Students Claim Andover Anti-Racism Task Force Falls Short of Progress

On March 24, the Andover Anti-Racism Taskforce (A.A.T.F.) released their latest report on Andover’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion webpage. Since its launch in fall of 2020, the A.A.T.F. has delayed its final release twice from their planned date, first delayed from spring of 2021 and then again from fall of 2021.

The work of A.A.T.F. was uploaded in two different formats; one of the reports was an official document of over 40 pages, while the other was a shortened summary of the information. On March 24, Head of School Dr. Raynard Kington wrote in an email to the Andover community that the final document of A.A.T.F. report was uploaded under the title “A Synthesis of Observations and Recommendations of the Andover Anti-Racism Task Force.”

Aleena Kibria ’23, a facilitator for an upcoming discussion surrounding the A.A.T.F., expressed their disappointment in both the slow pace of the A.A.T.F. release and the content within the document itself. According to Kibria, the lateness of the task force release was a problem, considering the speed at which Andover students finish projects on campus.

“A lot of the [things] in progress, [such as] creating a committee and making a group of people in a coalition and whatnot, [are] all good things. It just takes the school and faculty a lot of time to do these things, which I think is frustrating because [us] students who have a shortened time here, four years or even less, we can do a lot more in less time, so it’s upsetting to see faculty take years and years and years on things that probably could have taken students one year to finish and enact in the next year. There are so many people who can do that in a year. Why is it taking them [so long]?” said Kibria.

Others, including Jun Fan ’24, questioned the validity of the report, especially with the texts under the “Completed” column, which covered a list of Andover’s progress towards anti-racism. Fan felt that some of the information mentioned under the column did not align with his recent experiences.

Fan said, “I don’t actually think that all that has been marked complete on the website is complete. For example, the bias reporting system seems outdated, and I know that my friends have complained about racist faculty members without hearing back. I also think that communication liaisons can be further improved. Even if they were, the completed list is pretty short as of now.” 

With their general goal of ending racism on campus, Kibria felt the task force was unable to make notable changes or address issues in their entirety. She described the general nature of the report to be disinteresting or frustrating to some students. Efficacy 

Kibria said, “[The A.A.T.F. is] so general. You can’t focus on just anti-racism and then be like, ‘Okay, I’m going to fix it.’ You’re going to fix racism against Asian students on campus and Black and Latine students on campus and any other group of students here who are incredibly marginalized…? You can’t. There’s too much. If there was one task force for one group of people or a subsection of people… it would be easier to communicate to the people who want to hear that [information]. But when [the goal is] anti-racism, it already separates our community [into] white and non-white to the point where white students probably aren’t as interested in it, [while] students of color are tired of everything being so generalized.”

Kianna Jean-Francois ’23 also shared her frustration with the school’s lack of action, despite the long delays before releasing the final report. Implementing changes also entails responsibilities from the school to bring about actual changes rather than acting out the basic responses, added Jean-Francois. 

“I think the openness about the task has been better, with the report coming out, finally. However, I do still feel like it didn’t necessarily fulfill what we had hoped for and wasn’t enough to just have the report and nothing else really. Because it’s been a long time,  with the report being supposed to come out kind of a long time ago, I feel like students and even faculty were just hoping for a bit more than just the releasing of the report,” said Jean-Francois.

Jean-Francois continued, “The updating of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion page, there’s like certain groups meeting now like the Student Task Force. So in some ways, I think that progress is being made. In other ways I feel like people expected more progress by now… I think being complete means something different than work being done. Yes, it’s true… But also when they say implement, I think what certain people are also looking for is breaking down that process and the advertisement of employment, an explanation of it, making it more accessible. It just seems like they just checked the box off on a list.”