Jacob Fife '23
Last school year, the diversity committee at St. Albans announced that the theme for the diversity forum would be “Allyship.” When I first heard this announcement, I was very excited because it meant that St. Albans could help students become better allies to their peers, teaching about the struggles, large and small, that minority students face on a daily basis. Being queer myself, some things that I have heard people say, whether directly to me or not, has allowed me understand why St. Albans has such a low percentage of LGBTQ+ students are open about who they are. I was also very excited for the diversity forum last year because St. Albans was going to finally address the issues that the school had never discussed to any great extent in the past.
Even though a good part of the diversity forum was scrapped in the 2019-2020 school year due to remote learning, the diversity committee still was able to introduce affinity groups to St. Albans near the end of the school year. According to Wikipedia, an affinity group is “a group formed around a shared interest or common goal, to which individuals formally or informally belong.” Basically, affinity groups allow students who are similar, whether in sexuality, gender, race, or religion, to talk with each other about their experiences at school and discuss what the student body, teachers, and administration can do to become a more inclusive community. When affinity groups were first announced, students and faculty had a meeting to discuss what they would be like and address any concerns the students might have had. There was some backlash to the idea with some students arguing that affinity groups would divide St. Albans into cliques. This appeared to be the central issue surrounding affinity groups. Would affinity groups create cliques, and therefore destroy the St. Albans brotherhood on which we pride ourselves so much?
Since some students feel intimidated or scared to show their identities to their classmates, these students often feel disconnected from the St. Albans brotherhood. Since there is a lack of actual cliques at St. Albans, many of these students experience difficulty in finding a community where they can be seen and heard. Thanks to affinity groups, these students can find their voice and present difficulties that are special to them. Strong communities form from these affinity groups because the members can relate with each other in ways that the greater St. Albans community would never be able to do. As more students become comfortable in expressing themselves in affinity groups, these students will be more comfortable expressing themselves to their classmates. Therefore, affinity groups actually strengthen the St. Albans community rather than weaken it.
I have high hopes for the future of diversity and inclusion at St. Albans, both in the academic field and in the community. In fact, St. Albans plans to incorporate more Black authors into the English programs and teach more African American history. In addition, many students have put their pronouns in their social media bios as well as their Zoom names, which helps transgender and non-binary students feel more comfortable expressing their gender identity.
While St. Albans has made and plans to make advancements in diversity, the school still has a long way to go. Many steps can be taken to reach this goal, and with the introduction of affinity groups, and hopefully student unions in the future, St. Albans can make everyone feel welcome, safe, and part of the greater community.