24 Sep Launching Summer Seminars 2022!
Dear Friends, Supporters, and Associates of Telluride Association:
Telluride Association is pleased to announce the launch of the Telluride Association Summer Seminars in the summer of 2022. These programs for high-school sophomores and juniors replace our previous summer programs, the Telluride Association Sophomore Seminars (TASS) and Telluride Association Summer Programs (TASP). More details about the individual programs will be announced in the coming weeks and months on our website. In this letter, we outline the work the Association has done over the past year to prepare these new programs.
In the summer of 2020, we converted our summer programs to online formats in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although the online programs were successful and well received by faculty, students, and staff, we decided to suspend our programs in 2021 for several reasons. Most immediately, the ongoing disruptions and uncertainty caused by the pandemic put significant stresses on our all-volunteer board, and raised serious concerns about our ability to run programs in a safe and equitable manner in 2021. More importantly, the murder of George Floyd and subsequent growth of the Black Lives Matter movement amplified longstanding concerns within the Association, and particularly among the Association’s Black members, about how our summer programs (and the Association more generally) reinforce and perpetuate white supremacy and anti-Black racism. This specific concern related to another longstanding concern that our summer programs, and particularly our junior program, TASP, had become increasingly elitist and removed from Telluride’s mission to prepare promising young people to lead and serve through programs focused on critical thinking and democratic community. Suspending our programs for a year offered us an opportunity to think through these issues.
Over the past year, the Association conducted a thorough review of our summer programs, investigating everything from student recruitment and seminar topics to faculty training and disciplinary procedures. We explored how these programs contribute to a culture of white supremacy by reviewing reports and feedback from the past decade of programs and interviewing recent participants, staff, and faculty. We discussed the challenges of creating a Black-centered learning community in TASS, and the hierarchies of age, race, and reputation that often emerged between TASS and TASP. We analyzed the limits of our ability to provide fair discipline to students at both programs, and particularly the disproportionate impact of our disciplinary procedures on students of color. We also reflected upon the trends toward credentialism and academic elitism that our faculty have noted in the past few years.
As a result of this first year of work to reimagine our high-school programming, the Association decided to recharter our summer programs to align them more closely with our mission and with an explicit goal of combating racism and anti-Blackness. There are several pieces to this work:
- We are retiring the TASS and TASP names. Instead, we are offering two new programs: Telluride Association Summer Seminar – Critical Black Studies (TASS-CBS), and Telluride Association Summer Seminar – Anti-Oppressive Studies (TASS-AOS). Both programs will be overseen by a single Telluride Association Summer Seminar Committee.
- TASS-CBS is an affirmation and extension of our commitment to critical Black studies and the creation of Black learning communities. The program will place greater emphasis on the methods of critical Black studies, and focus more specifically on the needs and interests of Black students.
- TASS-AOS will integrate the analysis of power, privilege, and oppression more thoroughly into the study of humanities and social science topics, and give students the tools to recognize and critique the role of race and other forms of social difference in their communities.
- To eliminate the previous age hierarchy between TASS and TASP, we will instead offer both TASS-CBS and TASS-AOS to both sophomores and juniors. (We will separate grade levels within each program.)
- We have established new, more comprehensive learning outcomes for both TASS-CBS and TASS-AOS that will guide our recruitment of faculty and seminar topics and form a basis for evaluating the success of our seminars. These learning outcomes aim to balance three areas: intellectual and academic skills, attention to race and other structures of oppression, and the practice of democratic self-governance.
- We are revisiting our staffing structure to strengthen on-the-ground support for participants. We also plan to hire a dedicated summer program manager in 2022.
- We will implement a transformative justice approach to community building.
- We will continue to revise our recruitment and application process to reach students who might otherwise be unaware of our programs or disadvantaged in our application process.
Not everything has changed: both TASS-CBS and TASS-AOS will be six-week, residential seminars, free of charge. We remain committed to the humanities and social sciences as useful academic frameworks for developing the skills of leadership, service, and critical thinking that form the core of a Telluridean education. We will also continue to offer work-replacement and travel support to reduce financial barriers to participation.
We are excited to launch our new summer seminars for high school students in 2022. Over the coming year, we will continue to refine the goals and structure of our new programs, and we expect that work to continue in the years to come as we hire new staff and reflect on the first year of our new programs. We recognize that these changes are only one step in the longer project to address anti-Blackness within the Association, but we believe that they are an important step in that direction.
We are grateful for your support of Telluride Association over the years, and hope that you will continue to do so as we enter this new phase in our history of offering transformative summer programs for high-school students.
Morgan Whittler, President
Michael Thornton, Vice President
Candice Wang, Co-chair, Telluride Association Summer Seminar Committee
Carlos Gemora, Co-chair, Telluride Association Summer Seminar Committee
Isabella Grabski, Chair, Summer Program Review Working Group