The Fenwick High School board of directors recently announced the creation of a board Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee.

The board approved the permanent committee at its June 15 meeting and appointed John Barron, the board’s chair, to serve on the committee, which “will be charged with addressing racial/cultural justice/equity issues” in a range of areas, according to a statement by Barron and President Richard Peddicord that was emailed to community members June 25.

The committee’s focus areas will include “cultural inclusion and sensitivity training; policy and governing practices; curriculum; student, faculty and staff recruitment; admissions and financial aid; and community service.

“In the wake of the killing of George Floyd and widespread protests around the country, Fenwick High School has also been asked to examine itself,” Barron and Peddicord said in the joint statement. “The outpouring of anger, pain and frustration from so many of Fenwick’s alumni and students of color over the past few weeks has been deafening.  We have heard and are deeply saddened.

“It is clear that we have failed our students of color, and all of our students, in many ways,” they added. “If we are to educate our students — as our vision statement reads — ‘to serve as compassionate leaders, committed to justice and peace in a changing global society,’ we must change.”

The committee’s first meeting was scheduled to take place June 30, a day before Wednesday Journal’s print deadline.

“An alumnus from the class of ’03, who has spent the bulk of his professional career working with issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in education, has agreed to moderate the initial meeting until a chair is formally named,” the statement reads.

The committee’s formation comes at a time when institutions across the country are conducting self-evaluations when it comes to race and equity, and when Black people are growing more and more vocal about their treatment by these institutions.

Earlier this month, an Instagram account — Being a BIPOC Friar (beingabipocfriar) — called for Black, Indigenous and People of Color students and alumnae from Fenwick to “share their stories about racism.”

Within six days, the account has amassed 150 stories and counting, and garnered more than 1,300 followers.

After reaching out to the account’s creators on Tuesday through Instagram’s direct message system, a person claiming to be the creator emailed Wednesday Journal their thoughts on the new committee. Wednesday Journal could not independently verify that the person sending the email created the account.

“I believe this committee is a step in the right direction, that direction being towards anti-racism,” the person said. “I believe this committee will offer Fenwick some of the finest solutions to their current and past issues revolving around race.”

The person added that “it should come as no surprise that there is urgency to address and fix a lot of things at Fenwick, starting with changing the history curriculum and centering it more towards Black history studies, as Black history is the main cause of American history.”

In a story emblematic of the others that have been shared, one commenter, who identifies as Class of 2020, writes that their 13-year-old sister “had to sit there and watch white children prance around the stage in brown face for the musical West Side Story.” When they brought the issue up to a leader of the group producing the play, they write that they were dismissed.

During a phone interview on Tuesday, Peddicord identified Caleb Fields as the 2003 alumnus who will moderate the committee’s first meeting. Fields manages teacher diversity for Denver Public Schools.

Peddicord said that some details about the committee, such as the length of members’ terms, still need to be ironed out, but added that, as a committee of the school’s board, “DEI will be part of the overall governance of the school and will make suggestions for the board to consider.”

“We’re internally calling it the DEI committee and Dei is God in Latin,” Peddicord said. “That is very much at the heart of a Catholic school that believes diversity, equity and inclusion are the work of God in this point in our history and we take it very, very seriously. The fact that those letters refer to God is a great reminder to all of us in our community.”

When asked about the Being a BIPOC Friar Instagram account, Peddicord said that he is aware of its existence.

“It’s very painful to hear people’s experiences of things that took place at the school,” he said, before urging students and alumnae with those experiences to send them to the committee’s new email:

“It’s sad,” he said of the accounts of racism at Fenwick. “We really want to do better and to respond to people’s experiences. We think creating this committee is one step in that direction, but there are going to be a lot of steps that need to be taken.”

Correction: This article has been updated to more accurately reflect a quote about the DEI committee’s function by Fr. Peddicord. Wednesday Journal regrets the error. 

Voices of People of Color at Fenwick

Here are some excerpts of the accounts shared to the beingabipocfriar Instagram page. They have been lightly edited for readability. Full disclosure: None of these accounts have been independently verified by Wednesday Journal.

  • Not a story, but can we talk about how Fenwick (both the student body and administration) do absolutely nothing to ensure a safe environment for students who are POC [people of color]. For the most part, I was the only Black girl in my classes. I was the only Black girl on the swim team and one of the few Black people BFG as well as track. We as minorities and POC are expected to go out of our way to make sure white students are comfortable, but what about us? For four years, I had to be uncomfortable and it cost me so much trauma and pain in the end. (Class of 2018)
  • Definitely won’t miss the week after spring break where not only would wealthier students talk non-stop about their vacations, but would also come up to me and compare their tan to my skin color, saying, ‘I’m almost as dark as you!’ (Class of 2016)
  • I remember when I found myself in a conversation with whites students talking about how they planned to, or thought about, claiming to be BIPOC on their college applications to get accepted [into college] or to get a better financial aid package. I tried to explain how messed up that was, but, of course, affirmative action came up and I just quit. (Class of 2018)
  • In my moral theology class, I heard countless times people saying that Black people do not have any fewer rights than white people and that Black people and other minorities are just trying to take away rights from white people, so that they can get to the top. They also said that affirmative action is completely unfair and that so many Black people are stealing spots away from people who actually worked hard to get into college. (Class of 2020)
  • It wasn’t until our senior year that people stopped getting me mixed up with the other Black women in our class. (Class of 2020)
  • There was an immense amount of support [among] the sophomore class last year for the institution of hard ‘r’ Fridays. This lack of respect for [people of color] and for the word itself, and its history, disgusted me. As a white male, I was very uncomfortable around these individuals who would sling the hard ‘r’ on Fridays. (Class of 2022)
  • In my American History class junior year, a certain teacher chose to fetishize BIPOC regularly as ‘examples’. He would routinely ask me, a white student, to imagine what it would have been like if he were my ‘master’ and I was his ‘slave’. He would also ask how I would feel if I were to be ‘conquered’ by him similar to how conquistadors conquered indigenous peoples in the U.S. Lastly, he would ask me how it would feel if I were a ‘jewess’ and he was a Nazi officer who had ‘that power’ over me.” (Class of 2015)

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