Finding Space and Time for D&I


Courtesy of Creative Commons

“And everyone single one of you, every single one of you, has been the catalyst for a lollipop,” said Drew Dudley, a leadership speaker. During the last Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) gathering of fall term, students were shown a video of Drew Dudley’s Ted talk, “Leading with Lollipops”. It was a conversation based on leadership, the appearance of this idea in everyday lives. Through teachings like Drew Dudley’s “Leading with Lollipops” and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story”, D&I hoped to open up the community to vulnerable topics and initiate conversations on important dialogues.  

This year, instead of having a centralized theme, D&I focused each meeting on our core values: Leadership, Understanding, and Perceptiveness. “Our goal is building an inclusive community through engaging actively with the rich diversity at Groton; the focus is on dialogue and deep listening,” said Sravani Sen-Das, director of D&I. The concept of insightful listening and voicing opinions were present in the meetings.

“I’ve definitely witnessed progress regarding how comfortable students are with speaking and voicing their opinions,” commented Leah Pothel ’21, a member of the D&I committee who led the meeting for a third form dorm. 

Students also noticed a difference in these meetings compared to the open club meetings or workshops of prior years.”Since there was enough time for everyone to speak, it forced the speaker to truly share their opinions as well as forcing other participants in the groups to listen to what their peers are saying truly,” said Anthony Wright ’22.

“Although these groups were small, the size and comfort prompted me to share more and open myself up for a more insightful conversation,” says Annie Pei ’22. 

However, to some, these small groups restricted the variety of voices and opinions that would have usually occurred in groups of different forms. “Despite feeling more comfortable sharing, I think we lost some diversity of opinions and stories,” expresses Áine Ley ’22.

Plenty of time went into planning for the community gatherings. A group of dorm heads worked with D&I to help plan each conversation. Dorm teams, which included dorm heads, prefects, and affiliates, met during flex blocks to share plans and suggestions for the next community gathering. The agenda for each meeting was also shared with D&I sixth form members of the student group to be of help during the meetings with dorm teams. “Since this is a new program, we took pains to fold in planning meetings, so adults and seniors would feel confident about these conversations,” said Mrs. Sen-Das, director of D&I.

There is still work to be done. “The gatherings are a step in the right direction and they provide a groundwork for respectful conversations,” says D&I prefect Claire Holding ’21, “but we are staying in our comfort zone. If we want to progress as a community we need to start addressing more challenging topics.”

In the future, D&I plans on having three community conversations a term. Each gathering will continue to be centered on our core values. “An important aspect of these conversations is to talk across and understand differences in experience, identity, opinions, etc.,” says Ms. Sen-Das. As the year unfolds, the D&I committee hopes that conversations and languages used to conduct meetings will be normalized in discussions at Groton.