BSM Holds Two DEI Town Halls


Jackie Bucaro

BSM published an agenda and guidelines for its alumni DEI Town Hall before it occurred on Monday, November 16.

Jackie Bucaro, Editor-In-Chief

As initial assessments surrounding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) wrapped up at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, the administration chose to host two town hall meetings about how the DEI Action Plan is to proceed. A meeting was held for current parents on November 10, with another held for alumni on November 17. 

The town hall meetings were prompted by both the murder of George Floyd and the emergence of the @BlackAtBenilde Instagram account. Initially, the town hall meetings were designed as listening sessions that were expanded into full discussions involving presentations by the administration. “Dr. Ehrmantraut sent a message… a community-wide message… [to] alums, current, past, everybody, saying that he would like to hold two listening sessions. So that’s what those listening sessions turned into were these DEI town hall meetings,” Director of Mission Lisa Lenhart-Murphy said. 

To design formal topics for discussion at the town halls, administrators used questions submitted by parents and alumni who RSVP’d to the meetings. Much of the dialogue was focused around how parents and alumni proposed to improve the BSM experience for students of color. “When we talked about discipline, parents talked about, and we agreed with, the need for consistency and [a disciplinary code] that’s formal, to make sure every situation is dealt with equitably,” Lenhart-Murphy said. 

Since one of the factors that led to the DEI town halls was the existence of the @BlackAtBenilde Instagram account, the conversation shifted to that and similar student-led efforts. At the town halls, administration made clear their support for the sharing of such stories. “We’re really grateful for the information that has been shared on those two Instagram accounts [@BlackAtBenilde and @QueerAtBSM], because it taught us that there were people’s voices that were not being heard… We really appreciate the courage it took to share the pain that they felt. We hold them in high regard and high respect because what they did puts us on a path for improvement and self-realization in DEI issues around the school,” Lenhart-Murphy said. 

Input from students, parents, and alumni is expected to shape BSM’s DEI Plan, which is still evolving with new input from DEI consultant Kendra Dodd. “I think that it’ll shape the rest of the creation… We get all that information from our consultant Kendra Dodd, but then we also have these really important conversations with very important members of our community. And Kendra talked to students, current parents, she talked to all kinds of focus groups in the fall,” Lenhart-Murphy said. 

Due to the nature of Covid-19, the town hall meetings had to be held virtually. The meeting for parents had the option to show up in person, but turnout was limited due to a snowstorm that evening. “A best-case scenario would always be to have these conversations face-to-face… As soon as Covid allows for it, we really want to go back to having as many people in the room, face-to-face, together, because it makes the conversation more compelling, more interesting, more insightful. It’s easier to talk when you’re all in the same room versus when you’re 200 people on a computer screen,” Lenhart-Murphy said.