Updates

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Open

Dear St. Olaf Community,

The Working Group on Equity and Inclusion met last week to discuss our initial recommendations that will be included in our report. We recognize that the Working Group is just one step in a process toward long-term solutions.

We spent significant time discussing what will be one of our principal recommendations — the formation of a permanent St. Olaf Advisory Council on Equity and Inclusion to carry this work forward and continue to address important issues related to diversity and individual and institutional racism experienced at St. Olaf.

We also met with the leader of the St. Olaf Economics Club and a leader of the campus conservatives. They shared experiences that showed intolerance and a lack of civility on campus. We are concerned about marginalization and injustice of any kind. It is critical that St. Olaf be a safe place where people are able to have civil discourse about very contentious issues, with space for everyone to feel that their views are heard and valued.

While we are in the process of drafting our recommendations, there is still time to provide input. The Working Group is holding open office hours to provide an opportunity for anyone who would like to talk to Working Group members, share their experiences, provide input, and learn more about the framework of our recommendations.

Wednesday, April 11
Valhalla Room
2-4 p.m.

Thursday, April 12
Buntrock 145
10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Monday, April 16
Buntrock 143
10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Wednesday, April 18
Buntrock 143
3-5 p.m.

Tuesday, April 24
Buntrock 142
4-6 p.m.

We hope you will join us. We are here to listen to your input, questions, and concerns.

Respectfully submitted,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

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Dear St. Olaf Community,

Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington returned to campus Monday and Tuesday to meet with the Working Group and speak to the broader campus community.

On Monday, Dr. Washington spoke at chapel in the morning and as the 2018 James Reeb Memorial Speaker in the afternoon. His lecture “Social Justice 2018: The Work Continues …” centered on the idea of building an institution’s capacity to engage injustice and create more inclusive, equitable communities. We encourage you to watch the lectures linked above.

Dr. Washington then facilitated a second conversation with members of the Working Group, the Collective, the Task Force, and President Anderson. The goal of the conversation was to continue to have authentic, open conversations with the students and faculty/staff members who initially brought these issues forward. We are grateful for their leadership in elevating issues of racism, diversity, and inclusion to the highest level at the college.

On Tuesday, the Working Group met to discuss our initial recommendations for our report. Our recommendations are focused on providing greater accountability, intentionality, alignment, and sustainability for work in equity and inclusion across the college. We began considering recommendations in the areas of access and inclusion, climate and community, scholarship and learning, institutional commitment, and sustainability.

We look forward to further engaging with the community on recommendations in these strategy areas, including participating in a student forum the first week in April. Details will be shared as soon as they are available.

Respectfully submitted,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Open

Dear St. Olaf Community,

In the past week, we have held multiple conference calls to debrief on our meeting on February 23 with the Collective, the Task Force, and President Anderson and prepare for Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington’s next visit on March 19-20. In addition to serving as the 2018 James Reeb Memorial Speaker, Dr. Washington will facilitate a second meeting between the Working Group, the Collective, the Task Force, and President Anderson.

One of our main objectives as a Working Group is to increase trust among people who together will lead the efforts to improve diversity and inclusion on campus. We hope that having authentic, open conversations, like the ones facilitated by Dr. Washington, will move us forward and continue the process of building a community and campus climate that is welcoming to all.

Additionally, we have begun the process of formulating our recommendations for improving diversity and inclusion at St. Olaf. When he is on campus later this month, Dr. Washington will also meet with the Working Group to discuss best practices that he has seen on other campuses across the country and engage specifically in the recommendations being considered by the Working Group.

We look forward to sharing these recommendations with you.

Respectfully submitted,
Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion

Thursday, March 1, 2018

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Dear St. Olaf Community,

Last Friday, Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington facilitated an important conversation with members of the Working Group, the Collective, the Task Force, and President Anderson.

After his initial visit to campus in January, Dr. Washington felt that it was critical to bring this group of stakeholders together to create a space for deep, authentic conversations; to begin the process of building trust and real relationships; to explore where we have been, where we are, and where we want to be; and to share hoped for outcomes to move this effort forward.

At the beginning of the meeting, each participant was given the opportunity to share what was on their mind and in their hearts about the past, present, and future of inclusion at St. Olaf. The group acknowledged the historical challenges and frustrations with campus climate issues associated with civility, bigotry, and systemic racism. Over time, these factors have eroded the level of trust and transparency among and between various communities on campus and their relationship with the college’s leadership.

Participants sought deeper engagement with race and racism at the interpersonal and institutional levels. A common fear among all stakeholders around the table was that the movement was stalling and that we as a whole won’t make lasting change.

As a Working Group, we know that increased training and changing policies aren’t enough. We need to change the culture on campus to create an environment where all of us thrive. Our recommendations will strive to accomplish this with both short-term and long-term efforts.

We appreciate the willingness of all stakeholders to be vulnerable and open in our meeting. We plan to convene this group again to continue our important conversations when Dr. Washington returns to campus on March 20.

In addition to this meeting, Dr. Washington and the Working Group also met with other stakeholders on campus during the day on Friday to help move forward the efforts of the Working Group. Stakeholders included:

  • President’s Leadership Team (Dr. Washington only)
  • President Anderson (Dr. Washington and Working Group)
  • Race and Ethnic Studies Director Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Professor Jon Naito, and Professor Lisa Moore (Working Group only)

From all of us on the Working Group, thank you for your continued interest in and feedback on our work. Your participation and support are crucial to our success.

Respectfully submitted,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion

Friday, February 9, 2018

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Dear St. Olaf Community,

The Working Group on Equity and Inclusion’s findings and efforts to date were presented to the Board of Regents during its meeting last week.

We reported that the college’s mission, which includes being an inclusive community where people of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and ideas come together in a spirit of mutual respect and inclusion, is not being met for all members of our community. We also reported that changing culture in a sustainable, intentional way will be challenging and require ongoing work. We can and should continue to implement needed initiatives, but they will not be enough to quickly change St. Olaf’s culture. The Regents agreed with these conclusions and were very supportive of our work to date.

The Regents recognize and appreciate the complexity and importance of the Working Group’s work. Last spring’s protest led to a commitment by the Board of Regents to actively listen and work to create an inclusive environment for the entire St. Olaf community. The Regents — like the members of our Working Group — recognize that change will take time and persistent effort, and the Regents reaffirmed their long-term commitment.

We discussed preliminary ideas about how the Board can support and help lead this work, including:

  • Incorporating the Working Group’s findings as an integral part of the college’s strategic plan
  • Establishing an oversight structure with a review process to ensure sustained progress
  • Using the Board of Regents committees to hold the college accountable
  • Conducting a deep examination of structural barriers, including St. Olaf’s traditions, through the lens of inclusion
  • Increasing the capacity across the entire campus for students, faculty and staff to be able to handle difficult and sometimes uncomfortable discussions about difference — inside and outside the classroom

The Working Group is thoughtfully considering the approaching May 1 deadline for our report. Our vision is to provide a road map to a positive and enduring transformation of the St. Olaf community. We are heartened by the Regents’ commitment to our efforts, and will need the support of the entire community to make this vision a reality. More to come.

Respectfully submitted,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Open

Dear St. Olaf Community,

Yesterday the Working Group on Equity and Inclusion met with Provost Marci Sortor and Dean of Students Roz Eaton, both of whom implement diversity and inclusion efforts. We entered the meetings with several questions and came out encouraged by the care and attention they are putting to fight racism at St. Olaf. We believe that everyone has a role to play in creating a welcoming campus community, and our challenge as a Working Group is to help guide these efforts and recommend areas of improvement.

We first talked to Provost Sortor, who oversees all faculty members as well as the college’s curriculum. She shared several related efforts that are already underway:

  • The General Education Task Force is reviewing the college’s general education requirements. There could be opportunities to better weave elements of diversity and equity into these requirements, especially in first-year courses.
  • Faculty recruitment processes seek applicants with both academic expertise and emotional IQ.
  • The To Include is To Excel grant provides opportunities to review our curriculum in light of how our diverse student body engages with that knowledge, as well as examine faculty and staff development opportunities.

We next spoke with Dean Eaton, who oversees student life on campus. She reflected on this spring’s protest and shared several interesting insights about the work ahead:

  • Dean Eaton is working closely with the Student Government Association, which has prioritized race and inclusion as an issue they want to continue to focus on this academic year.
  • She has received feedback that the community would like to have more conversations about race and racism in the classroom, at residence halls, and throughout the campus.
  • She is working to improve Week One, the first-year orientation program, to better prepare students for school and life on a residential liberal arts campus. Done right, Week One could help create a common experience and starting point for people of all backgrounds.

At the end of each meeting, the Working Group shared with Provost Sortor and Dean Eaton that the issue of racism and diversity has been elevated to the highest level. As co-chairs and members of the Board of Regents, we are here to eliminate barriers at the institutional level to ensure that we create a more inclusive campus. This issue is so fundamentally important to the college that we plan to continue to engage with this issue at the board level well beyond the tenure of the Working Group.

Respectfully submitted,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion

 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Open

Dear St. Olaf Community,

The Working Group on Equity and Inclusion is continuing to meet and learn from campus leadership. On our conference call today, we prepared for meetings next week with Dean of Students Roz Eaton and Provost Marci Sortor. We are also planning to brief the Board of Regents during their meeting next week and seek their feedback. Next month, Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington will return to campus. Preparations are underway to make productive use of his visit on February 23.

We have received the results of the Campus Living, Learning, and Working Environment (CLLWE) survey that was administered to St. Olaf students, faculty, and staff in November and December 2017. Here are links to the executive summary and full survey results. While the results provide some insight, the Working Group recognizes that many in our community felt that the survey tool itself was problematic in the way it framed questions about incidents of discrimination. We interpret these results with caution and know that statistics alone cannot accurately reflect the lived experiences of racism and discrimination. This survey and the critical feedback we received in response to it are just one of many data points the Working Group will consider as we focus on developing solutions to create a more inclusive campus climate at St. Olaf.

Respectfully submitted,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion

Friday, January 19, 2018

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Dear St. Olaf Community,

Over the past two days, Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington led discussions with dozens of students, faculty, and staff about racism, diversity, and inclusion on the St. Olaf campus. This was a powerful learning opportunity for all of us, and we are grateful for those who participated.

We are still in the process of listening, discerning, building relationships, and building capacity among our members. Before we can develop long-term, sustainable ways to change the culture in our community, we need to fully understand the problems we face. The events that led to last spring’s protest were not isolated incidents. People on our campus have not and continue to not feel welcome. There is a problem of racism in our community. Our charge is to develop solutions to this problem.

Dr. Washington met with President Anderson, the Collective, the Task Force, and GLOW, and facilitated open forums with students, faculty, and staff. He also met separately with faculty and staff of color, which was one of the few times this group has been brought together. Throughout these discussions, Dr. Washington heard several themes about the St. Olaf culture and our Working Group that we acknowledge.

  • We need to be transparent, empathetic, and authentic in all communications. The administration could also benefit from this advice.
  • We recognize that there is a lack of trust in our process due to the way the Working Group was formed and the way members were selected. We want to be clear that despite being formed by President Anderson, we are a fully independent group. Our goal is to work collaboratively and build trust among all members of the community.
  • We acknowledge that microaggressions, racism, and other issues with inclusion occur on our campus.
  • We need to create safe spaces for our community to engage in tough conversations about racism, diversity, and inclusion issues.
  • We recognize that some of the diversity training and surveys that have been conducted over the past several months have not been as thoughtful as they could have been. We want to learn from these experiences so that we can make improvements in the future.
  • We strive to balance the community’s desire for urgency with the need to be thoughtful and purposeful as we develop our recommendations.

We understand that the timing of Dr. Washington’s visit was difficult for many students, faculty, and staff who were off campus during Interim. We felt an urgency to meet with Dr. Washington in January so that he could immediately help inform our work. He will return to campus multiple times this spring as we continue to listen, collaborate, and develop our recommendations.

While we still have much listening to do, we are eager to begin fruitful collaborations to address short-term and long-term opportunities. We have asked Dr. Washington to facilitate these collaborations with groups who have led diversity and inclusion conversations. We are in the process of extending invitations and will provide more concrete information about these collaborations as details become available.

We feel strongly that we have made significant progress over the last few days. We are grateful for everyone who has engaged with the Working Group and look forward to many more meaningful conversations and collaborations.

Respectfully submitted,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion

Friday, January 12, 2018

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Dear St. Olaf Community,

Today the St. Olaf Working Group on Equity and Inclusion held a conference call with Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington to prepare for his visit to campus on January 17-18.

On his initial visit to campus, Dr. Washington will meet with the Working Group, students, and other key stakeholders. Additionally, during his visit, the Working Group is holding two open forums — one for students and one for faculty and staff. We encourage you to provide your ideas and feedback at these forums.

Student forum
Wednesday, January 17
6:45-8:15 p.m.
Lion’s Pause, Buntrock Commons

Faculty/staff forum
Thursday, January 18
8:30-9:15 a.m.
Lion’s Pause, Buntrock Commons

Alumni
While the on-campus forums are limited to students, faculty, and staff, we still want to hear from you. Please submit your ideas and feedback online.

Thank you for your continued interest in our work.

Respectfully submitted,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion

Friday, January 5, 2018

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St. Olaf Working Group Update: January 4 Meeting

Dear St. Olaf Community,

The Working Group on Equity and Inclusion gathered on campus this Thursday, January 4, for a meeting that spanned much of the day. It was an extremely productive gathering, and we are grateful for everyone who continues to invest significant time and energy in this important work.

We began our meeting by looking at best practices at other colleges. While the recommendations that we develop will be specific to St. Olaf, it is invaluable for our group to have an understanding of the work that is taking place on campuses across the nation.

We also received a preliminary update on the campus climate survey that the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) administered on behalf of the Working Group this fall. More than 25 percent of the St. Olaf community participated in the survey, which is the highest response rate among the five schools that HEDS administered this survey to this cycle. We are cross-referencing this data with the data that was collected by students in Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Ryan Sheppard’s class this fall as part of their research on racial microaggressions in the classroom. As soon as this work is completed, we will release it publicly.

We then held a video conference call with Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington, the highly respected expert in multicultural organizational development that the Working Group has retained. He shared a number of insights that he has gained in working with colleges across the country on issues of diversity and inclusion. In addition to his own experience as a faculty member, Rev. Dr. Washington has spent time helping both corporate and nonprofit organizations work toward long-term, sustainable cultural change. As part of his first visit to campus on January 17 and 18, we will arrange meetings for Rev. Dr. Washington with students and stakeholders on campus.

After our discussion with Rev. Dr. Washington, we held listening sessions with representatives from St. Olaf Admissions, the Center for Multicultural and International Engagement (CMIE), and Athletics. In each of these listening sessions, we reviewed the college’s current practices, asked for historical data, and discussed both college practices that have worked well and those that need to be improved. These sessions were helpful in giving all of us an understanding of how specific offices have approached equity and inclusion efforts over time. We plan to continue these listening sessions with the campus community in the coming months. Throughout this process, we encourage and ask for feedback to be submitted to the Working Group here.

The Working Group will convene again via conference call on January 12 and will meet on campus again on January 18. At that meeting, the Working Group will meet in person with Rev. Dr. Washington to review what he’s learned through initial discussions with campus stakeholders.

From all of us on the Working Group, thank you for your continued interest in and feedback on our work. We have a significant task ahead of us in the coming months, and your participation and support is crucial to our success.

Respectfully submitted,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion

Friday, December 22, 2017

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St. Olaf Working Group Update: December 22 Conference Call

Dear St. Olaf Community,

The Working Group on Equity and Inclusion met via conference call this morning. We are grateful that the members of the Working Group prioritize coming together regularly. The magnitude and importance of our charge cannot be overstated, and we are encouraged by the members’ commitment to giving this work the time and attention it deserves.

Impacting real change and building a more equitable, inclusive campus community at St. Olaf will require the input and commitment of many people. Throughout this process, we encourage and ask for feedback to be submitted to the Working Group here. We will also continue to provide opportunities for input from students, faculty, staff, and other members of our community.

We are excited to announce that Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington has been retained to assist the Working Group. Rev. Dr. Washington is a highly respected expert in multicultural organizational development. He has served as an educator, administrator, and consultant in higher education for more than 30 years. He serves on the boards of Many Voices, a black church movement for LGBT persons, as well as Campus Pride and Beyond Diversity. Rev. Dr. Washington will visit campus multiple times, beginning with a visit January 17 and 18 to meet with various constituencies as well as the Working Group.

The Working Group’s next meeting will take place in person on January 4, 2018. At that meeting, the Working Group will have a conference call with Rev. Dr. Washington and will focus on the tools and preparation we need in order to have effective engagement with on-campus groups in the coming months.

From all of us on the Working Group, thank you for your continued interest in and feedback on our work. We wish you a joyous holiday season, and are looking forward to many productive and meaningful conversations in the new year.

Respectfully submitted,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion

Friday, December 15, 2017

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St. Olaf Working Group Update: December 15 Conference Call

Dear St. Olaf Community,

The St. Olaf Working Group on Equity and Inclusion held a conference call meeting on December 15. In addition to meeting in person each month, the group has agreed to hold a weekly conference call in order to keep this important work moving forward.

On this call, members provided several important updates:

Consultant Search
Bruce King and Donna Lee have been working to identify a consultant to assist the Working Group. They have narrowed the list, and all Working Group members agreed to move forward with retaining the consultant that Bruce and Donna recommended. Bruce and Donna will continue making arrangements, and it’s expected that the consultant selected will visit campus in mid-January to meet with students, faculty, and staff. The Working Group will provide more information on the consultant as soon as these arrangements have been finalized.

Student Research on Racial Microaggressions in the Classroom and Curriculum
Katie Fick, Phil Milne, and Bruce King shared what they learned at a student research presentation on December 13 titled Racial Microaggressions in the Classroom and Curriculum: Student Experiences and Perspectives. Students in Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Ryan Sheppard’s class conducted research on racial microaggressions in the classroom throughout the course of the semester on behalf of the To Include is To Excel initiative. The student researchers examined survey responses from more than 700 St. Olaf students and outlined a number of key takeaways. Katie, Phil, and Bruce all agreed that the information presented was insightful, powerful, and will be useful for the Working Group to examine and consider as it moves forward. They have requested all the presentation information to share with other members of the Working Group. On behalf of the entire Working Group, they offer their thanks to the faculty directors of the To Include is To Excel project, Mary Carlsen and Maggie Broner, for the invitation to the research presentation, and their congratulations to Ryan Sheppard and her students on their excellent work.

The Working Group’s next meeting will be another conference call on Friday, December 22. As always, we are grateful for the commitment of every member of the group and the time they continue to invest each day in this important work. We are also grateful for the support we have received from the St. Olaf community, and we look forward to continuing to hear from and work with you.

Respectfully submitted,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion

Friday, December 8, 2017

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St. Olaf Working Group Update: December 6 Meeting

Dear St. Olaf Community,

The St. Olaf Working Group on Equity and Inclusion met on December 6 to further develop our focus and expectations for our charge and opportunities to fully leverage the capabilities of the team.

We spent time discussing what we believe success could look like and what key milestones need to be met to deliver our recommendations in May. We agreed that outside experts could provide valuable insights and best practices for addressing equity and inclusion. Work to identify these experts has already begun.

Prior to the meeting, the Working Group co-chairs met with the co-chairs of the To Include is To Excel grant to understand the scope of the Mellon grant and how we could integrate what they learn from examining St. Olaf’s curriculum with what the Working Group learns through its process. We also discussed other initiatives that are happening on a broader level and are looking for further input from the community.

We appreciate those who participated and provided feedback on the campus climate survey. The Working Group recognizes that we are also learners as part of this process. We have also heard from students and The Collective concerning the DiversityEdu online training. The feedback we’ve been given will be helpful as we assess ongoing education efforts.

The group will meet next week, and several members will attend the Racial Microaggressions in the Classroom and Curriculum: Student Experiences and Perspectives session on December 13.

We continue to approach this work with open hearts and minds, and know that the work in front of us is significant.

Respectfully submitted,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

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St. Olaf Working Group Update: November 6 Meeting

Dear St. Olaf Community,

The St. Olaf Working Group on Equity and Inclusion met for the second time on November 6, and we devoted our time to meeting with members of the Collective and the Task Force. This was our first opportunity to listen, as we as a Working Group attempt to better understand students’ experiences and frustrations so that we can determine how the college can do better.

Working Group members expressed gratitude for the work of the Collective and the Task Force, and we agreed that it will play a significant role in the work of the group moving forward.

After hearing from the Collective and the Task Force, we met as a Working Group and some common themes emerged based on our discussion:

We need to acknowledge that racism is an issue.

  • There is not yet widespread understanding and acknowledgement that racism exists on campus. The Working Group will engage with more people on campus about their experiences of racism as well as examine many areas of the college to have a better picture of how racism impacts the whole college experience.
  • As part of this process, the Working Group will distribute a campus climate survey this week to all students, faculty, and staff that will assess campus members’ experiences, behaviors, and perceptions regarding inclusiveness. It will serve to inform strategies, next steps, opportunities, and challenges.

We need to focus on broad systematic opportunities to drive impact over time as well as small changes that can make an immediate difference.

  • The group discussed how to achieve broader engagement and education, and more work needs to be done to identify effective strategies.
  • Current diversity and inclusion programming is fragmented across various departments on campus, so the group talked about the opportunity to proactively communicate the college’s efforts in the short-term and look for broader impact opportunities in the long-term.

We need to address how to improve accountability.

  • The group acknowledged that real change doesn’t happen only through policy change or training. Real change happens when each member of the community has empathy for each other’s experiences. The college’s challenge is to create shared accountability and trust between students, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff for an inclusive community.
  • The group identified the importance of providing opportunities for public discussion and dialogue as part of the process.
  • The Working Group agreed that the next key is to better understand the college’s activity and work in Admissions, Human Resources, the Center for Multicultural and International Engagement, TRIO, Student Support Services, International and Off-Campus Studies, and the GE committee, and to learn from various student organizations, including the Student Government Association; Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever! (GLOW); the Political Awareness Committee; and other student groups.

The Working Group will meet again on December 6, when we will hear from other areas of the college. In the meantime, we will begin researching best practices of other institutions. We encourage anyone with feedback and ideas to submit them via the online form. We also plan to hold a public forum and will communicate that date as soon as it is set.

As we enter this holiday season, we are grateful for the opportunity to come together as a community to reflect, improve, and support each other.

Respectfully submitted,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion

Friday, October 27, 2017

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Working Group on Equity and Inclusion Update: October 26 Meeting

Dear St. Olaf Community,

The St. Olaf Working Group on Equity and Inclusion gathered for the first time on October 26. We began by asking each member to share why they agreed to serve on the group, and we were deeply moved by the personal experiences they shared and their devotion to ensuring that St. Olaf is a place where everyone feels welcomed and valued.

Anne Phibbs, the founder and president of Strategic Diversity Initiatives, then led us through a workshop titled Beyond Diversity 101: Micro-inequities, Implicit Bias, and Moving toward Equity. Anne challenged us to consider the ways in which our own social identities impact how we move in this world.

This training prompted important discussion among Working Group members, and several themes emerged that will help guide our work:

We need to listen to each other.

  • Listening builds trust. We are ready to listen.
  • To start the Working Group’s listening sessions, we will ask to meet with members of the Collective and the Task Force. We feel it is imperative to have an understanding of their experiences and concerns.
  • We will be reaching out to other students, faculty, alumni, and members of the administration as well. We will establish other listening sessions moving forward, and we will also create a way that members of the campus community can regularly provide feedback and input to the Working Group.

Our approach needs to be strategic and sustainable.

  • We are committed to identifying best practices and resources for increasing equity and inclusion at St. Olaf.
  • As a starting point, we will immediately retain an independent entity to conduct a broad climate survey of our campus. The survey will provide useful information about the specific concerns and opinions of members of our community, and will also provide useful comparative data with surveys conducted at other similar institutions. We plan to survey community members during the remaining weeks of this semester and hope to have the results available in January. The survey will be conducted by the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium, and we will share the results broadly as we determine as a community how to address issues of equity and inclusion on our campus.

This work impacts all of us.

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion is about creating community. It also is about addressing systems of oppression, including both individual prejudice and institutional/systemic discrimination.
  • We will review current policies and the campus environment to ensure that they support and foster a community that builds trust and is welcoming and inclusive.
  • We are committed to providing open, honest, and timely communication after each of the Working Group’s monthly meetings. Our next meeting will be Monday, November 6.

We have a significant task ahead of us. There are no easy answers, and this work will be messy, difficult, and emotional. We are ready to do it, we are honored to lead this group, and we are grateful for your support.

Respectfully submitted,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

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A message from the Working Group on Equity and Inclusion:

Dear St. Olaf Community,

On September 25, President Anderson announced the college’s next step in its continuing efforts to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone on the Hill.

We are humbled to chair the Working Group on Equity and Inclusion, and we are eager to begin the large and important task in front of us. On behalf of the Board of Regents, we care deeply about creating a college where everyone not only feels welcome, but also truly included.

We are proud of our St. Olaf community. We are not afraid to talk about difficult issues and address them in thoughtful, comprehensive, and transparent ways. It is in this spirit that the Working Group will approach our charge.

During this school year, we will seek out and listen to the community’s concerns, opinions, and ideas; ask for help from experts; and conduct a comprehensive climate survey. Our goal is to identify barriers that exist for underrepresented groups and recommend ways to remove those barriers. President Anderson has asked for our comprehensive report and recommendations by May 1, 2018, or sooner.

Although we are eager to find solutions, we know that an issue this complex necessitates a thoughtful and comprehensive approach. We are not looking for quick and easy solutions, we are looking for long-term, effective ones. Rest assured, if we identify areas that can be addressed before the full report is finished, we will do so in real time. And we understand that St. Olaf is already taking steps to create a more inclusive community, including diversity training for all students, faculty, and staff.

The Working Group’s first official meeting is scheduled for the end of this month. We will undergo diversity training so that each member of the group starts with a consistent foundation. Soon after, we will do a full campus climate survey and meet with the members of the two groups who began this dialogue: the Collective and the summer Task Force.

The Working Group is independent from the administration, and we have been granted full authority to conduct this process as we see appropriate. We will have regular and ongoing meetings to chart our progress and hold each other accountable. We will provide updates on our progress after each meeting. If you are interested in receiving our updates, please sign up here. Updates on the Working Group will also be available on the college’s website here.

We are grateful to the St. Olaf community for placing its trust in us to lead this Working Group.

Sincerely,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion