Updates

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

Open

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

Open

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