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A Message to the Canterbury Community from Head of School Rachel Stone — January 2021

Kelly Slonaker

January 14, 2021

 

Dear Canterbury Community,

For those of Christian faith, January 6 marks Epiphany, a celebration of hope and light. As a child, I was mesmerized by the story of the Magi's journey in search of the newborn baby, a journey of belief and resolve led by a star. Hope and light.

Juxtapose this version of January 6 with the series of events that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021. An unimaginable moment in our country's history that was equally surreal, terrifying, and heartbreaking.

To be sure, I have struggled to process those events, to attempt to hold the stark contrast of these two narratives in the same intellectual space, and to put thoughts into words. On the one hand, this "writer's block" is reflective of a moment so disruptive, violent, and divisive that its significance is beyond my ability to articulate. On the other, the sense of urgency I share with leaders across institutions and industries to put our "stake in the ground" in our collective denunciation of hate is a steadfast reminder that our "stake" (i.e., core values) has not moved: At Canterbury, we seek truth and prioritize respect, equity, and justice. We model responsibility and accountability. We believe in democracy and the inclusion of a diversity of individual perspectives and life stories. We encourage our students to be grounded by hope, steadied by resilience, and buoyed by joy. And we stand together against any form of prejudice. Indeed, since Canterbury's founding in 1915, we have worked with patience and persistence to inspire our students to be moral leaders in a complex, secular world; 2020-21 may be the most complex world our Saints have faced.

If our core values are clear and unwavering, where do we see those values illustrated, programmatically and practically? Where do our students specifically—and the Canterbury community more broadly—experience, live, and sustain these values each and every day? Last week's siege of the Capitol, another demoralizing moment in 2020-21, was a painful yet poignant reminder that our responsibility as ethical citizens continues with stalwart commitment and honest acknowledgment that the work leading to justice is constant, humbling, and necessary. 

With our academic year at its midpoint, I would ask that we pause in recognition of this work. To that end, I first invite members of the extended Canterbury family to share your own stories of purpose and practice in making this world a more just and equitable place, particularly over the past ten months. As we have risen to the challenges presented by a global pandemic, a divisive presidential election, and pervasive acts of hatred and injustice, we have each written a new chapter of our stories, paying close attention to our individual DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) lenses.

Secondly, I would like to share a sample of events, initiatives, and conversations that have taken place on our hilltop over the course of the fall semester. I offer this update with great humility and an ever greater acknowledgment that we have taken the first critical, genuine steps on a journey that is now embedded within our annual work and goals.

  • Canterbury's Community DEI Committee comprises 12 adults (a cross-section of faculty, staff, trustees, and alumni) and nine students (Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Formers who passionately requested to join this work) and has identified four key areas of focus as part of its Needs Assessment & Action Plan framework (Academic Curriculum, Campus Audit, Student Experience, Recruitment/Retention). 
  • The 12 faculty members facilitating our DEI Faculty Pods have continued their work and partnership with Margenett Moore-Roberts, including participation in the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI).
  • Students met in small groups on five Saturdays this fall to discuss topics ranging from community norms and Canterbury's commitment to providing each student with a sense of belonging to the presidential election and a viewing of The Social Dilemma.
  • In December, four students attended the virtual Student Diversity Leadership Conference, and two faculty members attended the virtual People of Color Conference.
  • I encourage you to watch for continued updates on Canterbury's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion webpage.

Looking ahead, the D'Amour Center for Faith, Service & Justice will present Canterbury's six-week Social Justice Series, to begin on Tuesday, January 26, and continue through Thursday, March 4. Topics will include an interfaith leadership panel; systemic racism in medicine & the Tuskegee Study; environmental justice; and a faculty/staff panel hosted by Women of Canterbury.

Above all, our commitment to our DEI work—as an outgrowth of our core values—is both informed and inspired by the voices of our students. Never in my 27 years as an educator have I experienced the degree to which the perspectives and aspirations of our students so powerfully impact the course we are currently charting.

This reflection began with a story of hope and light. As we continue to navigate these unsettled times, we remain ever committed to knowing our students deeply, meeting them where they are in order to challenge them individually, and reminding them that within the cracks of this disrupted world remain humanity, healing, hope, and light.

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Rachel E. Stone P '23, '24
Head of School