Sherri Rosen-Mason is a white woman, the progressive-and-proud dean of admissions at Hillcrest, a second-tier boarding school in rural New Hampshire. Over the last fifteen years Sherri and her husband Bill, the school’s equally liberal headmaster, have worked tirelessly to diversify the mostly white student body, increasing the number of students of color from 6% to 18%. When a draft of the admissions catalogue featuring photos exclusively of white and white-passing students comes to her desk, Sherri demands changes to reflect visual progress towards a more diverse student body.
Sherri and Bill’s son Charlie, a high-achieving senior at Hillcrest, dreams of attending Yale. But when his application is deferred and his best friend Perry—a biracial Black student with lower SATs and fewer AP courses—is accepted, Charlie unloads a tirade of privilege and entitlement, shocking both of his parents.
In a later conversation between Sherri and Ginnie, Perry’s white mother and Sherri’s close friend, Charlie implies that Perry’s acceptance to Yale was contingent on his race. Ginnie challenges Sherri to hold Charlie accountable for the ignorance of his comment. Sherri refuses to address the assumptions under Charlie’s statements, claiming he is an independent thinker, and says that she thinks Perry’s race was a positive attribute on his application. Sherri’s feigned indifference to the particular challenges and doubts Ginnie’s Black husband and son have been subject to at Hillcrest enrages Ginnie.
Over the semester, Charlie reflects on his behavior. Hillcrest’s admissions process continues, and Sherri admits an incoming class with 20% students of color—if she can find one more scholarship. Charlie is genuinely proud of her work. Inspired, he visits Sherri’s office to prepare her for a forthcoming editorial he has penned for the school newspaper, and the actions he plans to take to address his earlier outbursts and ongoing greater access to power and the cultural benefit of the doubt. As Charlie suggests a course of action, Sherri is confronted with the sincerity of her own intent—especially when her assumptions about her child’s future is at stake.
— Jenny Sledge