The Trinity School in New York City was founded in 1709 by William Huddleston to instruct the children of poor parishioners of Trinity Church, located at the top of Wall Street. The school ceased its affiliation with the Episcopal Church 1968, though it still has an Episcopal priest, salaried by the Church, to conduct its weekly chapel services. Trinity is the fifth oldest school in the United States and the oldest in New York in terms of continuous operation.
I myself was enrolled at Trinity in all twelve grades. I received a top-flight education at Trinity in the 1950s and ’60s from a superb faculty most of whom I recall with respect and in many cases real affection, as I do the school itself. Yet I have also disapproved of every change it has made since my departure decades ago, beginning with the trustees’ decision to take the place co-ed in 1971. The very strict and rigorous curriculum — five, six, and seven hours of homework nightly — gave me more than enough to occupy my mind without having the female element to contend with.
Several days ago, a man with whom I entered the first grade forwarded me a letter addressed to the “Dear Members of the Trinity School Community.” The letter below the salutation began, “Regrettably…” I have learned from long experience that the word is one that heads of institutions such as John Allman’s have frequent occasion to employ. And indeed, on this particular one, Mr. Allman had a very great deal to regret.
Project Veritas, headed by the conservative activist James O’Keefe, previously known as the scourge of the American abortion industry, had struck again. Last June 12 (according to the timestamp on the film), a saboteur sent by Veritas secretly videotaped an interview he conducted with one Jennifer Norris, a woman looking to be in her thirties who serves as the School and Upper School Director of Activities. Her “sentiments expressed in the video,” Mr. Allman protests, “do not reflect the mission or values of Trinity School” — at least not as they are expressed by Trinity’s public relations officers, anyway.
Allman begins his letter by deploring “the reprehensible way Ms. Norris and our school community were targeted,” and the fact that the recordings “were made without her knowledge and permission by someone who misrepresented himself.” This put him on the back foot from the start, as Norris, by her own testimony, routinely and deliberately misrepresented her own liberal political agenda by concealing it from the school administration.
What did Norris do? She boasts on the Project Veritas recording that she “disrupts” whenever and wherever she can, and that, as the person responsible for bringing speakers to the school twice a week, she would never invite a Republican. The principal of the high school supports her position, she says. After describing Trinity as a place where conservatives “definitely wouldn’t feel comfortable,” she continues, “Unfortunately, it’s the white boys who feel very entitled to express their opposite opinions and just push back. There’s a huge contingent of them that are just horrible. And you’re like, ‘Are you always going to be horrible, or are you just going to be horrible right now?’ Don’t know.”
Asked by the Veritas interviewer whether there is “any saving Republican white guys,” Norris replies, “I don’t know. I think they need to go. I think they’re really awful people. That’s kind of what I’m afraid of with my white students that are rich. I’m like — do you ever have to deal with this? They’re so protected by capitalism. It makes me sad.” She continues, “We just need some vigilante, Dexters. Like, ‘Here’s your community of targets.’” (“Dexter” is the serial killer on the eponymous Showtime series.)
The School will be retaining “outside counsel,” Mr. Allman promises the “community,” to conduct an independent investigation. During that time, this latter-day Madame Defarge will be on paid indefinite leave. Meanwhile, “we remain determined to model our conduct on our inspiring mission and the ideals of respect, belonging, and open inquiry that are embedded in it.” Also, “our core values: We care for one another. We listen and learn. We seek and speak the truth. We serve the common good.”
The headmasters of my time would have burned their mortarboard hats and renounced their university degrees had they been forced, at pistol point, to release such left-wing gibberish. The Latin and Greek master would have resigned his position and gone home to Oxford. The French one would have cursed “ce maudit Allman,” and retired to his native Paris and perhaps his alma mater the Sorbonne, where revolutionaries express themselves openly and in plain French.
Commentators have suggested that the school’s administration knew precisely what Jennifer Norris was up to, and tolerated it because its own politics are hers. That seems to me most likely. Trinity was woke avant la lettre. Now the school is getting its just desserts.