We are sorry. And we are working.

Director Vince Durnan shared the folllowing letter with the USN community on Thursday, June 4 regarding recent social media posts and assuring the school's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Dear USN community,
 
Last night we experienced an intense and powerfully sincere expression of frustration and disappointment with social media posts about giving to the school. While it was never intended to turn attention from the urgency and intensity of wider national events, that message missed the opportunity to express our singular focus on doing the work detailed below. We apologize, and we realize that this is not the time for bringing USN's philanthropic needs forward. We have put the Tiger Give Back Challenge on hold this year. And we are making our best effort to speak with every person who shared their sentiments.
 
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the core of our identity as a school and a school community, and if we are not leading on those fronts, who will?
 
I’m deeply, deeply appreciative of the offers of support, the high expectations, the recollections of times here when USN was not at its best—of all of it. And we understand our position of privilege. Although suggested by a number of our social media followers, nonprofits usually refrain from donating to other nonprofits as a matter of best practice. However, we urge you to consider giving to organizations like Black Lives Matter that support the African-American community in this crucial time as well as embracing causes that advance movements for equality, ending racism, and addressing police brutality.
 
Following on my letter to parents and alumni on Sunday, let me take a little time to also outline some of our responses as a school to events gripping our nation both in the immediacy of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor having their lives unjustly cut short and in the history of racial injustices going back centuries. While we are still not back on campus or in session, this week we have been able to convene:
  • A series of sessions for Lower School parents to guide conversations with our youngest students, acknowledging that those children see and process difference every day;
  • Sessions by grade level for our Middle School families, parents, and students to talk about race and racism, in addition to student affinity groups and full faculty conversations;
  • Forums for our High School students, in affinity groups for African-American students and for ally groups of other backgrounds;
  • Meetings planned by and for our African-American faculty and staff members. And faculty of all backgrounds are sharing professional development ideas and initiatives; and,
  • A special remote version for year seven of Horizons at USN, an academic enrichment program for 95 of  our Edgehill neighbors.
We’ve also reached out individually to a number of alumni, students, parents, and colleagues on a less formal basis. And we are building a webpage for all constituents, offering resources to build our individual and collective cultural competence and anti-racist capacity.
 
Looking further into the future, we have greater commitment than ever to build on the work of our Office of Diversity and Community Life’s four focus areas: Curriculum, Faculty Hiring and Support, Community Outreach, and Cultural Competence. Committee members, 40+ in number, have helped create an essential curricular unit on identity for all our K-4 students, they’ve prepared a series of real-life scenarios drawn from classroom situations that brought out painful issues of race and difference, we’ve coordinated monthly efforts to diversify our faculty and staff through intentional networking locally and nationally, and we’ve built partnerships with community organizations to connect with historically underrepresented populations in our city. In each area, we’ve made measurable progress year by year, but we need to make more, and faster.
 
This is not the work of a week or a month, it’s a purpose for a lifetime. But it begins anew this week, right now.
 
In that spirit,
Director
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