August 16, 2022
Note from the editor: Most of our readers know that NAIS is searching for a new President. We would like the search to be a more open process, therefore subject to questions from independent school constituents. Consequently, we are publishing a series of articles with one question each to candidates for the next NAIS President. This series includes: 1. Next NAIS President Question Series | Part 1: On Curriculum & Knowledge | Sanje Ratnavale 2. Next NAIS President Series | Part 2: Supporting Teacher Voices | Alden Blodget
Today’s question: What is your definition of equity in the context of independent schools? Should independent schools be concerned about equity? If so, what are the challenges and solutions for independent schools in delivering equity? If not, why not?
In addressing this question, in addition to the broader question of how the school should act in a broader context, we would encourage future candidates for NAIS President to consider the matter from multiple perspectives:
- The school as a developer of students
- The school as an employer of faculty
- The school as the focal point of the alumni and the broader mission
In each of these roles, and from each of these perspectives, the questions of “what constitutes equity” and “what constitutes the pursuit of equity” will have different, layered answers. The question of how leadership can best operate in the context of academia has long produced a variety of answers. The most iconic is probably that of Clark Kerr, the great former Chancellor of the University of California, who when asked in the late 1960s what the duties of a college president were, memorably said there were three: Parking for the faculty, sports for the alumni, and sex for the undergraduates. Presidents of colleges these days clearly have shown different priorities as any of these three constituencies would attest.
Before launching into this analysis we would also encourage any prospective President to start a discussion of equity by addressing the inherent conflict between the notion of equity as a broad social goal, and the exclusivity (the opposite of inclusivity) that is a fundamental feature of the typical independent school. Historically the flight to non-public schools has been as much about the desire to escape the inadequate equity of insufficiency for the abundance…