Response to BSU Demands by Monique DeVane, Head of School

To our BSU and community—good morning. A week ago at Assembly, I shared that, along with a number of other administrators, I’d received a letter with a list of demands from the Black Student Union. I’m returning to our Assembly space to respond to that letter because I believe that how we speak to and with each other matters. We are bound together in a hard moment, trying to do critical work. We need to root ourselves in a collaborative spirit, so I want to both model and invite that. I know that there are stakeholders who may not be here with us here today, so I’ll also be sending the full text of this response to Trinity Thompson, BSU’s advisor, as well as making sure that it is sent to each of you and posted on the school’s social media.

Although the framing of the communication I received was between the BSU and the Administration, our dialogue is relevant to everyone gathered here. Equity and belonging needs to matter to all of us. We must be willing to hear and understand where we are making progress, and where we are falling short. I encourage everyone to read and think about what the BSU shared, just as I hope that you will all read the School’s Community Update summarizing the work that many across the school have done around equity and belonging last semester.  

And now to the heart of the matter: A core value at College Prep is that every student is entitled to be in a learning environment where they feel included, seen, and valued. Before learning can happen, or a healthy community can be built, every student needs to feel that they fully belong. Every. Student. 

I have thoroughly and carefully read the document that the BSU shared. I hear frustration, pain, and alienation resulting from experiences of being unheard, misunderstood, or shut down. And being burdened. Burdened to constantly educate many of us on their experiences. Burdened to be patient. And now burdened with the probably unwanted step of writing a list of demands. It’s the same feelings we saw expressed on Black@collegeprep on Instagram. 

For this to be the lived experience of any member of our community is simply unacceptable, and I am sorry. 

I personally feel a deep, relentless sense of responsibility for each of our student’s emotional, social, and intellectual well-being. And I know that at every level of our school there is great motivation, care, empathy, and desire to get this work right. But equity and belonging is measured by output and impact, not input and intent. BSU’s letter tells me that, in spite of our collective efforts, we are not where we need to be. We do not yet have broad ownership of common goals, or a shared means to measure and understand our progress toward those goals. 

I am not using this moment to respond to each of the individual requests within BSU’s document, but I hear and share its call to action. It has given us a set of action steps, many of which are already being implemented, and we will look for ways to communicate progress on these initiatives. Others requests will help us develop a more focused and commonly held vision of a fully inclusive College Prep. In the spirit of openness necessary to clarify and sustain this vision, I invite collaboration on two key next steps.

First, people. Over the next few months, with the opportunity for input from BSU members and other student leaders, I will be working to make sure that we have the people we need—both internally and externally—to lead and support this work. Getting the right people in the right roles, and then giving them access to resources and decision-making authority will help us get more done. 

Second, and at the same time, we need fresh opportunities for members across the school community to come together to share learnings, experiences and perspectives; to affirm common understandings about how best to center belonging across our whole program; and how to measure our progress. I will be spending the next few weeks organizing and convening a series of facilitated spaces for these conversations, knowing that if we have collective creation and ownership around our longer-term commitments and metrics—even if there may be compromises and modification of our plans over time—we will be more effective at bringing sustained change to the School. 

I want to close by acknowledging and thanking the BSU members and its leadership for their commitment, courage, and candor. Your collective and individual voices are critical. That said, I understand that this work is not primarily yours to do; like everyone here, your first job is to be a student, with all of the opportunities and challenges this entails. Making sure that this happens is my first duty of care.

College Prep does not exist outside of the damaging racialization that permeates our country; we are in it, and of it. Yet we have the opportunity to work together to create something that lives closer to our ideals. There are many paths forward, but the best and most productive ones require us to stay open to working across roles and divides. We will continue to question, imagine, stumble, and recommit to the work and to each other. We will do our very best to leave our school stronger and better than when we came to it. 

With respect and thanks,
Monique DeVane

mens conscia recti

a mind aware of what is right