Dear Williston Students, Parents, Faculty, and Staff,

As students return to campus to join those who remained at Williston during March recess, we do so under the dark cloud of another tragic mass shooting—one that targeted the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in Atlanta, Georgia. During the pandemic, there has been a striking rise in anti-Asian crimes, verbal harassment, and xenophobia, which unfortunately only adds to a long history of Anti-Asian racism in our country. When our politicians, business leaders, and others with platforms fail to condemn the targeting of individuals based on race, identity, country of origin, or other identities, it is like a second layer of violence, causing our social fabric to tear to a point where it will take years to repair. But the lives lost, the anguish for the families of those killed, and pain for the AAPI community will remain a devastating reality forever.

Williston condemns this racism, and stands in support of our Asian and Asian-American students and their families, and the larger AAPI community. As a school that includes students from 30 countries and regions and 25 different states, Williston strives to make all students feel included and valued. While I acknowledge that there is still much work to do in this area, it is my deep hope that the Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging that we are currently finalizing will laser-focus us on getting closer to that vision in which every student feels a deep sense of belonging.

I know that all of us—students and adults— aspire to create a community predicated on respect, trust, and cultural understanding. In the weeks and months ahead, let’s be sure to protect and reknit the tapestry that is our diverse community, to commit to serving the good of all, and to stand up against hate. Today, though, I ask our whole community to join together in offering our support for our AAPI students and families as we stand against identity-based hatred in any form. I also want to encourage our Asian students to speak with any trusted adult—your advisor, dorm head, coach, Dean’s Office, Health and Wellness, me, or any faculty member—if you need support, want to report an incident, or have thoughts to share. We are here for you.

As we return to campus as a community in the shadow of this tragedy, I hope that we can find strength in one another, and that our spring term will bring with it good weather, a dramatic increase in vaccination availability to include teenagers, and a big step towards a return to normalcy.

Best wishes,

Robert W. Hill III, P’15, ’19
Head of School