Representation in Winsor’s Affinity Groups

By, Crystal Yang

On the Winsor web site, as an introduction to their principles of diversity, it mentions that “Winsor strives to consciously create an environment of respect and inclusion and to support ethnic, racial, religious and socio-economic diversity among all the constituencies of the school.” The question, therefore, is: Are these specific needs of the students’ being recognized?

Affinity groups, or places where people of similar, underrepresented racial identities come together and offer support for one another, have been a staple of Winsor clubs for a long time. However, some students feel that the three affinity groups thus far, SISTERS, AsIAm, and Somos for students who identify as Black, Latinx, and Asian respectively, do not accurately represent them. Hana K. ’20 says, “…when it comes to mixed kids, affinity groups can be challenging. I went to AsIAm for around three years in Lower School, and though I thought it was a lot of fun, I often found myself feeling as though I did not fit in. There were other half-Asian girls, but they were all half-Asian and half-White, so I felt as though my darker skin and curly hair stood out.”

Enter Mosaic: the new addition to Winsor’s roundup of affinity groups for students who identify as mixed race. The group meets once a month under Ms. Ramos’ guidance and is headed by students Nicole C. ’18, Emily B. ’18, Mikako M. ’18, Alex B. ’18, and Kym M. ’18. The student leaders of Mosaic explained that the reason for naming the club Mosaic was because, “[We] felt that the word epitomized both the diverse element of our group but also the coherence of it. Through each of us has vastly different ethnic backgrounds, it is this shared experience of being more than one that binds us together.” Additionally, Ms. Ramos mentions that the club aims to “…bring awareness to the community that we have a significant population of multi-racial and multi-ethnic students whose experiences are, in part, shaped by that identity. I also hope that it will be a safe space for students to share their experiences…with other students who may have had similar experiences or who have faced similar challenges.” Hana says, “I don’t feel too dark or too light there, and I even met another ‘blasian’ girl at the first meeting. Before this, I had never met any other people sharing my racial identity…I think it is a great place for girls to really feel that their racial identity is valid.”

Yet even with the addition of Mosaic, some students still feel that it’s not enough. Asrah R. ’20, who identifies as Indian and Muslim, says, “I do think that sometimes AsIAm doesn’t always represent me accurately. Though there are Indians in AsIAm, I do feel that it is mostly geared towards Southeast Asians…it’s nice to have someone who understands you and your situation…but I don’t think AsIAm does that for me.” Additionally, Ifeanyi U. ’20 has noted that while her experience with SISTERS has been “incredibly empowering,” she also mentions that if she could change something about the way that affinity groups are currently run, she would increase “…the amount of leeway the heads of affinity groups are given. I genuinely believe in some of the visions my heads have for this school year, but there seems to be some resistance from the Winsor administration. I think it would be extremely beneficial to the overall Winsor community if affinity groups were allowed to do more within the Winsor community.”

This issue came up at a recent Upper School Meeting, during which students questioned whether affinity groups were allowed to host events that celebrated their specific backgrounds. While Winsor does host an event that is somewhat similar, the biennial International Night, Audrey W. ’20 notes, “As much as it seemed to be an enjoyable experience for many of us…I’m not quite sure it reached its original goal of educating students about integrating diversity and cultural understanding into the broader community.” During the meeting, some students proposed a student-led International Night to generate more interest among the student body and make the experience of organizing such an event more meaningful overall. Moreover, it would increase the rare interactions between the affinity groups themselves.

While Mosaic is a great example of progress and the Winsor web site acknowledges that there is “a continuing need to evaluate and revise [Winsor’s] diversity efforts,” there is still a lack of full representation within certain affinity groups and some issues with improving International Night. Winsor has made substantial efforts to develop a further outreach in regards to diversity, but there is always still more to be done.