March 2021 DEI Progress Report

Head of School Peter Quinn provided this update to the Peddie community at the start of Spring Term.

I write with news about Peddie’s plans and progress addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion within our campus community. 

Our motto – “As we finish our labors we begin them anew” – and our focus on Ambassador Annenberg’s invocation to “the highest quality of citizenship” command our continued progress towards a diverse community of adults and students, unified by their excitement, curiosity, and character. And relative to many leading schools, we are remarkable for the success we have achieved. At the same time, as James Russel Lowell wrote in 1845:

New occasions teach new duties;
Time makes ancient good uncouth.
They must upward still and onward
Who would keep abreast of truth.

Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

After a nationwide search to find a permanent Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Diku Rogers’12 has been named to the position. Ms. Rogers was named interim director in August, and between then and now we have worked with the Storbeck Search firm to review applications from interested candidates across the country. Eight semi-finalists were interviewed, and the search committee forwarded three finalists, all of whom met with the same 28 individuals (deans, academic department chairs, students, directors of various aspects of school operations) in a series of meetings.

The excellent work of the faculty search committee (Jenate Brown [chair], Alyssa Corcoran, Greg Groves, Alex Kocar, Everett Nelor, Marc Onion, Catherine Rodrigue, Joshua Sham, Joy Wolfe) did much to advance our work in this area. Listening to the search committee’s deliberations, my own sense of the three candidates’ strengths was resoundingly affirmed. I was proud that Peddie had attracted their interest, but Ms. Rogers combined these strengths to the greatest degree. She knows Peddie from both a student and an adult perspective; she is highly organized and thinks strategically about this work; she has been highly effective in this role this year. Finally, she has both unwavering commitment to this work and tremendous emotional intelligence that helps her to be successful in this work within our community. As one member of the search committee put it, “She is our past, our present, and our future in this important work.”

Ms. Rogers, a member of the Peddie Class of 2012, earned her bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in the spring of 2016, where she worked as a residential commons advisor and within the writing program to support students’ efforts where identity and distinct voices were concerned. She was a TEAK fellow at both Peddie and Middlebury and served as an Assistant Dean of Students at TEAK during the summer of 2018. She began teaching at Peddie in the fall of 2017. Last year she accepted the role of the Director of Peddie’s Creative Writing Program. She is one of the Masters’ South resident faculty.

Newly endowed fund in honor of David ’63 and Diane Mitchell

In February, Arthur ’63 and Jo Brown established an endowed fund in honor of David ’63 and Diane Mitchell, to support the ever-evolving opportunities for students and employees to continuously foster a culture of citizenship, respect and belonging at Peddie. Specifically directed towards the first recommendation from the AIM report (see below), the fund will support all aspects of the school's efforts in this area with an initial focus on establishing a Mitchell Fellows program to fund and recognize student and adult leadership in this area. This endowed fund is the first of its kind at Peddie, and all interested donors are invited to direct gifts to this fund if they are looking for ways to sustain our efforts.

AIM Summary Report

The values of Peddie’s learning community affirm its commitment to providing a healthy and inclusive environment by supporting the intellectual, social, and moral growth of each of its students, welcoming individuals with diverse talents and backgrounds, and valuing the highest quality of citizenship. Campus climate, which is defined as individuals’ perceptions of how they exist within the school, can play a major role in supporting or undermining these values. Thus, during the 2019-2020 academic year all Peddie students, staff, faculty, administrators, recent alumni, current parents/guardians, and trustees were invited to complete the National Association of Independent Schools’ (NAIS) Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM) climate survey. The goal of the survey was to evaluate diversity, multiculturalism, equity, and justice at Peddie and to assist in strategic planning. While the overall (including alumni and parents) response rate was 33%, response rates for students, faculty, trustees, and administrators all exceeded 80%.

According to the survey, Peddie’s overall school morale was healthy with 78% of respondents agreeing somewhat or strongly that they were satisfied with multiculturalism and inclusiveness at Peddie. Quantitative benchmarking data suggested that Peddie had several strengths. For instance, students indicated that Peddie affirmed the belief that diversity in faculty, administration, student body, and curriculum is important to the excellence of the education they receive by implementing initiatives that expand inclusiveness and multiculturalism. Additionally, Peddie earned high scores among parents/guardians for implementing policies to build an inclusive community, encouraging parents/guardians to directly link inclusiveness and multiculturalism to excellence in education, and having policies in place to ensure that the school works effectively in a number of areas where individuals can differ from each other. Lastly, Peddie’s trustees reported that Peddie is developing a clear, measurable, and up-to-date mission statement regarding diversity and multiculturalism.

In addition to its strengths, the AIM survey also highlighted areas where Peddie can improve its diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice efforts through future plans and initiatives. Some examples include better intervening in instances of discrimination or teasing among students, being more proactive in removing barriers to full participation in school activities, soliciting greater alumni involvement in diversity initiatives, and enhancing efforts to ensure that all employees feel accepted. In addition, the results suggested differences in the experiences and perceptions based on social identifiers including gender, sexuality, and race.

Our steering committee composed of faculty and administrators evaluated the results and made recommendations in support of cultivating an affirming environment for all members of Peddie’s community and achieving a healthier organizational climate for diversity, multiculturalism, equity, and justice. See these recommendations and additional information about Peddie's work in this area

All-Gender Housing Initiative

We are excited to announce our pilot program for all-gender housing, which will start in the fall of 2021.      

Peddie’s all-gender housing is an additional residential option that does not prescribe to a gender binary and its associations. In all-gender housing, students in joint agreement reside together on campus, independent of their gender identity or gender expression. 

We know that a successful learning environment is dependent on the comfort, safety, and overall well-being of community members. We welcome individuals with diverse talents and backgrounds, and therefore want students to have the best possible experience at Peddie. In accordance with our core values, we are expanding our residential options. As a school that values diversity, it is our responsibility to have the structures in place to support that diversity. 

We are committed to maintaining an affirming and welcoming living environment free of discrimination based on gender and sexuality in all of our dorms. Along with the implementation of all-gender housing, we are also fortunate to partner with the Mazzoni Center, which will provide our community with educational programming and professional development to increase LGBTQ+ cultural competency. 

All-gender housing is an example of how we can live in community with, and hold space for, each other with care and intention. Our all gender dormitory will have the same spirit, camaraderie, and resources as our single gender housing options. Whether or not a student lives in all-gender housing, we will ensure that they are provided a rich residential experience.