New DEI Committees Combat Injustice

     Senior Kira Zielinsky held her phone in horrified disbelief as she scrolled through the dozens of stories filled with her peers’ experiences of racial injustices.

    “I felt such anger towards the perpetrators of this inequity, and felt shame that some of my peers were experiencing this injustice every day,” Kira exclaimed as she reflected upon the stories of racial bias and injustice shared by Fenwick students and alumni on social media.

     The killing of George Floyd over the summer jolted the American conscience and spurred many to join the fight for social justice. In a positive light, the events have forced many people and institutions to own up to their own prejudices, face their shortcomings and re-assess what it means to be truly inclusive in modern society. Fenwick is no exception, and in the face of accusations of prior injustice, the administration has been actively listening to students’ stories and examining diversity issues. The school has vowed to be proactive about combating racial injustice and creating a more inclusive environment.

     Fenwick’s efforts began this summer with the creation of the DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Committee. The mission of this committee, as expressed on their webpage, is to “cultivate harmony and respect for all students. Educators must nurture diversity, equity, and inclusion as a foundation for the high school experience.” The DEI committee contains six sub-committees: Cultural Inclusion and Sensitivity Training, Policy and Governing Practices, Curriculum, Student/Faculty/Staff Recruitment, Admissions, and Financial Aid and Community Service. The committee has already identified some key initiatives including a school-wide cultural sensitivity and inclusion training program for all students, faculty, staff and administration that will be implemented in the ‘20-’21 school year, multi-disciplinary curriculum changes to include a greater diversity of perspective and multi-cultural pedagogy, and a greater effort towards raising scholarship funds for students in need.

     In his new role as Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Mr. Moland is helping to lead the committee’s efforts focusing on the need for immediate change within Fenwick. Mr. Moland will assist all administrative departments including human resources, admissions, the business office, the professional development team, advancement, student services, athletics, and transportation/ operations, with the development and implementation of policy, processes and action items that embrace the implementation of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives across the Fenwick Community.

     In his public statement, Mr. Moland spoke to the need for critical self-reflection, noting, “Examining who we are needs to take place across our community, followed with the commitment to not allow the ills of society, like racism and discrimination, to poison the experience here in Oak Park that we call ‘being a Friar.’”

     To initiate student action, Mr. Moland recently formed a student-led DEI group which will begin meeting in the coming weeks. (Intrested students should refer to the Student DEI group Schoology page). Starting in October, Mr. Moland will also be heading the diversity, equity, inclusion training for administration, faculty, and staff.

     In addition to Mr. Moland’s leadership, former Fenwick alumni will also be helping to steer the committee: Shafondra Matthews (‘01) will be serving as Committee Chair, and Roberto Sepulveda (‘98) will serve as Committee Vice-Chair. Ms. Matthews closed her public statement on the DEI Committee by calling the school community to action, exclaiming, “We, the entire Fenwick community, MUST do better! We are all human. And we are all part of one race…the Human race. Every member of the Friar Nation deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Fenwick should be a safe space for everyone to learn and grow.”

     For more information on the DEI committee, see the new DEI webpage by going to the Fenwick webpage, and clicking on “Student Life.”