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By Monica Chan '21 and
Luc Francis '21
An informal, student-organized Zoom call in June consisting of Upper School students from various affinity groups, the Black and Asian Student Unions, SDLC (Student Diversity Leadership Committee), and CASE (Civic Action and Social Engagement) leaders indicated that there were a lot of aspects of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at Pingry that needed to change.
That Zoom call was really just a group of friends trying to make sense of the tumultuous political climate and the writhing public discourse that dominated the nation during the late spring and early summer. Many of us were frustrated with the passive tone that people both in and outside of the Pingry community used to acknowledge the presence of these pervasive, societal issues. It became increasingly apparent that the students involved in the DEI program felt that the DEI program was extremely segmented and groups were isolated from each other. As a result, substantive social change, such as curriculum alterations, seemed impossible. We decided to consolidate our thoughts into a multi-part proposal that we ultimately sent to the administration, outlining communication- and curriculum-related issues. And thus, the Pingry Allyship Collective (PAC) was born. We [Monica and Luc] are the point people for day-to-day operations, but we have a whole team of support and advisors, including Director of DEI Mr. Gilberto Olvera and Upper School Assistant Director of DEI Ms. Alexa López, without whom none of this would be possible.
In a time where performative action and reactionary solutions are rife, the Pingry Allyship Collective aims to transform the realizations and lessons from education and discussion-based DEI work into tangible changes in the student culture, curriculum, and extracurricular activities. We also intend to serve as a school-wide liaison between the various DEI groups that our members represent and the Pingry administration on diversity-related activities, discussions, and issues. PAC aims to transform the way that DEI work is perceived—we are not just a group that wants to have conversations, but deliver tangible change through methods that were not considered previously, such as mediums of art, literary research, and public resources.
When confronted with the truth that no institution, even in this time, is totally capable or willing to handle all aspects of DEI, it is easy to feel frustration, guilt, and defeat. The fight to create a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive community is a long and hard one. However, the long gestation period of these initiatives should not engender complacency, but should rather highlight the urgency of the situation. We wanted to redefine DEI work from "conversational" to "project-based" to affirm the fact that a discussion forum, a workshop, or even an honest conversation with a friend is not enough to cement change; they are just the beginning.
The Pingry Allyship Collective is not just a club with a singular focus. We have a roster of 48 students—currently all Upper Schoolers, though we are discussing how we can connect with and mentor Middle and Lower School students as well—who are each involved in one or two project groups, ranging from helping the Middle School DEI programs to research on identity politics in literature. The groups are largely autonomous, and members of the PAC advisory team (the original group of Student Union, affinity group, CASE, and SDLC members) are dispersed through each of them to help advise and knit together the multiple, ongoing projects.
At PAC meetings, we gather to discuss each group's progress and how we can take next steps. Everyone is welcome at these meetings, members and non-members alike, and can join whichever project group they choose. Those who join our meetings are always encouraged to comment on existing projects, propose their own projects, or just catch-up on what the group is currently doing. For example, Isabella Briones '22 has just finished our first project: a glossary of DEI terms used at Pingry that will be published soon for the community to see. Our "open door" policy supports our goal of making Pingry's DEI work more accessible. We notice a lot of unfamiliar faces at our meetings, which makes us hopeful that we are succeeding in our goal. You can find the link to our meetings, which are generally held two Wednesdays a month during community time, on the Upper School Student Activities Calendar.
PAC's project list contains three main project types: internal, community, and collaborative projects. Internal projects are led directly by PAC members; community projects are led by members of the PAC team who work with the larger school community to organize events, programs, or curricula; and collaborative projects are those in which PAC members work in tandem with other clubs or student organizations to focus on the intersectionality between DEI work and other aspects of our lives.
The goal of the Pingry Allyship Collective is long term. We fully understand that change will take time and that it will require years, even decades, of focused and thoughtful attention to issues of social justice and ethics from determined student leaders who are supported by their collaborators in the administration and the faculty. We are hopeful at the prospect of this group and believe that PAC will become a mainstay of Pingry's student-led diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
If you have any questions, would like to get involved in the Pingry Allyship Collective, or are interested in reading our letters and proposals to the administration, please feel free to email Luc Francis '21 or Monica Chan '21.
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