Dismantling Racism: Building a Foundation for Progress
Reprinted from Traditions, Winter 2020-21
May 3, 2021
President Frank Miley announced a bold commitment to Dismantle Racism at Cretin-Derham Hall in the Summer 2020 issue of Traditions.
Recognizing that the killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed prompted an overdue call to action for our mission-driven school, Miley committed to a long-term initiative to be implemented over the next decade, with the goal of dismantling racism in our systems and in ourselves.
“Accomplishing such critical work will take time. We won’t fix this overnight. We must start today, work to make immediate progress, and commit to making change happen over the long term,” he noted in his August letter to our community.
As one of CDH’s values, the commitment to equity, or what Merriam-Webster defines as “justice according to natural law or right — freedom from bias or favoritism,” fuels our school’s effort to better understand the reality of racism as well as the recognition of our responsibility to minimize its impact.
Anton Treuer, Ph.D., an expert on racial disparities, cultural competency and equity, has been tapped to guide our school through a critical examination of racism in ourselves and in our school. Treuer, a Professor at Bemidji State University has authored 19 books and is the recipient of more than 40 prestigious awards and fellowships.
“Students at CDH want to make the world a better place. The world needs them,” Treuer explained. “Dealing with racial tension and injustice is one of the many issues they will face; but they will have to face it. CDH wants them to be able to face it prepared and as the best versions of themselves.”
Several foundational steps have been taken already, including launching a Dismantling Racism Steering Committee to direct the framework for the initiative at CDH. This committee is a diverse group of faculty, staff, alumni, members of the Board of Directors, and representatives of our sponsors. In addition, a Dismantling Racism Student Advisory Committee, led by Dean Aaron Benner, Assistant Principal Amy Bellus ’90, Principal Mona Passman, and Miley, has 15 members and is growing. Both groups have met several times and have been tasked to begin an individual and systemic process which will result in CDH-specific goals and next steps.
Miley enlisted Treuer to lead this long-term effort because he is someone who “believes in keeping people engaged in difficult conversations — which ultimately leads to changing hearts and minds,” explained Miley. “To have a significant impact on racial justice in our world, our efforts as a school community will arise from oftentimes very difficult and uncomfortable places. We believe that to do this well, we will benefit from having Dr. Treuer guide us in a way that is inclusive and driven by a true understanding of and respect for race and culture.”
At the beginning of the school year, Treuer presented an in-service for faculty, with another one planned for spring. He also spoke to students as part of our Justice Week programming. Student Council presented a framework for Civil Discourse to all students, faculty and staff in support of diverse points of view and respectful conversations about deeply personal and often divisive issues. The steering committee has also established action-oriented work groups to address a variety of race-related topics, such as curriculum, policies, and alumni outreach.
In addition, the Board of Directors has challenged each domain in the 5-year Strategic Plan to include specific goals regarding the Dismantling Racism Initiative. Domains include Catholic Identity, Student Life, Academics/Technology, Enrollment/Marketing, Advancement/Communication, Facilities/Technology, Finance, and Governance.
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