May 30, 2018

Reflection From The Board of Trustees

Sent on behalf of the Starr King Board of Trustees.

The mission of the Starr King School for the Ministry is to educate students to counter oppression and to build just and sustainable communities. We, the members of the Board of Trustees, acknowledge that we have fallen short of fully upholding that mission, particularly in its charge of educating to counter oppression. We are called to lift up that mission, to preserve and strengthen it.

We recognize the difficulty and challenge of the work to dismantle not only white supremacy, but also the hetero-cisgender-patriarchal supremacies which intersect in a multiplicity of ways. We certainly appreciate the deep ECO work that has been done by Dr. Lettini and other faculty members, but we know that the ECO course must be greatly broadened and expanded, not only to all students, but to the staff, faculty and board members as well. Students and faculty are already doing that, and we will also be involved as the work proceeds.

We also want to learn from the work of the Mental Health task force. The Board reviewed that report at our April meeting, and we agreed on the importance of recognizing the effect of trauma and the need to provide support for our students’ mental and emotional health. While the specific recommendations from the task force are matters for staff decision-making, the Board will monitor them to understand the impact of white and patriarchal supremacy culture on the lives of our students and everyone at the school.

We feel very fortunate to have President Rosemary Bray McNatt at the helm, with her enormous skillset and valuable experience, but we recognize that she cannot do this work alone, and we commit to better supporting her and others in these ongoing efforts.

We take very seriously the challenge to create and support an institution that lifts up and values all members, all voices, all perspectives, and particularly those who have been historically marginalized, oppressed and silenced. We know we must do better, and we appreciate this wake-up call to the urgency of the need to do better now.

We ourselves as Trustees, despite our good intentions, have not all been adequately trained in recognizing our own social locations and in being appropriately mindful of our varying identities and positions of privilege and marginalization, and how these constraints influence our perspectives and our actions. We are each to varying degrees complicit in maintaining white supremacist culture, at the board level and at the school.

We do not yet know exactly what form our training will take nor whom we will enlist to help us, but please know that Starr King School for the Ministry has our full commitment to hold ourselves and the administration, faculty, staff and students to a higher standard, and a commitment to do the work, and to make this the priority of our focus as a board over the coming year. (Some of us participated in the webinar “How White Supremacy Manifests in Organizations” last Thursday, May 24, and we welcome suggestions for further educational opportunities to assist our work.)

We are very grateful to the students who have voiced their critiques despite the risks, and those who have dedicated enormous amounts of time and energy to better inform themselves and us as to the seriousness of these issues. We hear you and we commit to do better.

The Board members will say more as the specifics of our plans develop. In the meantime please feel free to communicate to us through the SKSM Student representatives, Quinn Dezarn and Dianne Daniels, or directly to me as SKSM Board Chair.

In faith and love,

Ted Fetter, Chair, for the Board of Trustees

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