A message from the President’s Leadership Team:
The President’s Leadership Team thanks the Task Force for its report and the members for their work. When the Task Force was formed, the PLT agreed to respond to its report within 30 days.
President Anderson has exhorted us at the beginning of this school year to give one another grace. He describes this as, while holding one another accountable for our words and deeds, “presuming the best intentions from others, being slow to anger and quick to forgive, seeking understanding, engaging in authentic dialogue rather than rhetoric, looking for common ground, being aware of our own failings, de-escalating, and remaining resolutely hopeful.” It is in that spirit that we offer this response.
The charge to the Task Force was “To consider the demands presented by the Collective for Change on the Hill and the response to those demands from the President’s Leadership Team, and to make any recommendations regarding the demands by September 1, 2017.” The Task Force chose to fulfill that charge through a series of meetings in which members of the Task Force discussed among themselves the concerns raised by students and the College’s response to them. Based upon those discussions, they issued their report.
As the Task Force itself recognizes, it is time to invite more voices into the conversation. We agree that a Working Group should be formed to listen to those voices, and we therefore believe it is premature to respond to the Task Force’s other recommendations.
The Working Group’s charge should include activities that the Task Force did not undertake. There should be open forums, updates to the community on its work, and opportunities for those with information, experiences or opinions regarding the campus climate to be heard. The Working Group should meet with offices on campus upon whose work it considers. Experts and best practices at other institutions should be consulted.
We will move forward with appointing members for the Working Group and the President will share the group’s membership and charge with the campus community as soon as it is formed.
The President’s Leadership Team
A message from President David R. Anderson ’74:
As we begin the new academic year, I write to update you on further steps the College is taking toward the goal of creating and sustaining a welcoming, inclusive, bias-free environment at St. Olaf College.
Training for Faculty, Students, and Staff
This fall, all students, staff, and faculty will take an online course called DiversityEdu. This one-hour interactive program, created with college environments in mind, covers a broad range of issues related to diversity. DiversityEdu will be available for completion in early October. We will follow it up with opportunities to engage and discuss the learning from the program with one another. This training will be expected of everyone. Students will be required to complete it prior to registering for spring classes.
Additional Training for First-Year Students
During Week One, first-year students will take part in two additional training sessions:
- High Impact Training that presents a series of short skits in order to explore the dynamics of living in a diverse community. Small group discussions will follow.
- A Sustained Dialogue session that provides an opportunity for first-year students to discuss and build skills to address difficult identity-related situations. The social identities addressed include ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and class.
Additional Training for Faculty and Staff
- On August 31, during our Opening Day activities, an all faculty and staff Sustained Dialogue session will be led by Sustained Dialogue Campus Network Managing Director Rhonda Fitzgerald. Rhonda will ask each of us to consider how our interactions with others are framed by our own race and stage in thinking about issues of diversity, and by the college environment. This will be followed by facilitated small group discussions.
- Rhonda has already held a Sustained Dialogue session this past summer with staff in Admissions.
- The College secured a grant to offer employees implicit bias training, which helps all of us identify any ways in which our work is affected by unconscious or subtle associations that individuals make between groups of people and stereotypes about those groups. An initial workshop was held in May and another will be held in September. They are led by Anne Phibbs, formerly the director of education for the Office of Equity and Diversity at the University of Minnesota and now the founder and president of Strategic Diversity Initiatives, which helps organizations advance their equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts with approaches that are strategic, sustainable, and connected to mission.
To Include is To Excel
St. Olaf will begin a four-year faculty-student-staff collaborative project with $800,000 in support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The grant began on July 1, 2017 and continues to 2021. Funds from the grant will enable faculty development and curricular improvements that align inclusion and excellence with St. Olaf’s character as a college. We will first engage in a broad exploration of what distinguishes this generation of college students, and in a broad discussion of how teaching strategies and the curriculum can best support our students’ learning. We will then turn to exploring some of those strategies and to implementing curricular and pedagogical changes. Our efforts will ensure that our commitment to diversity generates rich opportunities for St. Olaf students. To learn more, visit the To Include is To Excel webpage.
Bias Incident Reporting and Process
The College has reviewed and updated the procedure for bias incident reporting. The bias incident report form has also been revised so that students can report incidents anonymously in the hopes that more victims will step forward when an incident occurs.
Center for Multicultural and International Engagement
We are welcoming retired Vice President and Dean of Students at Carleton College, Hudlin Wagner, this fall as Interim Director of the Center for Multicultural and International Engagement (CMIE). Hudlin will bring a wealth of experience to the position along with a passion and commitment to furthering the work of diversity and inclusion in our community. She will be with us until the end of the fall semester. We expect to name a permanent replacement in December.
All of these initiatives will have the greatest impact if they have your encouragement and support. Thank you in advance for lending your energy and your voice to our College’s commitment to fostering a welcoming, inclusive, and diverse community.
I am writing with an update on the College’s investigation into the racist messages and acts of hate that have occurred on campus.
We’ve completed our investigation of the incident involving the racist and threatening note that was reportedly left on a student’s car on April 29. We confronted a person of interest who confessed to writing the note. We’ve confirmed that this was not a genuine threat. We’re confident that there is no ongoing threat from this incident to individuals or the community as a whole.
We continue to investigate the other racist incidents, which we are taking very seriously.
I want to state very clearly that while this was not a genuine threat, we remain committed to the process we have begun to address the concerns about the campus climate that have been raised.
I am getting many requests for more information and follow-up to my message this morning. Considering the extraordinary impact that particular note on April 29th had on our campus, I sympathize with the desire for more information. I would love to provide it.
Unfortunately, Federal student privacy laws prohibit the College from disclosing the identity of the author of that note and from disclosing the actions taken by the College now that we know the author’s identity.
But I can tell you this. The reason I said in my earlier note that this was not a genuine threat is that we learned from the author’s confession that the note was fabricated. It was apparently a strategy to draw attention to concerns about the campus climate.
Despite this fact, those concerns are real and, as I said earlier, we are committed to the process we have begun to address them. We also continue earnestly to investigate all of the other racist and hateful messages that have been reported.
President David R. Anderson
Dear Members of the St. Olaf Community
This message is being provided as part of our ongoing commitment to keep the St. Olaf community apprised of the College’s efforts to locate the person or persons responsible for perpetrating hate crimes on campus. We will continue to provide periodic updates as additional information becomes available.
The College continues its cooperation with law enforcement agencies. We have shared the details of these incidents and identified evidence that has been gathered by the College. Victims of these crimes are encouraged to file a report and cooperate with the Northfield Police to facilitate an investigation into these matters. The Northfield Police can be reached at 507-645-4477. If desired, the College is able to assist individuals in filing a report with the police. To do so, you may contact a representative in the Dean of Student’s office (507-786-3503) or Public Safety (507-786-3666).
In addition to cooperating with law enforcement, the College has retained a computer forensic consultant who is analyzing evidence relating to one of the recent incidents.
If anyone has any information that may assist in identifying the perpetrator(s) of any of the incidents reported during this academic year, you are urged to contact the Dean of Students, Public Safety or law enforcement through the phone numbers identified above.
Director of Public Safety
St. Olaf’s Mission Statement: “challenges students to excel in the liberal arts, examine faith and values, and explore meaningful vocation in an inclusive, globally engaged community nourished by Lutheran tradition.” An inclusive community is a foundational value.
The Board of Regents recognizes that concerns about race, diversity and inclusion at St. Olaf are legitimate and must be addressed. By this Resolution, the Board demonstrates its support for the initiatives and measures taken by the College leadership to confront these issues.
May 4, 2017 Resolution of the St. Olaf Board of Regents
The St. Olaf College Board of Regents hereby reaffirms the College’s principles and values concerning inclusion and diversity including the following:
- The Board loudly and uniformly condemns racist behavior, and in particular the racist messages left on campus by unidentified persons. We deeply regret the impact these messages have had on the St. Olaf community and especially on students who do not feel safe. The Board calls upon College leadership to continue aggressive efforts to identify the perpetrators and hold them accountable for their actions.
- All students, faculty and staff are welcome at St. Olaf. We strive to maintain a diverse community of teachers and learners. To promote this principle, students, faculty, staff, and visitors must feel safe on campus and experience a welcoming environment.
- The Board reaffirms its commitment to St. Olaf’s strategic goals regarding recruitment and retention of diverse students, faculty and staff and reaffirms the continued monitoring of goals that are ambitious, specific, timely and measurable.
- The Board affirms the importance of maintaining an environment in which all members of the community feel empowered to freely express their ideas and engage in civil discourse about them.
- The Board empowers the College leadership to do everything within its power to promote understanding and genuine reconciliation among all St. Olaf community members and stakeholders.
Unanimously approved this 4th day of May, 2017.
Dear St. Olaf Community,
This afternoon, the St. Olaf Board of Regents held a discussion with leaders of The Collective for Change on The Hill and listened to their concerns about racism and diversity on our campus.
The board unanimously approved a resolution demonstrating its support for the initiatives and measures taken by college leadership to confront these issues.
I’m sharing this resolution with you in its entirety. I said earlier this week that college leaders are committed to moving forward in a spirit of collaboration to address these important issues, and the board supports those efforts as well.
Thank you for your attention to this important issue.
David R. Anderson ’74
President, St. Olaf College
Dear Members of the St. Olaf Community,
We’re writing to share information about the investigation the college is conducting to find the perpetrators behind the racist messages targeted at students. While there are details about the active investigation that we will not share publicly, we do want to make some of the steps we are taking clear to everyone on campus.
We are using all the resources at our disposal to find the individuals responsible. This includes reviewing security camera footage, examining records from computers and printers in public spaces, and comparing handwriting samples. We have potential leads based on this evidence that we are actively pursuing.
The college has been in contact with and obtaining assistance from the Northfield Police about these incidents. St. Olaf’s Public Safety officers have notified the Northfield Police Department when incidents arise that are directed at students. Additionally, on Sunday, Northfield Police Chief Monte Nelson met on campus with St. Olaf’s Deans of Students, Public Safety Director, Public Safety Captain, and the General Counsel to discuss student safety and the details of the racist threats. On Monday, Public Safety officers communicated with Northfield Police about obtaining fingerprint evidence relating to one of these incidents. The college has and will continue to work with Northfield Police, and we will continue to update the community with information about the status of our efforts.
In the meeting with Chief Nelson on campus, he indicated that his department would not initiate a criminal investigation unless a victim came forward to report a crime. We encourage students to report any crimes to the police, and we will support them in contacting law enforcement and in accompanying students to meet with officers. It is the college’s policy to honor victims’ wishes about whether they want to include the police. If there are victims who wish to file a police report, you are encouraged to do so by calling 507-645-4477. If you would like assistance in making a report, you may contact Public Safety at 507-786-3666 and/or the Dean of Students Office at 507-786-3503.
As we’ve said before, someone knows who is perpetrating these acts of racism. We ask for the St. Olaf community’s assistance in identifying the individuals involved, and we thank those who have already come forward with information. Anyone aware of any information that could assist in identifying those responsible for perpetrating these or other offenses should immediately contact the St. Olaf 24-Hour Public Safety Dispatch at 507-786-3666.
Director of Public Safety
Dear St. Olaf Community,
At 3 p.m. today, we agreed with the student-led group “Collective For Change on The Hill” on a process for addressing concerns about racism and lack of inclusion on our campus. Sharing our Agreement with you now fulfills one of its terms.
This the first step in a process towards a long-term solution, and all of us on campus are committed to moving forward in a spirit of collaboration to address these important issues.
David R. Anderson ’74
President, St. Olaf College
Hundreds of St. Olaf students gathered in Buntrock Commons last night after a racist message was left on the windshield of a student’s car. This follows several other racist acts on campus throughout the year, including written racial epithets and a message aimed at another student. In addition to the sharp rise in incidents, it is also deeply troubling that the perpetrators have begun targeting messages to specific members of our community.
These acts are despicable. They violate every value we hold as a community, and they have absolutely no place at St. Olaf.
When the first report arose last October, the college notified the campus and launched an immediate investigation. We have spared no effort and are using every tool at our disposal to catch the perpetrators of these hate-filled acts. St. Olaf has notified Northfield Police, and we are working with law enforcement. Each time a racist act has been committed, the college has notified the campus.
We ask for the St. Olaf community’s assistance in identifying the individuals involved. Someone, somewhere knows who is perpetrating these acts of racism. Anyone with information that could assist in identifying those responsible for perpetrating these or other offenses should immediately contact the St. Olaf 24-Hour Public Safety Dispatch at 507-786-3666.
The students in Buntrock Commons last night shared their fear, anger, and frustration. They also took time to tend to one another’s physical and emotional well being, as you would expect Oles to do. These recent acts of racism, while painful, have opened important discussions about how we can better address the broader issue of racial discrimination.
We appreciate the members of our campus community who are advocating for meaningful action. During the next week there will be several campus meetings involving our students, faculty, staff and Board of Regents. We will use this feedback to create a long-term strategy and communicate this with you in the coming weeks.
Brad Hoff ’89
Director of Engagement, Alumni & Parent Relations
Dear Parents and Guardians of St. Olaf Students,
Many students have gathered tonight in Buntrock Commons after a racist message was sent to a student at St. Olaf. This follows several other racist acts in our community in recent weeks.
The repeated violations of our values by people who have sent hateful and threatening messages to members of our community are simply unacceptable.
The safety of our students is our top priority, and we are doing everything we can to catch the people involved in perpetrating these hate-filled acts. An active investigation is under way, and there are several leads that we are following up on using every tool we have at our disposal. We have also notified the Northfield Police Department and have a protocol in place to ensure their full cooperation.
Someone, somewhere knows who is perpetrating these acts of racism. We are asking for the St. Olaf community’s assistance in identifying the individuals involved. If you or your student are aware of any information that could assist in identifying anyone responsible for perpetrating these or other offenses, please immediately contact the St. Olaf 24-Hour Public Safety Dispatch at 507-786-3666. Be sure to maintain an accurate record of the timeframe for when events may have occurred, any photographs or other records, and information about any individuals you observed in the vicinity.
We appreciate the members of our campus community who are advocating for meaningful action in response. We are supporting their efforts and, most importantly, listening to their insight and concerns.
Dean of Students
Vice President of Student Life