By Meghan Aslin
Art by Hallie Anderson
As students, it’s easy to pick apart what the faculty and administration could be doing better to increase racial diversity within the school, but in actuality, the faculty is just as invested as we are.
Diversity — whether religious, racial, sexual, political, etc., — changes the way that people perceive the world around them. It ensures that different perspectives are always present, urging people to alter, question and form their own opinions in the most educated way possible. As St. Mary’s girls, we aim to reach our full potential, especially when understanding how to gain and maintain an open mind.
As you stroll through the halls of St. Mary’s, it is easy to recognize that its claims of racial diversity do not match the student body or faculty. The percentage of people of color within the student body currently stands at 30 percent which does not represent the city of Memphis, whose non-white population is 76 percent. Additionally, the current student body and faculty do not represent an ideally equitable system. The administration and faculty notice this, and although their work may not be noticeable to all students, they are making changes in hopes of increasing this number.
I sat down with Dr. Sorin, sponsor of the student-led club “Facing History and Ourselves,” to investigate what the lack of racial diversity means. She told me that “it is definitely a topic of conversation recently,” and said that there have been consistent conversations in faculty meetings regarding this topic. Dr. Sorin also added that she, as well as many others, are extremely glad to welcome Ms. Jenkins, the new Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, a new faculty position here at St. Mary’s.
The current goal for Ms. Jenkins and the administration is to diversify the faculty. Ms. Jenkins explained: “Last year I, along with an organization I founded called the People of Color at Independent Schools (POCIS), organized the inaugural Independent School Diversity Career Workshop and Career Fair events, which had never been done before in Memphis.” Ms. Jenkins defined POCIS as an “affinity group but also as a vehicle to increase faculty diversity.” In the annual meetings of this group, perspective teachers sit, talk and ask questions to a panel about the application process and possible employment opportunities in the local private school community.
Hopefully, by using the values of POCIS and raising the number of people of color within the faculty, students of color will feel more represented, comfortable and confident in learning and becoming a part of St. Mary’s.
Dr. Leathers said, “I believe that diversity in our school community enhances the quality of the education that we provide and that it is essential to the development of well-rounded students. We respect and value the differences in ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status that are a part of our community.”
As Dr. Sorin best explained, “Change is slow. I believe that St. Mary’s is in it for the long game … they are not trying to reach “x” number of students of color, but they are trying to make this the same nurturing, fostering and educationally excellent environment for any student who comes here, regardless of their background.”
For & By Students
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