We wish to make one thing clear: The Tavern is a completely student-run publication. We are a thoughtpaper made by students, for students interested learning outside the boundaries of their own institutions. Yes, we are students: everyday we walk into our classrooms, sit around Harkness tables, and engage in exhilarating discussions with not only our peers, but also our teachers. Although students contribute to the heart of the discussions, teachers are still a crucial presence in any classroom. Whether they are sharing their wisdom or serving as mediators in heated debates, teachers foster our knowledge, passion, and humanity—there is always something we can learn from them. For these reasons, starting this issue,The Tavern staff has decided to include teacher interviews.
Panel members conduct "Ten Minute T(ea)" interviews with teachers they deem to be especially beloved and respected by their respective institutions. The interview takes place over a cup of tea in the span of ten minutes. The interview is recorded and later transcribed by the interviewer. We hope that, by reading through these interviews, our readers will be able to gain special insight on intentional ignorance, insight that can only be brewed from experience and age.
Ten Minute T(ea) with Reverend Anne Gardner
Interview conducted by Sydney Olney
October 28, 2017
Q: How long have you and your wife Beth lived on campus together?
A: We came here and we were already married, so for the entire tenure of our time here, which started in September of 2008. So this is our tenth year that we’re [on campus], this year.
Q: Have you noticed any changes that have happened on campus regarding the treatment of LGBTQ+ faculty or in people’s perceptions of you?
A: I think there have been some alterations and modifications that I can specifically point to. During the course of probably the past twenty odd years, there’s been an evolution particularly in how LGBTQ+ faculty are treated in regards to their residential assignments. I know early on, there was a time when gay faculty lived in campus-provided housing, but were not allowed to live in the residences. That changed and faculty that were gay and lesbian were living in the dorms serving as house counselors, but only if they were single, and only in the upperclassman dormitories. I know in the 2009-2010 academic year, I was asked to cover in Double Brick for a house counselor who was leaving to do an educational program, which is now and was then a 9th grade girls’ dorm. To my knowledge, that was the first time an out gay or lesbian faculty member lived in a 9th grade dormitory. Depending on how long your lens is, there certainly has been administrative changes as far as LGBTQ+ faculty and likely staff as well. As far as how I’m “treated” on campus, I don’t know if I feel any different today than I did before. I think one of the great surprises for me in the hiring process, particularly given the fact that I was asked to join an intentional community, a community that dealt largely with adolescents, and that had a residential component… was that during my interview...I was not asked about my wife. It was very clear to me, at least from the perspective of those two women [then Head of School Rebecca Sykes and associate head of school Barbara Chase] that were in charge of this institution, that it was not a problem if I was gay. It was not a problem if I was straight. It was only a question of was I qualified to do the job I was being hired to do. That was enormously refreshing and surprising to me, and it was one of the reasons why I chose to come to work here, because I wanted to work for these two women who I felt had a very different perspective than a lot of employment landscapes that I had worked for before. I was pleased to see that. But I think that overall, I feel like we’ve been treated well from the word go-- particularly from the students, who are as welcoming and open minded and caring and compassionate as any I have ever met. That’s one of the wonderful things here, that the community is what it is-- it is the organism that it is-- because of the students. The kids here and the support networks that they provide for themselves, things like GSA, have been a real godsend for the adults too, not just for the kids.
Q: Do you think you could talk about the importance of LGBTQ+ faculty visibility and making sure that closeted students coming into the school are comfortable expressing themselves and knowing that it’s a safe place for them to be?
A: I think, probably, that question is better answered from the students’ perspective. But I know as an out adult on this campus, I’m mindful of the role that I might be playing in the larger landscape of the academy, and I’m conscious that I may be being watched even unbeknownst to me. I think that would be true of Beth as well. I think it’s particularly nuanced because I happen to also be the minister on campus, which I think can be confusing to people. I think they often feel like institutionalized religion and living as an openly out person are antithetical to one another. I, of course, believe that they’re not, but I know that’s confusing culturally to a lot of people. So, not only having people that are out on campus, but also people that are living and the dorms and having them be involved in the church on campus, that’s a lot of stuff to unravel. I think that it’s maybe of interest to students that I’m of a different generation than most of my faculty peers. They may think one thing about their faculty that are in their 20s, but to have somebody in their 50s or 60s lead this lifestyle, I think that might be an eye-opener for some of them. I’m probably-- and it pains me to say this-- some of their grandparents’ age, and in their parents’ generation, so I’m hoping that all of those things are signs and signals to any kid, whether they’re straight or gay, that [being LGBTQ+] is something that is normal and acceptable and okay and that it’s a way that you can live your life that can be fulfilling and joyful and untamed, and that that’s a good thing. And I think that for the straight kids to see that is important too, not just for the gay kids.
Reverend “Rev” Gardner is a house counselor and director of spiritual life at Phillips Academy. She has lived on campus with her wife, Beth, since 2008.