Message from the principal regarding DEI work

Letter from Interim Principal Bill Rawson ’71; P’08.

September 25, 2018
bridge on a fall day

Dear Colleagues and Students:

I am writing to share some thoughts about the DEI work that will be led by Drs. Bramlett and Atif and others on campus this year. 

Diversity, equity and inclusion are fundamental to our educational mission and method.  The trustees last year adopted a DEI vision statement that recognizes that diversity, equity and inclusion are critical to sustaining and strengthening our tradition of excellence in all aspects of life at Exeter.  The vision statement makes clear that our commitment goes beyond merely assembling a diverse population; “our commitment is to teach the skills, model the behaviors, provide the resources and cultivate the environment of inclusion” that will unlock the richness of that diversity.  We seek to develop an inclination toward, and facility with, diversity of thought, perspective and experience, and to cultivate the empathy, understanding, and respect necessary to open our minds to thoughts, perspectives and experiences that differ from our own.  As the DEI vision statement states, “Excellence today requires nothing less.”

Our DEI work is a top priority.  Our commitment to creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive community, where everyone has an equal sense of belonging and an equal opportunity to thrive, is not by itself sufficient to ensure success.  We need to be purposeful about our DEI work.  We need to redouble our efforts to attract, sustain and retain a diverse adult population, and continue our efforts to attract diverse students who will thrive in our programs.  We need to develop specific tools and hold intentional conversations that will help us achieve a greater sense of belonging and inclusiveness for all who join our community.  Achieving demonstrable progress against our DEI vision statement is a top priority for our school this year.  We all have a role to play, an obligation to contribute.

We should approach this work with good will, optimism and trust.  With a clear vision statement and a common commitment, we are in strong position to come together and make meaningful progress.  There need be no conflict between this work and the freedom of thought and speech that also are central to our mission as a school.  We are committed both to diversity, equity and inclusion and to free expression.  Hate speech and intentional attacks on personhood are not tolerated.  A concern may arise when what is said is not the same as what is heard.  Since we come to this community with different backgrounds and experiences, it is inevitable that we will sometimes experience speech and events differently, and misunderstandings as a result may occur.  In these situations, open communication, empathy, and trust, on everyone’s part, will help us learn from each other and grow as individuals and as a community.  As I expressed in the opening assembly, we are learners.  We should be excited by, and affirmatively seek, opportunities to learn from each other.

Thank you for participating in our DEI work.

Bill Rawson
Interim Principal
Phillips Exeter Academy