The recent Paul Rossi scandal has reached all of our ears in one way or another. Information has been pushed our way from both tabloids and by word of mouth, but a full, objective account of the Rossi incidents has yet to be awarded to students.
Tension initially emerged during a February school community week in which a talk for white identifying students and faculty was hosted to take part in. The zoom session began with a brief conversation of norm-setting, but quickly shifted into a conversation about confederate monuments, race revolved inequalities in capitalism, and more. Nearly mid way into the meeting, the facilitator prompted a question surrounding the idea of “white feelings.” A member of the math department, Paul Rossi, interjected in the chat, inquiring, “what is a “white feeling”?” Rossi received some pushback in the chat of the meeting, as well as from other students and faculty members vocally. Rossi continued to ask questions in the chat, objecting to any norm of political correctness.
Rossi’s comments in the meeting sparked hesitation from students and faculty members on the willingness to participate in such anti-racism work. The incident at the meeting was mentioned in classrooms and advisories in an attempt to provide space for students to reflect. For the large part, students were somewhat dismayed by Rossi’s alleged objections in that meeting.
On April 13th, nearly two weeks after this initial incident took place, an article was published on former Wall Street Journal Opinion Writer Bari Weiss’ blog, written by Paul Rossi, titled I Refuse to Stand By While My Students are Indoctrinated. The piece spoke to the apparent “repressive ideology” that allegedly rules Grace. Rossi elaborated by stating that the anti-racist initiatives that Grace has taken have been “deeply harmful,” as it limits any sense of freedom in opinion. Rossi based this claim off of a few points, one being that he was obligated to treat students differently on the basis of their race. Rossi concluded his article by asserting that Grace was essentially preventing students from voicing non-liberal opinions, and that they would ultimately be shamed for sharing contrasting views.
Five days later on April 18th, a message from the head of school was sent to parents stating Rossi “chose not to return next year.” This differed from the later coverage by numerous news publications announcing that Paul Rossi was “relieved of his teaching duties.”. Just two days later, however, three recordings were released by Paul Rossi on fairforall.org. They consisted of a confidential conversation between the Head of School, George Davison, and Paul Rossi himself.
In the first recording, Rossi goes on to explain that Grace’s antiracism training shames white students for their inherent whiteness and then flips the question to George Davison, “don’t you agree?” Davison explains himself and claims, “Yes, Paul, I agree. We’re demonizing white people for being born.” In a separate recording, Davison claimed he had “grave doubts” about what “gets spouted at us, in the name of antiracism.” The recordings sparked tremendous concern from students and faculty members who have been working tirelessly this past year upholding the newly improved anti-racist framework that arose from the documented accounts featured over this past summer on the Instagram account, @BlackatGrace.
Just two days after the recordings were released, an email from the Chair of Board of Trustees, Olivia W. Douglas, was sent to students, faculty members, and family. The email went on to explain that Grace is committed to the ideals of antiracism and diversity in thought and belief. Douglas emphasized that the audio recordings of George Davison were seemingly taken out of context by a “disgruntled member of the faculty.” She added that Davison was simply trying to engage in a dialogue, and that he has deep disagreements with Paul Rossi.
Students continue to engage in an open dialogue surrounding the events that have transpired in the past weeks. Concerns and confusion regarding Paul Rossi, George Davison’s reliability, and our antiracism curriculum continue to linger in the air with no further word from the Grace administration aside from a guilt-filled address from Davison during a faculty exclusive meeting.