In recent days, members of our community have written to us — to faculty members, to me — with calls for Taft to become better and take more action in combating systemic racism so as to create a truly just and equitable community. As educators, we take that charge seriously and the last few days have included scores of conversations, listening and reflecting. I post here in hopes of partnership and for all of those who have reached out to the school, I thank you.
Part of being the school we want to be is first to unequivocally condemn white supremacy, anti-Blackness and racism in all forms and structures. Black lives matter. This is a human rights issue, not a political one. Second, we must commit to the work of creating a community that is in fact what we aspire to be. The work we do — as a nation, as a school, and as individuals — to fight racism is never-ending. Our mission of the education of the whole student is and always will be an inherently moral exercise with the responsibilities that come with that.
We begin as a school by looking honestly both at our present and our past. We must look not only at who we are today but also understand what we were in the past—a school that has not always included and welcomed all. To see and acknowledge where we failed our ideals is a sign of institutional strength and optimism. I love and believe in our school even as I acknowledge its present and past failings—with the belief that this is how all organizations and institutions evolve, change, and improve.
The school has taken many steps over recent years in our efforts to be equitable and inclusive, and we are motivated and committed towards more. In the past few days we have taken a number of steps. To be clear, these are only the start of what will be a long journey: the development of a strategic plan around more inclusive education; the welcoming of new alumni and faculty affinity groups in addition to those already established on campus; connection with and support of local and national groups whose work focuses on racism; continued professional development opportunities to raise awareness and anti-bias training for faculty; and a close examination of the ways we support students in counseling and other offices. We are also working in a coordinated and intentional way to reach out to and support students of color and to help facilitate discussion among students.
Our work in affirming the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion is foundational and ongoing, and it informs what we do everywhere and at all times. This hard and vital work is written into our most important documents and guides our practices. Still, we are aware that, too often, black students have experienced racism on campus and in town. As someone who cares deeply about every Taft student, knowing this brings real sadness and a strong commitment to change moving forward.
I recognize that we can always do more and that there will be hard and important work for years to come. I will be part of it and help lead it, but I believe the work has always been and must be shared. If Taft is community — even family— it needs all of us now more than ever. Please keep writing, emailing, and calling with suggestions, questions, criticism and challenges. We want to hear from you.
Let me close here. I have spent thirty-nine of my nearly sixty years serving the school. I love Taft. I believe in Taft. It is, like our nation, both great and imperfect; and towards an ideal we are always striving. Since 2001 I have had three goals: to honor our mission and motto, to create a positive experience for all students, and to leave the school even stronger for future generations. To those ends, the Board of Trustees, the faculty and staff, and I are committed. Thank you for reading this, and I send my best to all of you.
William R. MacMullen ’78, Headmaster
Please click here to read Monday’s message to the Taft community.