Students Call Out the Administration’s Inaction Toward Recent Events of Racial Injustice

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Remote learning came to an end on June 3rd, but not without controversy. As a result of the world’s instability and overtly racist institutions, students are speaking out against Hackley’s own shortcomings.
Unrest throughout the country has been building due to several events including the deaths of Black civilians, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor. Many Americans have been struggling to grapple with these events and have been looking for guidance. So when the Hackley Administration failed to comment on these horrific murders, former Community Council president Taylor Robin wrote a letter in the form of an email to provide some insight to Hackley’s Upper School students.
In the well-written and powerful letter headed “In Light of Recent Events,” Taylor spoke out about what it meant to experience these events as a Black student, and what the Hackley Community should do in response to these injustices.
“As your Black female president, I have a duty to speak out about these stories as they directly affect the lives of many Hackley students, myself included,” Taylor wrote. She continued to speak on her personal experience being Black in America, feeling monitored, and “helpless.”
Taylor ended the letter with a call to action. She asked her classmates to practice “empathy and civility,” urging them to “share their compassion” with Black kids on campus. She also asked the larger Hackley community to start small, and better itself.
Taylor’s letter served as a catalyst for a broader conversation to be had at Hackley surrounding these events. After her letter was distributed to the Upper School, Diversity Coordinators Amanda Esteves-Kraus and Willie Teacher proposed an “Air and Share” event over Zoom. The Coordinators have created these spaces in recent years in an effort to help students share feelings and process difficult events; the purpose of which is always to provide a space in which students can support and hear other students. While the letter and the Air and Share were very thoughtful and deemed necessary, it left some feeling like the organization of it should have come directly from the administration without prompting from Taylor.
The Air and Share lasted over an hour with about 100 participants in one Zoom room. The event was very powerful and the energy was electric as students spoke passionately in response to current events. Mr. Teacher moderated the event giving almost all students a chance to speak at least once.
During the Air and Share, three seniors, Max Rosenblum, Sydney Stoller, and Ella Jones, issued a letter to the Head of School, Mike Wirtz, along with a petition calling for members of the Hackley community to endorse their letter. The letter criticized the administration’s inaction on issues involving diversity, equity, and inclusion. It called for more teachers of color, more students’ say in Community Time meetings, and voiced their disappointment while trying to publish some of these ideas in the Dial.
They expressed three core issues against the school: a lacking response to recent events, an overly eurocentric curriculum that they argue fails to combat racism by not presenting enough diverse perspectives, and a failure to uplift the voices of students of color on campus. They tied these issues back to the school’s lack of faculty members of color.
While these three students thought the Air and Share was a good idea, they still expressed a need for “frequent, mandatory assemblies that serve to amplify the voices of our students of color to everyone, as opposed to simply optional air-and-shares that cater to and provide for a select few.” They also wanted more collaboration around events like Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month, so that students of color feel properly represented.
In response to these calls to action, Mr. Wirtz met with the three seniors who created the petition, before sending out a formal email to the entire Upper School community. The email was headed “Regarding Current Events.”
“I have tried to absorb and process the frustration, anger, fear, and exhaustion that I hear in the voices of students and colleagues,” Mr. Wirtz wrote.
“To those students who shared their stories and to those who simply listened, I heard what was said and unsaid in that moment. You were asking for the school – and for me – to do more to support you and make the school more inclusive. My responsibility as Head of School requires that I lead by example, standing up against injustices that impact all of us and that do not align with Hackley’s values, including violence towards people of color.”
Mr. Wirtz promised to include more “student voices in the planning of events, celebrations, and Community Time.” He also pledged to make sure there are diverse perspectives throughout all curricula and called for universal support and participation in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work on campus.

During Hackley’s first parade and Graduation Celebration, seniors participate in a peaceful protest against police brutality and racism in America.

On June 5th, the school hosted a parade to celebrate the end of the year. The parade congratulated the class of 2020 and gave students an opportunity to say goodbye to teachers and other faculty members. Many seniors even showed their support of the Black Lives Matter Movement with signs of protest from the safety of their personal vehicles.
The event highlighted Hackley’s resilience and unity throughout such a polarizing, confusing, and threatening time. Overall, it was a call to action for everyone in the Hackley community to practice anti-racism and support the fight for basic human decency.
If these past few weeks are any indication, Hackley’s future will involve a heavy emphasis on DEI work on campus, a growing partnership between students and administrators, and a reaffirmation of Hackley’s core values as it relates to social issues in America today.