Why are you serving on the Council on Equity and Inclusion?
I am the elected faculty representative on the Council, and when I was asked to put my name on the ballot for the position I jumped at the chance. In higher education we often talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion in academic terms. It is much easier to think about the work in the abstract, or to discuss averages, but much harder to really see how individuals are impacted by the very policies, procedures, and to be frank, failures of our institutions. It is my hope the work of the Council can help make a difference there.
What drives your interest in and commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracist work?
To be honest, the events of 2017 and the protests that followed really impacted me. During the initial sit in in Buntrock, I heard several students that I knew relating stories that I had never heard from them. It made me realize how I had a particular image of the college and general idea of people’s experiences here that did not match their realities. It made me take a pause and ask why that was the case and what role I played in it. It was frustrating, but made me want to do more. After that I started to look for more ways that I could get involved.
When someone asks you how they can support this work on campus, what is your advice?
This is a big task, and we all have ways that we can help. Each of us has power and a sphere of influence that we can use, no matter how small we think it is. You do not need to make a grand public gesture (those are often more performative than meaningful), but if each of us did one small but meaningful thing, the overall impact would be major. I would also say to look to others already doing the work and take a cue from them. There are so many people who have been doing this work for so long, often uncompensated and on their own time. We need to acknowledge that and find ways that we can help shoulder the load and do what we can.
What is your hope for the future of St. Olaf?
I hope that the positive experiences of some on the Hill can become the positive experiences of all. I hope that the connections that so many of us feel here will become the connections that everyone feels. That is currently not the case for too many members of our community, and I hope that we can change this.