The President's Blog

Inclusivity means a shift in cultural norms
Jim Hansen

Inclusivity has long been a stated value of our community but its importance is growing and with it our efforts to shift our cultural norms.

For the first time this year Hill-Murray celebrated a Black History Week, joining the weekly celebration of different cultures including Hispanic culture week and have started planning for next year a full month of inclusivity events to include different Asian nationalities as well.

As our population shifts naturally to one of more diversity we are shifting as well in our programming to align with our value of inclusivity in our belief systems of not just different cultures but also different faiths, economic backgrounds and those with unique learning talents and challenges.

In the past few years we have experienced a serious event of hazing, have had instances of students making racist comments, and had individuals share allegations of harassment and bullying both in person and on social media.

Similarly, but different as we have expanded our program for learning differences our average ACT score has gone up and our college acceptance rate and 5-year graduation statistics have continued as strong as anytime in our history.

While the cases of unwelcome behavior are isolated and not pervasive in the culture the existence of pockets of micro aggression are present in our school community. I know I was one of those smart Alek kids who said hurtful things to gain attention, a laugh and embarrass others. I am ashamed to this day about that behavior. I changed. Ignoring that truth about myself and our young students is not an alternative but addressing the potential growth of that behavior in a more positive growth mindset is.

We have an opportunity to make our stated goal of an inclusive community a reality for EVERY student EVERY day. Maybe in doing so we can create model individuals for society committed to erasing injustice and promoting equality.

Focusing on past wrongs only fuels anger and resentment that deepen young minds cognitive dissonance of what their experience actually is vs. what the stories of the past tell them their reaction should be.

Each student is “Welcomed as Christ” and should have onboarding, campus ministry, retreat and advisory lessons all in a culture supportive of their individual gifts and preferences. We are planning an effort for next year to design a system of inclusive and leadership development in a spiritual environment that can be the positive grace to form students who natively recognize that calling each other names, posting hurtful statements online or making racist comments is not acceptable-even if said in a supposedly humorous way. We can and must do more. And we will.

In the next month I will be asking the School Board to appoint a Task Force of Students, Parents, Teachers and Staff with outside help to design this program and have it ready for implementation in the fall of 2020. If this is a topic of interest for you I hope you will volunteer when invited to share your observations and ideas with the Task Force.