By Tarika Narain
In an effort to renew focus on the diversity initiative within the school’s hiring policy, Head of School Rebecca Upham led a January 7 meeting with department and division heads, as well as administrative leaders, to discuss diversity among staff and its advantages in a school setting. This diversity directive, which preceded the distribution of employment renewal contracts to faculty in February, aimed to underline an institutional goal during the hiring process: aligning the diversity of BB&N hires with that of its student body.
BB&N’s policy for many years has contained a clause requiring that each newly hired faculty or staff member contribute to the diversity of the school as a whole. This policy defines diversity in much broader terms than the standard “race and gender” aspect, however. According to Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs Charlie Ruopp, race, gender, and religion are only the beginning of the school’s definition of diversity: factors like socioeconomic status, teaching style, and academic and educational background are all included under the umbrella of “diversity.”
“An example of how broadly we might interpret [diversity] might be hiring a male for a Kindergarten class,” Mr. Ruopp explained. According to him, though hiring a male is not usually viewed as a contribution to diversity, in this context it does, as “men are rarely candidates” in this domain.
According to Mr. Ruopp, the diversity aspect of the hiring policy also constitutes part of an attempt to ensure that diversity among faculty and staff reflects that of the student body.
Director of Multicultural Services Lewis Bryant agreed: “We believe that it is part of the educational experience for BB&N students to have teachers representing a diverse group of people, as it prepares them for the diverse world outside of BB&N,” he said. “We believe that with a diverse faculty comes the ability to teach from multiple perspectives.”
Despite the longstanding policy, much of the administration has felt that efforts to uphold diversity among faculty and staff have lagged in recent years.
“We have had a couple of years where we did not make any progress, so efforts have to be more conscious this year,” Mr. Bryant explained. This sentiment spawned the idea for the recent faculty meeting.
“Ms. Upham encouraged all of us involved in hiring to maintain our focus on bringing faculty to the school who will add in multiple ways [to the school’s diversity],” Upper School Director Geoffrey Theobald said.
In order to uphold this policy, Mr. Ruopp explained that the school will attempt to target and streamline their outreach, using a variety of programs, either online or through professional faculty recruitment services. The goal, Mr. Ruopp said, is to encourage more diverse candidates to apply to teach at the school.
“The ability to be able to experience and interact in a diverse world is really a 21st century skill that BB&N should be providing and teaching its students,” Mr. Ruopp said.
English Department Head Sharon Krauss added, “This directive is an extension, I think, of what we as a school have already been doing—that is, being mindful during the hiring process of finding faculty and administrators who are exceptionally good at what they do and who more fully reflect the exciting diversity of our student body. It’s an important goal.”