Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Mr. Randy Pedro and Assistant Director, Dr. Craig Smith, sit down for a wide ranging interview to talk about their new roles, how their work aligns with the Prep's Jesuit mission, and what each of us in our community can do to bring about a more just world.
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and teacher in the Religious Studies department, Mr. Randy Pedro P' 12, '17 sits down with Father Bryan Massingale, James and Nancy Buckman Chair in Applied Christian Ethics at Fordham University, in a wide ranging interview about race in America.
During the summer, a group of young alumni met with senior members of the Fordham Prep administration to discuss their experience and to offer further suggestions on how the school can further develop a more welcoming and inclusive community. The group published a joint statement expanding on the action items found in Fordham Prep's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion plan.
Over the past several weeks, our nation has been shaken by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. In reflecting on these events, many leaders in our society have expressed a renewed commitment to racial justice.
In several sectors of our society, we have achieved progress toward greater racial justice and equality. At the same time, as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated repeatedly, we recognize that the sin of racism, which today may be more subtle and nuanced, is structural and systemic, and continues to plague our country, the local communities we serve, and our church.
Where racism sadly also exists within our school community, we express our sincere sorrow and offer our apology to any member of the Fordham Prep community who has been hurt or injured by racist acts. Whether these acts involved racially-charged bullying, jokes, offensive comments, or any other racist behavior, they have no place in our community as they are dehumanizing and harmful.
Racism represents a fundamental failure to answer the call to become men and women for and with others. Therefore we must -- and will -- do all in our power to form a community where everyone is respected and protected from racial harm or injury, and any other form of unjust discrimination. As followers of Jesus Christ, this is the least that is expected of us.
During these days, educational leaders are examining policies and performance within their institutions and their responsibility to take action to ensure that their schools meet the highest standards of diversity, equity and inclusion in both spirit and practice. Fordham Prep’s Leadership Team has reflected on these matters as well. We have listened to students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni. We have met on several occasions with our Committee on Diversity and consulted with our Board of Trustees. And we have shared several messages with students and parents, and the entire Prep community
Here are the questions at the heart of our reflection:
How does this moment invite the Fordham Prep community to more clearly embody our Catholic Jesuit mission and tradition?
Our mission calls us to form students to recognize God’s dignity within each person. How do we demonstrate and communicate that this mission necessarily includes becoming anti-racist?
Where do we discern the Holy Spirit guiding us to take actions to promote racial justice--actions aligned with our mission to form students to become faith-filled and loving Men for Others, committed to justice and the greater glory of God?
In response to these questions, we are pleased to share with you the following action plan of Fordham Prep’s commitment to the values of diversity, equity and inclusion. We look forward to continuing our dialogue with the Prep community in this critical area.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Christopher Devron, SJ Brian Carney Joseph Petriello, PhD '98
President VP of Mission Integration & Planning Principal
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core values embedded within Fordham Prep’s Catholic Jesuit mission and tradition. These values flow from our faith in God, in whose own image and likeness each person is created and imbued with dignity.
We are inspired by the vision of diversity, equity, and inclusion as articulated within the Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus. These preferences invite us to walk with the excluded in a mission of reconciliation and justice, and to accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future. Beyond opportunities for service and expressions of charity, we believe sustained accompaniment and respectful encounters on a human level have the power to transform us and our community in radical and life-giving ways.
Blessed with a distinguished faculty and committed leadership, Fordham Prep is well-prepared to implement concrete actions that, with God’s grace, will guide our students and community to reflect God’s reign of reconciliation, mercy, and justice. By seizing this moment, we are actively living the teaching of St. Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises: “Love is manifest more clearly in deeds rather than words.”
Therefore, Fordham Prep is committed to the following ongoing and new actions to...
Applying a more intentional lens of social justice and drawing on our Ignatian tradition and Catholic Social Teaching in Fordham Prep's ongoing curriculum review.
Continuing to teach our students the spiritual and religious resources, historical antecedents, cultural forces, and civic solutions that help them understand and respond to the public events and personal experiences related to race in their current lives.
Examining and, if necessary, expanding the diversity of perspectives in class texts and authors studied across all academic disciplines to ensure a plurality of voices and to promote a respectful dialogue on issues of race and racial justice.
2)Enhance professional development opportunities through:
Continuing our professional development efforts begun in 2018 through our partnership withDr. Marcia Chatelain of Georgetown University and through other resources. Our goals in these efforts include helping faculty and staff effectively examine their implicit bias, and explore and grow in their understanding of Catholic Social Teaching and anti-racism resources.
3)Sustain and support student diversity, equity and inclusion through:
Institutional Assessment:Through the office of the School Psychologist and the Counseling Department, continue to administer an annual school climate survey to measure and analyze internal longitudinal progress and benchmark externally with other independent and faith-based schools. Present this data annually to the administration and the faculty and, when appropriate, to students and parents so that the community may grow in its awareness of significant climate issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion
Self-Reflection and Personal Formation: During the 2020-21 School Year, explore and begin to implement best practices to help each student grow in his awareness of his own biases, his use of respectful speech, and how to become an active participant in the work of anti-racism. We will continue to leverage existing resources--especially within our counseling curriculum, campus ministry, and our retreat programs--to promote student growth in these areas.
Policies and Practices: In 2017, Fordham Prep revised our Student/Parent Handbook to strengthen and expand our policies on unacceptable student speech or behavior that harasses, denigrates or disrespects individuals on the basis of race, culture, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. We will continue to implement these policies to protect individuals and the community from such harmful acts and to give students a reflective framework to grow in their understanding of respect and care for others. We will review these policies annually to ensure they meet best practice standards and are consistent with our overall mission.
Diversity Programs: We renew our support for ongoing programming and activities sponsored by the Diversity Committee, the student-led Diversity Alliance, our annual Diversity Retreat, the Social Justice Committee, and various student cultural clubs [e.g., Albanian; Asian; Irish; Italian; Kawaida (e.g., African American); and Spanish (e.g., Latinx) Clubs] as well as affinity groups (e.g., Bridges: LGBTQ+Allies). Moreover, Fordham Prep strives to ensure that diverse student voices are represented in these groups so that programming and activities promote strong student interest and engagement.
Resource Opportunities: Fordham Prep will continue to dedicate resources to ensure that each student has full and equal access to all the opportunities of its educational and co-curricular programs and services regardless of his socio-economic background.
Leadership Opportunities: We will strive for representation that reflects our student population to ensure opportunities in all student leadership roles.
College Opportunities: To support first-generation college-bound students, we are continuing to expand targeted programming and activities in our College Counseling Program.
Family Outreach: To promote and reinforce a positive and respectful school culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion, we will enhance our partnership with parents through activities, programs, and presentations.
Enrollment:To identify, recruit and admit highly qualified students from low-income backgrounds, Fordham Prep will continue its successful partnership with Regis High School in expanding and sponsoring the REACH Program. We will continue to strive to provide adequate tuition assistance to REACH graduates who are accepted to Fordham Prep. In addition, Fordham Prep will develop a new endowed scholarship and an alumni mentorship program in honor of George Jackson ‘76. Details of this scholarship and program are forthcoming.
Staffing Resources: To guide, coordinate, monitor and measure our diversity, equity and inclusion programs as well as to counsel the school’s leadership and faculty, in the Summer of 2020, Fordham Prep hired Randall Pedro to serve as our Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). A tenured faculty member and outgoing chair of our religious studies department, Mr. Pedro previously served as Coordinator of Diversity and Inclusion. Dr. Craig Smith, also a tenured religious studies faculty member, will serve as Assistant Director of DEI. In making these changes, we have allocated additional resources to this important work. We will continue to partner closely with these key staff members to evaluate needs for additional support.
4) Improve hiring and human resources policies and practices through:
Continuing to diversify our applicant pool to attract highly qualified candidates by expanding the outreach of our job postings. Our goal is to continue the significant increase of diversity in our faculty and staff as seen over the past five year period.
Implementing implicit bias training as part of new faculty and staff on-boarding.
During the 2020-21 School Year, the Director of DEI, in collaboration with the Office of Mission Integration and Planning, will develop a comprehensive plan to ensure the continued and expanded implementation of these commitments and to monitor their impact with our students and broader community.
Even with our best efforts, we recognize that this list of actions and commitments is incomplete and a work in progress. We also acknowledge that any human endeavor to meet aspirations such as those we state here will only imperfectly express the Gospel imperative of love and God’s reign of justice. Therefore we invite you and every member of our community to support us as we strive for these worthy goals.
We also invite you to join us in praying that, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we will recognize the Risen One who walks with us on our journey to become a more just and inclusive community. For our faith and hope rest in the love of Jesus Christ, who has already overcome sin and evil, and in whose risen life we share.
Thank you to everyone who took part in Igniting Our Mission this past Saturday evening, supporting our past greats and current heroes! If you did not have the opportunity to attend or take part in the festivities, you can still make an impact and support our teachers with a donation.