We Will Do Better: A Pledge to the Branson Community

A Letter to the Branson Community:

In the past few weeks, we have seen social media pages and posts shared by students and alumni about their experiences with racism at their high schools and colleges around the country. There are two Instagram sites relevant to Branson, @Bipoc.of.marin and @Branson.bipoc, where our students and alumni have posted about their lived experiences at Branson. Reading these painful posts is deeply troubling and has compelled us to examine closely not just our history, but all of our practices at the school. This, combined with the larger reckoning taking place in the United States – the long-overdue acknowledgement of centuries of systemic oppression against Black people, demands to defund and reform our law enforcement and criminal justice systems, calls from students and alumni to their high schools and colleges around the country to confront the racism in our communities – all of this has provided us with a unique opportunity to reflect deeply about the role that Branson has played in perpetuating systemic injustice over the last 100 years and how we must do better in our second century. 

Branson strives to be a Beloved Community: a place where there is interconnectedness between all members, and where we work to create a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and love for all fellow human beings. This desire for a true Beloved Community requires us to acknowledge that Branson is part of a privileged educational system that is exclusionary by nature and that has adversely impacted some members of our community who come from marginalized communities. Of historical note is the fact that when Branson was founded 100 years ago, Black and Jewish young women were specifically excluded from applying. Thus, we cannot deny that there has been racism in the very foundation of our school.

We offer our deepest apologies to those who have been harmed by their time at Branson. This letter is our pledge that we will do better, and will actively do our part to dismantle systemic racism and social injustice at Branson and more broadly in our community.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) is one of the four pillars of our strategic plan, and while we have been diligently working for several years to improve our efforts in these areas, the events of this spring have provided us with an urgency and a renewed sense of purpose to the importance of the anti-racist work we must undertake. What is clear to us is that there is much to do, more to say, and more voices to be heard. We intend to create a path forward that will lead to an equitable and affirming community for our students, families, alumni, and employees of color—and all who identify with groups that are marginalized and discriminated against in our country. We feel the weight and the burden that we have unduly placed on our community members who come from historically marginalized communities. We further recognize that it is our responsibility as leaders to both listen and to act. As such, we firmly and sincerely commit to doing better.

While Branson's DEI office is assisting in developing this plan, the responsibility lies with all of us. We, as the leaders at Branson, assume this responsibility with gravity and commitment and sincerely hope you will join us in this important work. We have identified several areas for immediate action, which include but are not limited to the following:

  • Curriculum: Audit our content and teaching practices to ensure that they are grounded in DEI principles
  • Employees: Identify and complete a rigorous program of anti-racist and anti-bias training 
  • Students: Ensure appropriate affinity spaces and offer anti-racist programming and training
  • Families: Provide affinity spaces as well as professional development opportunities in anti-bias training
  • Alumni: Provide affinity spaces, listening sessions, and advocacy
  • Financial: Provide additional support where needed and when possible

We want to thank our students, past and present, for their courage in bringing their experiences into the light of day. Acknowledging those experiences is our first step in reforming our practices and making amends to those who have been harmed. We believe that through examining ourselves and more purposefully living our mission –  "Branson develops students who make a positive impact in the world by leading lives of integrity, purpose, learning, and joy" – we can and will become a place where equity reigns supreme, where each member of our community feels a deep sense of belonging, and where we rigorously prepare our students to live and thrive in an interconnected world. 

Sincerely, 

Chris Mazzola, Head of School, and the Branson Administrative Team 
Claudia Lewis, Board Chair
Ben Bodipo-Memba '87, Co-Chair, DEI Committee of the Board
Julie Carlucci, Co-Chair, DEI Committee of the Board
JuanCarlos Arauz, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

If you have any questions and/or concerns, do not hesitate to reach out directly to our DEI Director, juancarlos_arauz@branson.org.