Presentation Sheds New Light on Diversity

Faculty members from the Diversity and Equity Committee shared results from the diversity climate study by EdChange with the student body on Sunday, May 25. This was the first time specific findings of the study were disclosed to Groton students.

At the lecture, we saw the big picture—on May 25th, we saw the details.

This presentation is the result of EdChange’s quantitative and qualitative surveys that took place over the course of the past year. Apart from online questionnaires launched in Spring 2012, EdChange conducted several focus groups — 7 were student groups, 5 were for faculty and 2 for school administrators and Buildings & Grounds. The study also involved findings from interviews with individual administrators, the chaplain and ICAP (International Community Advising Program), as well as analysis on policies from admission policy to Guide to Groton.

After a quick reiteration of the survey process, Ms. Sen-Das, co-chair of the Committee for Diversity and Equity, started with a quote from EdChange’s study: “Challenges at Groton are not unique to Groton. The willingness to name and address the challenge is itself a triumph that distinguishes Groton from most other institutions, which is something to celebrate.”

According to the presentation, Groton’s tight-knit community and committed faculty contributed much to forming a better climate for diversity. In the survey, EdChange observed “deep commitment of most faculty and staff members, particularly visible in how they advocated for disenfranchised students” and an “engaged, informed board of trustees”. The close-knit, welcoming community is “conductive to honest dialogue on difficult topics if the groundwork is laid,” noted Mr. Gorski. In particular, the report mentioned the “sophisticated understandings of diversity and equity” among students and close student-faculty relationships that will improve the climate for diversity on campus.

Among the areas for improvement, the report pointed out, are social pressure to conform, institutional expertise on equity, and the opportunity for open discussion. According to the presentation, many students feel a pressure to conform, especially to what some describe as an overwhelming materialist and consumerist culture manifest in buying certain things or dressing in a certain way. In addition, the burden of extra school fees comes with social costs — e.g. opportunities to bond on day trips — or educational costs, such as international learning experience.

The report also points out that student-on-student discrimination, including “hipster” racism and sexism, poses yet another issue. While many feel uncomfortable upon hearing discriminatory remarks, the social cost of responding is often greater than the individual cost of complying. “The volume and heaviness suggests this is a matter of school culture, not just individual bias,” said Ms. Sen-Das.

While praising the faculty for its commitment to diversity, EdChange also pointed out, “pockets of expertise exist, but in people whose job functions are not focused on equity and diversity.” In the survey and focus group discussions, moreover, one common feedback from students highlighted a lack of open discussions about equity and diversity. To many, the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only day for institution-wide discussion.

While there will be no formalized faculty training in the immediate future due to an already fixed budget for next year, “the committee are already looking at community dialogue and structured discussion for next year,” said Ms. Sen-Das.

In the ensuing discussions, a few students called attention to the lack of awareness for diversity among non-minority student groups. “People who need to be here are not present to hear the issues needing to be addressed,” said Sashni-Cole Matthews ’15, “[if detailed findings had been shared during the all-school lecture, the following] conversations would have more substance.”

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