, and inclusion, and not around what we call anti-racism. Overall, this issue is something the Task Force cares about deeply. We have spent a great deal of time and energy and effort and thought, that will show in the formulation of a draft for the Task Force. And so, we care about it. We want the right thing to be done and we recognize that we are in a position as a school that educates leaders to give a high priority on educating leaders to be anti-racist.”

A.A.T.F. was first formed in September of 2020 to examine the school’s policies, practices, and institutional biases with respect to race and ethnicity. According to Kington, A.A.T.F. undertook a formidable charge, in striving to build on the school’s long-standing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

In the update, Kington wrote, “Our community also recognizes and values the educational continuum that DEI efforts represent. Eager to always improve and grow, Andover will remain a work-in-progress on this front. Those actions and recommendations ultimately adopted by the board will help to create a community in which everyone has voice, agency, and the ability to flourish and reach their full potential.”