Sept. 25, 2020
Dear Interlochen community,
Shortly before the civil rights activist and congressman John Lewis died on July 17, he wrote an essay that was published on the day of his funeral. “When you see something that is not right, you must say something,” Lewis wrote. “You must do something… Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe.”
As our nation continues to reckon with racial injustice against people of color, the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on communities of Black and Brown citizens, and the targeting of minorities, John Lewis’s words sound a clarion call: silence is not acceptable.
His words resonate here at Interlochen, where we must each embrace a shared responsibility for ensuring that young people from all backgrounds build their confidence and develop their potential as part of our inclusive, global community. Racism or xenophobia of any kind have no place at Interlochen.
At this moment in our history, there is great energy and effort to foster a culture of belonging by achieving the goals of our Board of Trustees’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force:
- Recruit and enroll more students of color at Interlochen Arts Camp and Interlochen Arts Academy.
- Recruit and retain an increased number of faculty and staff from underrepresented communities.
- Enhance diversity and inclusion educational programming and training for students, faculty, and staff.
- Review and enhance curriculum, teaching, and learning to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Ensure that Interlochen’s policies, institutional infrastructure, and student services foster diversity, equity, and inclusion. We must also be ready to respond rapidly and skillfully to discriminatory activities.
On Juneteenth, leaders from our board and executive management team outlined the steps we are taking to achieve these crucial goals. Here is a summary of the work we’ve done so far:
- Dr. Aretina Hamilton assumed her new role as our first-ever associate director of diversity, equity, and inclusion in July and has already completed a series of diversity and inclusion workshops and discussions with all education employees and students. Dr. Hamilton also leads three newly created student affinity groups to provide students with the space to discover connections and support one another. Additionally, Dr. Hamilton supports a newly created student organization, the Student Diversity Advocates, who facilitate diversity initiatives in student life, curriculum, and on-campus civic engagement.
- This year, we expanded mandatory implicit bias training to all employees. The Campus Public Safety team, including Greenlake Township’s community police officer, Officer Mark Noffke, completed training two weeks ago. All employees will receive the training this academic year, and our trustees will participate as soon as the group is able to convene in person.
- We aligned our hiring process with diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. Mandatory DEI training for all hiring managers will take place tomorrow. Our Human Resources department created an HR DEI strategic plan as well as annual HR DEI goals.
- We are meeting with our regional law enforcement leaders to open up a dialogue and communicate the values of Interlochen. I regularly meet with Officer Noffke, and I recently met with the sheriff of Grand Traverse County and the head of Cherry Capital Airport.
- We are convening Interlochen leaders with staff, faculty, students, and alumni at regular intervals to provide spaces for reflection and recommendations as we continue to advance our efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion. To date, several meetings have taken place or are scheduled, including the following:
- Dr. Hamilton is assembling a Committee on Inclusive Excellence, which will convene students, faculty, staff, and alumni, to enhance institutional diversity efforts and provide recommendations to our executive management team.
- Later this month, Dr. Hamilton will engage Arts Academy alumni with our DEI strategies and programs through two virtual events.
All of this work continues to be supported and monitored by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group of our Board of Trustees, which includes a representative from every committee of the board to ensure this work is embedded in every aspect of our governance.
It is clear that our Interlochen family is galvanized by this opportunity for change. Our DEI efforts will be strengthened, refined, and expanded this year through important programming for our community. To further support this work, we are launching a new fundraising initiative, the Interlochen Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Fund, to provide additional resources to accelerate our progress in this critical area.
Many of our international students are learning with us remotely this semester and cannot be with us on campus right now. We miss them and appreciate all that they bring to our community. As we await their return, we must redouble our efforts to be a place that nurtures and celebrates global citizens.
In his final words, John Lewis pleas for peaceful action: “In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way.”
I urge you to take his words to heart and to stand up for what you believe with “the spirit of peace” as your guide. This is the only way we will uphold Interlochen’s core value of world friendship and foster the highest standards of artistic quality, academic excellence, and creative expression.