An Open Letter to UWC International and Response


When we published the article “Our Leadership Lacks Diversity” by Jesper Damberg last month, a great debate was re-sparked on the UWC Alumni Group on Facebook. Prior to our article one UWC Alumni, Farah Rangosch, got together with other alumni to write an open letter and send it to the International Office, receiving an answer from the International Office on behalf of Sir John Daniel, the current Chair of the Board and Pal Brynsrud, Chair of the NGC and Vice-Chair of the Board.


 

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 An Open Letter to our UWC Board Members, the Chairman of the Nominating and Governance committee, and the UWC International Office.

“At the heart of UWC’s distinctive model of education is deliberate diversity.”
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For many of us alumni diversity was one of the most important aspects of our experience at college. We have huge appreciation for this experience and for all the efforts being undertaken in continuing to make this possible for others, too.
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The October Newsletter from our UWC International Office makes it very clear that diversity is 
of core interest to the whole UWC movement, thus we have formulated further below questions and proposals in regards to the Strategy that will be finalised in the next days.
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At the same time the below posts in social media have drawn a lot of comments from the community:
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“I really liked the theme of this year’s UWC Day, celebrating diversity. But it did get me thinking. I know a lot of effort goes into selecting students from various backgrounds, as an alumni I think we have much improved the selections process all around to ensure this. However, with any organisation’s culture – a lot is governed top down and looking at the ‘diversity’ at the head of our colleges, I can only note the lack of it: Of the 17 heads of colleges : 4 women, of which 1 of colour, and 13 men, only 2 of colour. Where is the diversity in that? Why are we not more concerned about this? Do we issue a diversity report or do we have a diversity officer looking into this?”
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Apparently, it is “Western” schools (e.g., UWCUSA, Pearson, Mostar) that have done a better job on diversity in leadership (re women and POC) than the Asian and African schools. However, we think the issue of a lack of diversity at the top applies equally to all. It would appear that there is great diversity and talent at the faculty level, as they are the natural talent pipeline for heads but somehow it doesn’t appear to “trickle up”.
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We think self-reflection is important to achieve the diversity that we so much wish to nourish and celebrate. Just the claim that we support diversity is not sufficient if we do not actively dismantle the structural barriers that prevent people from all backgrounds to participate in the UWC movement.
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“When there was a heads meeting at Waterford last year, there was one session where all heads and a small audience assembled in a room with mirrors on one wall. We were made to face the mirrors. And it was shocking to see what looked back from the row that seated the UWC heads- predominantly white males smiling back at us. And in the other seats, sat students and staff from Waterford, like a rainbow.”
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Should it not be of concern when the Heads of colleges in Wales, but also in Asian and African countries display the same “non” diversity?
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Beside ethnic diversity, a more nuanced definition of diversity should also include people of other gender/religion/age/sexual orientation/gender identity, dis/ability, let alone socioeconomic background.
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It is a global problem, not only in education, that diversity diminishes as you go up the leadership chain. Some of our alumni, who, having spent time with the Heads and/or UWC International Board suspect they are uncomfortably aware of the problem but there seems to be no visible response.
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From past experience, we can assume, that when alumni and other faculty staff are involved in the hiring process, a higher level of diversity is achieved. As the hiring of a Head is a College Board decision, we as alumni have little influence today.
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As the Heads are chosen or hired by the individual College Boards, each College Board seems to be slightly focused on different aspects. As pointed out above, some of the College Boards are not fully committed to diversity hiring and may still expect ‘prestige’ appointments in the form of British headmasters. This would correspond to the predominant mode of operation of many traditional Boarding Schools.
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Here are some further questions:
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Q1: How can we ensure that the more marginalised voices are included in the UWC decision-making and that we in fact guarantee diverse representation in the UWC structure, including the heads of colleges, that incorporates not just various genders and nationalities but also people from different socio-economic backgrounds, people who have different (dis)abilities?
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Q2: How can we ensure that UWC schools are both physically and socially inclusive? Do our UWC campuses cater to the needs of people who have different abilities?
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Q3: How can we accomplish that faculty members are given a voice on committees, such as the Nominating and Governance Committee so that more visibility is available as to why the leadership pipeline isn’t working.
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Q4: Are the colleges mentoring/grooming/promoting talent (diverse or otherwise) from within? How do we compare with other international schools with a similar ethos, are we benchmarking against the right peer group?
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Q5: How can we make the progress and status of diversity at the top of UWC more transparent to all of us?
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Q6: Have we implemented a strategy of non-discrimination when it comes to salaries, maternity/paternity leave and professional development? These strategies also encourage more diversity, and needless to say they are only fair.
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We strongly believe that we’d have a stronger movement if diversity trickles all the way up. Our understanding is that things have been moving in the right direction, at least in the last few years.
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We think it is a huge success that a Director of Education has joined the UWC International Office and that one main focus in Proserpina Dhlamini-Fisher’s remit is Internal Leadership Development.
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Here are our proposals:
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P1: Strong guidance from the Nominating and Governance Committee, from the new Director of Education in our International Office, along with more professional development programs, to allow for more high-potential candidates from within the movement to rise up into the pool for boards to even consider.
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P2: We call on the UWC International Office and the Nominating and Governance Committee to provide guidance to the College Boards and monitor the process to ensure more diversity reaches College Board level.
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P3: We propose to issue a diversity report every year, which would help us track our own progress or find out the reasons why this might not be moving fast enough. We are certain that among the alumni we can find people who have professional experience in diversity and inclusivity, who would gladly donate their expertise in form of an initial structure for a report and their insights and thoughts on this topic.
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These proposals and questions raised above are the reasons for delivering our letter to you, so that we can have a dialogue and further improve on this very central issue, as per this year’s motto and really celebrate diversity in the wider UWC movement!
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Yours sincerely,
Farah Rangosch and multiple members of Alumni and current/former Faculty of UWC
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 The Response from the International Office

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Dear Farah,
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Thank you very much for the letter you have written to the UWC International Board, the Chair of the Nominating and Governance Committee of the Board (NGC) and the UWC International Office.
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Sir John Daniel, the current Chair of the Board and Pal Brynsrud, Chair of the NGC and Vice-Chair of the Board, have asked me to send you a reply on behalf of all three constituencies of UWC.
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First of all, I would like to apologise for the time we took in replying to your message, but as you know the last months have been very busy and also very important ones for UWC – and very followed by a much needed holiday break. On a positive note, we believe that the developments of the last few weeks are some which you will welcome.
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Secondly, I would like to thank you for having contacted us with regard to your concerns around diversity within the staff body and governance structures of the UWC movement – and in particular your concrete proposals with regard to certain areas of concern you would like to see addressed. We have shared your concerns and thoughts with UWC International’s senior leadership team, as well as the members of the NGC and the current Chair of the Chairs Committee.
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As you know, ensuring that the diversity of UWC’s student body is also reflected among UWC’s staff and governance structures has been a priority for many members of the UWC movement for the last several years. While we do think we have made some progress in this regard, we are certainly not yet where we should be.
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More than ever, this issue is prominent on the agenda for UWC’s work going forward.
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You will know that on 29 October 2017 the UWC International Board approved the “UWC Strategy: 2018 and Beyond”. In this new Strategy, you will see that the theme of diversity appears consistently throughout the document: “deliberately diverse communities” are at the core of two of the five new UWC Principles and diversity is a concrete action point in the “Govern” section (Point 1.6. of section “C – Govern”). Going forward, the UWC International office will be in charge of implementing these strategic goals – and the NGC and the Board itself will be in charge of defining benchmark indicators.
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During the October meeting of the UWC International Council, a discussion took place around the requirements that should be met by the new Chair of the UWC International Board (to be appointed in the course of 2018, since Sir John Daniel’s term comes to an end in December 2018). The conversation was a very honest, passionate and robust exchange with regard to the lack of diversity among previous Chairs of the Board. As a result, a task force was set up to be in charge of identifying candidates for consideration as incoming Chair. The task force consists in equal parts of male and female members, and its members are from Jamaica, Germany, Norway, Finland, Brazil and Japan – in our view, a first step towards more diversity not just in the “results” but also in the process.
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Further, as you mentioned in your letter, one of the main projects of the UWC Director of Education, Proserpina Dhlamini-Fisher, is to develop a UWC movement-wide Leadership Development Programme which aims to develop and strengthen talent from within the UWC movement – and to support staff members with potential and drive to work toward becoming future Heads. One of the main reasons for setting up this programme is our commitment to ensuring that we strengthen a more diverse group of leaders to grow within UWC. This will allow us to step away from the more traditional recruitment paths of international school staff and leadership members which often only tap into more traditional “anglo-Saxon” pools of applicants. We have recently received the first cohort of applicants and plan to run the first training session in the first quarter of 2018 and it is exciting to see the diversity of the applicant pool.
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Since last year, the Chairs of all UWC school and college boards meet twice a year to share experiences and lessons learned. One of the ongoing projects they are working on is a review of governance structures and processes – a part of which is also to review appointment procedures and policies. This is another area in which ensuring diversity and equal access to opportunities is one of the core drivers.
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Finally, and with regard to representation in UWC governance bodies, you will know that the composition of the UWC Council has changed quite radically recently: apart from all Heads and Chairs of UWC schools and colleges (except those serving on the UWC Board), it now also includes an equal number of UWC national committee representatives from all five UWC regions (Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and MENA) – alongside an additional 18 members from the UWC community “at large”. In total, the UWC Council now includes over 20 UWC alumni.
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We were also excited that a most diverse pool of applicants replied to the recent call for applications to the Community Engagement Committee (CEC) of the Board which I shared with you some weeks ago. The NGC will take a decision on the appointment shortly.
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I am also sure that the NGC will have a look at the list of concrete steps you propose in your letter during one of their upcoming meetings, in order to see which of the concrete action points could be incorporated in the work of the NGC going forward – and could possibly be suggested to the Chairs Committee for further consideration by each UWC school or college board. This will include discussing how we could monitor the diversity across UWC’s different boards and senior management teams going forward. Should you know of UWC alumni who are experts in the specific field, please do put them in touch with me should they be interested in volunteering their expertise to UWC.
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Last, but not least, we hope to see you alongside many other members of the UWC alumni community at the London Open House event on Thursday evening this week in London. And we of course also hope that the UWC Women Network will be setting up a lot of fantastic events in 2018! Do let us know if we can support the initiative in any way.
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With best wishes and many thanks for your continued passion for the UWC movement,
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Hannah
10 January 2018
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