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Our Thoughts on Our Country and Community

For the first time in a long time, nearly all in our country can agree on something. We join our students and alumnae, the Sisters of Loretto, the Catholic Church and so many more in our outrage at the death of George Floyd. We have seen lives taken simply for the color of one’s skin too many times. Our students, families, and alumnae of color confront these inequities on a daily basis. As a predominately white institution, the majority of our students will never know the struggle of their classmates who have to wonder Am I Next? That is the ultimate privilege. Many people in our country and, yes, in our school community, are only deeply looking into the topic of racism and leaning into the concept of privilege for the first time this week. As communities protest across the St. Louis region and the country, in areas that previously would not have raised their voices, we see that. It will take all of us acting collectively with intention to start to create the change we need. We ask our students to both use their voices, and to acknowledge when they should let the voices of others be amplified. As Americans, we are fighting two pandemics right now—one is COVID-19 and the other a disease that has afflicted our country for centuries. Both are killing people of color at higher rates, but one can’t be contained with masks, or social distancing or prevented with a vaccine. Our voices and our actions are the only possible cure for the centuries-old pandemic of racism in America. As an institution with 10,000+ alumnae, students and supporters, we have an opportunity to contribute to that cure. 

In working for change we must also hold a mirror up to examine our school community. We often cite the Loretto values of Faith, Community, Justice and Respect. Our philosophy tells us diversity enriches. Our Catholic social teachings and Loretto exhortation call us to work for justice and act for peace. But the microaggressions and exclusion that impact people of color everyday, happen in our school. These forms of racism are the foundation of the issues we are all appalled about right now. The jokes, the N word (even lip synced in a tiktok or otherwise), the expectation people of color should educate white people, the comparison of our own struggles to racism, the tokenization of our friends of color, not calling out racist comments, these issues are the catalyst. If we can’t rid ourselves of these instances of racism—from our minds and our homes—then we can’t really be shocked by the events in Minneapolis, or Louisville, or Brunswick, or countless other cities in America, including our own. We hear the demand for action. We hear your voices raised in conversation and know it is needed. We thank those who have started and restarted dialogues with Nerinx administrators this week. Statements mean nothing without actionable change, and impactful change that was not already in progress needs the voices we heard this week. We hear those who have said they have been let down, ignored and disappointed in the past. A new school year offers an opportunity to do better. As we recruit what will be the 100th class of Markers this fall, we work to ensure the issues our students of color describe end here. We will work together, and we will encourage our students, in particular our white students, to also work alone, to start their journeys through education on the road to being better people and better allies for their Nerinx sisters and all marginalized people. Only when we as a school support, engage and uplift all our students will we have fulfilled our Nerinx Hall mission. 

We are called to be the change in the world, and to deliberate Christian Action. In our staff and student training; in our giving of time, talent and limited treasure; in our recruitment of students, staff and contractors; in our classroom discussions; and in our minds we commit to doing the work and making changes. It is only then that we can fulfill this call to Christian Action. Our fiscal year starts July 1, our school year in August and we will keep you informed as we move forward. 

Immediate Steps

This is not an exhaustive list. We will continue to update you on our progress as the 2020-21 school year approaches. 

  • We have contracted with an outside expert to lead our Cultural Competency work for 2020-21. During the 2019-20 school year, we received funding through the Boniface Foundation to begin this work. We partnered with the Diversity Awareness Partnership, on the first phase of this work, a Cultural Competency Survey. The survey included multiple choice and open-ended questions allowing students and faculty members to share their views on diversity, inclusion, the culture within Nerinx, and more. When the survey closed, 531 individuals (students, staff, faculty) out of 602 completed the survey.

  • The survey revealed areas where we were doing well and where we could improve.Those issues will be addressed in the subsequent phases of this project. More than 61% of those surveyed agree they want to participate in further training and education that helps them better understand individuals who are different than them, 67% agree diversity efforts are visible, leaving significant growth opportunities, 8% report being singled out at some point because of their identity (race/ethnicity/religion/disability status/gender), 21% report they witnessed or experienced acts that would be considered racial discrimination, 18% agreed their family’s finances prevent them from experiencing all Nerinx has to offer.

  • In terms of open-ended questions, students and teachers want more open dialogue about issues related to Diversity & Inclusion, and that Diversity among students and staff should be a priority. Some students reported feeling tokenized or asked to speak on behalf of a broader group (race/LGBTQ/religious affiliation). Tuition and socioeconomic factors were cited as barriers to achieving full inclusion on all categories.

  • The overall strategies the Diversity Awareness Partnership identified to move forward were 1) Increased need-based scholarships and Diversity Awards, 2) Specialized training and education and 3) Recruitment and retention plans for faculty, staff and students. 

  • A non-employee entity will also handle the reporting and support of bias incidents beginning in Fall 2020. This is a similar process used by universities and corporations throughout the U.S. and will allow for faculty and staff to report incidences of bias they witness or are victim of at Nerinx or involving Nerinx students/faculty. We also commit to ongoing training for faculty and staff and anti-racism training for students beginning freshman year.
     

  • In early May 2020, the Board of Directors formed a subgroup led by Chriss Nick Hill '95 to make recommendations to school leaders on additoinal steps for diversity and inclusion. This group includes alumnae, alumnae parents, former faculty members and representatives from the Loretto Community
     

  • The 2020-2025 Strategic Plan affirms our desire to recruit students and staff from diverse populations. The current racial breakdown of students is 87% Caucasian, 5% African American, 2% Asian, 2% Hispanic, and roughly +/-1% of each of the following identifications: Bi-Racial, Multi-Racial, Native American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander or a self-identification of other. In contrast, the Metropolitan Statistical Area of St. Louis (Missouri Counties of St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, Warren, and St. Charles and the Illinois counties of Bond, Calhoun, Clinton, Jersey, Macoupin, Madison, Monroe and St. Clair) is 74% White, 18% Black , 3% Asian , 3% Hispanic , 2% Two or More Races and >1% Native American, Pacific Islander, Other. We will work toward growing our numbers to ensure Nerinx is reflective of the broader St. Louis community. We are also examining our relationships with outside vendors to ensure the companies we work with reflect the diversity of the region.
     

  • The Strategic Plan also outlines a desire to leverage alumnae support through opportunities for mentorship, connection and engagement. We are appreciative of those alumnae who have indicated an interest in mentorship. If you’d like to be a part of this program, or future opportunities to connect and share, please email us. The Strategic Plan also has a target goal for the Counseling Department to develop better relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities in response to input and conversations from alumnae and parents who expressed a strong interest in HBCUS being better represented among our graduates.
     

  • In response to the Cultural Competency Survey revealing many students feel they miss out on opportunities at Nerinx due to financial circumstances, the Class of 2020 Experience Fund was created this spring. Proceeds from this fund will help bridge the gap to ensure students from all backgrounds can fully experience Nerinx. This goal of this fund will be to assist students with fees for items such as athletics, ACT Prep, dance tickets, Junior Rings, college application fees and more. 
     

  • The survey, and our dialogue with alumnae, students and parents also revealed an overwhelming desire to increase the funding for the Diversity Award and other need-based aid. In the early 2000s, Nerinx established the Diversity Award for incoming students. These awards provide financial aid up to 1/2 tuition for qualified students. Diversity awards are now stackable with other need-based aid and Merit Scholarships. For the 2020-21 school year, 10 incoming students received the Diversity Award, with 34 total students receiving awards. Our supporters provide $1 million in assistance through fundraising initiatives such as the raffle, auction, Founders Day of Giving, monthly giving, etc. However, we annually provide more than $1.4 million in aid. We could have a $2 million shortfall this year, as high as 1/5 of our budget, due to the COVID-19 crisis and job losses. This is just to maintain our enrollment. If you wish to contribute to the Experience Fund, Diversity Award or other scholarship funds, you can do so here.

Want to be a part of any of these efforts? Email us.


 

My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.

Pope Francis

The killing of George Floyd was senseless and brutal, a sin that cries out to heaven for justice. 
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

O Suffering Jesus!
O Sorrowful Mary!

We give you glory, thanks, and praise

O bless our works and guide our ways.