Vision, Charge, Principles, and Pledge

College mission

St. Olaf College 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.

Vision for Equity and Inclusion at St. Olaf

Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls
as well as a quantitative change in our lives.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom”
Ebony (October 1966)

To be a neighbor means to seek to understand and serve people, communities and their needs. In the global and local communities in which our students move, they care for the people, space and ecology of a neighborhood; …[Lutheran colleges and universities] work toward a common good.
– “Rooted and Open: The Common Calling
of the Network of ELCA Colleges and Universities” (January 2018)

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a beloved, diverse, community created through a “qualitative change in our souls,” St. Olaf College joyfully embraces diversity among its students, staff and faculty members, and alumni. “Rooted and Open” calls us to see ourselves both as the neighbor and as serving our neighbors. In both capacities, we work to build a community where all can thrive and find meaningful belonging. Members of the college community uplift and engage in mutual education about our diversity—such as race, religion and faith tradition, background and circumstance, gender and gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, differences in ability, political outlook, belief and perspective, and other elements of core identity—and recognize the part that each of us plays in ensuring that St. Olaf is a diverse and beloved community.

St. Olaf achieves this vision through

  • A learning, residential and working environment in which all individuals are included, respected, valued and supported, and are fully able to achieve and contribute;
  • A campus community that embraces the diversity of perspectives, faiths, political outlooks, identities and backgrounds essential to rigorous learning and the development of the whole person;
  • A commitment to justice and equity of opportunity so that St. Olaf students and faculty and staff members are empowered to be their complete and authentic selves;
  • Removal of barriers to education, work, and engagement; and
  • A principle of accountability, knowing that we can only make an inclusive and equitable community through common purpose and shared action.

2019

Council Charge

St. Olaf Board of Regents Chair Larry Stranghoener and President David Anderson have charged the Council:

To assist in the development and monitoring of the College’s strategic equity and inclusion plans and metrics, advise the administration on the implementation of the recommendations contained in this report [of the Working Group on Equity and Inclusion], connect disparate efforts across campus, and serve as a resource for academic and administrative departments. The Council should report annually to the President and Board of Regents.

Immediate Work of the Council on Equity and Inclusion

The recommendations of the Working Group on Equity and Inclusion will guide the work of the Council. The Working Group report recommends the following early activities for the Council:

  • Development of a Strategic Equity and Inclusion Plan
  • Reports to the Board of Regents
  • Monitoring and coordinating the work of other groups
  • Development of metrics
  • Research and reporting – in the development of recommendations to the administration and the Board of Regents; this may include administering surveys and drawing on the abundant institutional data currently available; development of metrics for use in reporting to the campus community
  • Consultation with outside experts
  • Conduct listening sessions with members of the campus community

Principles for Council’s work

  1. Developing trust, exercising kindness, grace, and having high expectations. By trust, we mean assuming good intentions and the willingness to ask directly when intentions and purposes are not clear. Trust is essential for this learning community, which is the Council. We understand that, while the goal of equity and inclusion is straightforward, the means by which we achieve it can be complex and may take time.
    We will exercise kindness in our deliberations with each other and our St. Olaf colleagues. We understand that all members of the Council and of the college community have areas of growth, that no one can claim the moral high ground, and that human beings thrive best in environments in which they are known, understood, and accepted. We want the members of the Council and the St. Olaf Community to thrive.
    We will make the exercise of grace a habit, both in our interactions with fellow Council members and in our interactions with the college community. We recognize that we are all flawed, that we will all make mistakes, and that in deliberating on such important matters as diversity, equity and inclusion people may struggle to understand others and express themselves.
    For trust, kindness, and grace to flourish, we must also hold ourselves and others to high expectations as we seek to enhance equity and inclusion. This will include the Council helping establish a vision for a diverse, fair, and inclusive educational experience, and identifying problems and opportunities for the college and for ourselves to do better. These four elements are essential for the good functioning of the Council, and to cultivate the behaviors and attitudes that St. Olaf seeks.
  2. Listening and speaking. Council members will recognize each other as equals in our conversation. Views must be fully aired. To that purpose, Council members will hear each other with respect, doing their best to understand the perspectives of each other. In turn, Council members will speak frankly and respectfully.
  3. Using evidence-based processes. Participants will utilize qualitative and quantitative data to inform their deliberations and conversations.
  4. Maintaining confidentiality and claiming ownership. While respecting the confidentiality of the meeting room (and its electronic equivalents), the Council serves and will communicate with the entire college community. Acknowledging our collective responsibility, each member will accept ownership and support the public communications of the Council fully in speech and action.
  5. Showing up prepared. We will be working hard and on a compressed timeline in this first year. The Council will be effective in its work only if we can count on each other to attend its meetings and to come ready to engage in our common enterprise. To help us reflect on our contributions, we will engage in self-assessment.
  6. Supporting the St. Olaf Mission. Recommendations coming from the Council on Equity and Inclusion will reflect and support the St. Olaf mission and identity as a residential liberal arts college. The Council sees the St. Olaf Mission as an invitation to apply the principles of equity and inclusion to all of its parts. In turn, the Council sees the Mission as empowering it in fulfilling its charge. For its charge, the Council will expand its vision of the Mission to include the full St. Olaf community of students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents and friends.

The Council’s Pledge to the Campus Community

The members of the St. Olaf Council on Equity and Inclusion pledge to the campus community—students, alumni, faculty and staff members, college leadership, and the Board of Regents—to:

  1. Advance equity and inclusion at St. Olaf College to the best of our abilities and in accordance with the Council’s charge;
  2. Gather and consider carefully evidence from a variety of sources, and to report on what we learn in a clear and accessible manner;
  3. Acknowledge and draw on the work of previous groups, to carefully consider their recommendations and reports, understanding that these are not final and that the Council will do the hard work of developing its own recommendations for a Strategic Equity and Inclusion plan for the college.
  4. Provide opportunities for different constituencies of the college community to meet with the Council; and listen with respect and care;
  5. Be accountable, and ask for forgiveness in cases in which we misunderstand or inadvertently cause pain;
  6. Hold all members of the campus community to the same guiding principles to which we have agreed to hold ourselves:
    • Developing trust, exercising kindness, grace, and having high expectations, understanding that we must be able to grant and claim trust, kindness, grace, and expectations in an enterprise as important as this;
    • Listening and speaking with care, respect, and forthrightness;
    • Using evidence-based processes in deliberations, communications and recommendations, and also in assessing previous recommendations and reports;
    • Maintaining confidentiality (where appropriate) and claiming ownership of decisions and communications;
    • Showing up prepared to meetings and discussions by doing our “homework”; and
    • Upholding the St. Olaf mission.
  7. Council members will help individuals needing assistance identify the appropriate offices or people.