INTRODUCTION AND CONTEXT
St. Olaf College has begun a journey to increase diversity, foster inclusion, and challenge bias on its campus. St. Olaf’s student body has been instrumental in pushing the college forward on this journey and has reminded us of the amount of work we have ahead if we are to be the community we claim to be.
During spring 2017, a campus-wide protest and sit-in in response to a series of racist incidents disrupted spring academic routines on campus. At the protest, students shared their outrage, fears, anger and frustration, illuminating experiences of individual and institutional racism at St. Olaf. Many students, faculty and staff on our campus expressed feeling unwelcomed a situation that desperately needs to be addressed.
A new student movement called the Collective for Change on the Hill (referred to in the following pages
as the Collective) brought forward a list of demands to the President, his leadership team, and the Board of Regents, along with a process for addressing concerns about systemic racism and the lack of inclusion at St. Olaf. Included in the process was the formation of a faculty-led Task Force on Institutional Racism (referred to in the following pages as the Task Force) to review the Collective’s demands, assess the college response to those demands, and make any additional recommendations. The Working Group on Equity and Inclusion, which was formed after these efforts, recognizes and affirms the importance of the work of the Collective and the Task Force in elevating issues of racism, diversity and inclusion to the highest level at the college.
St. Olaf’s work toward equity and inclusion is a fundamental part of its identity and vocation as a college of the Lutheran tradition. The Bible proclaims (Genesis :26) that every human being is created in God’s image and likeness. On the basis of this truth, Lutheran values affirm the equal dignity and worth of all people. Racism, based as it is on the unequal worth of human beings, denies and betrays these values, and we reject its presence in our community. For the same reason, St. Olaf must reject injustice and oppression based on gender, class and identity. The Lutheran tradition calls individuals and communities to work for justice and to love and serve one another with respect, compassion and joy. St. Olaf must continually reclaim and commit to these values as a part of its mission as an institution “nourished by the Lutheran tradition.
St. Olaf is committed to a welcoming and inclusive community for everyone on the Hill. On September 25, President Anderson announced the next step in the college’s continuing efforts to create and sustain that environment: the appointment of a Working Group on Equity and Inclusion.
Co-chaired by St. Olaf Regents Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81, the Working Group includes St. Olaf students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Its charge is to:
Conduct a comprehensive review of the way persons from underrepresented groups experience life at St. Olaf with an eye to identifying the reasons why they experience it in this way.
Assess the overall climate of the College as it relates to the full participation and inclusion of underrepresented members of our community, ensuring that diverse backgrounds and perspectives are included, and voices of all are heard.
Identify barriers that exist to members of our community experiencing a consistent sense of belonging and to recommend ways to eliminate those barriers.
Consider best practices of other colleges and universities as they relate to access, equity, and inclusion.
Provide informed and specific recommendations to the President by May 1, 2018.
Glenn Taylor ’73 is a St. Olaf Regent and co-chair of the Working Group. He is a retired health care executive who lives in Libertyville, Illinois.
Mary Barbosa-Jerez serves as the head of strategy for library collections and archives at St. Olaf.
Katherine Fick is the associate college pastor at St. Olaf, and she plays a central role in nurturing the college’s values and supporting the health and well-being of the community.
Donna Lee is Macalester College’s vice president for student affairs. She has presented numerous workshops on topics related to diversity, leadership, organizational development, and community engagement.
Mario Paez ’01 is a vice president in the Wells Fargo Insurance Services’ Professional Risk Group and lives in St. Paul. He is a member of the St. Olaf Alumni Board.
Mariem Zaghdoudi ’20 is a political science and biology major who was elected to serve as the Board of Regents Student Committee Coordinator. She is an international student from Tunisia.
Phil Milne ’81 is a St. Olaf Regent and co-chair of the Working Group. He is the owner of the Rapid Packaging company and lives in Wayzata, Minnesota.
Eddie Bryson ’20 is a student from Cordova, Tennessee, and a member of the St. Olaf football team.
Bruce King is the assistant to the president for institutional diversity and chief diversity officer at St. Olaf.
David Merchant ’77 is an attorney based in the Twin Cities who has dedicated much of his life to working on civil rights, racial equality, and justice for all.
Anantanand Rambachan is a professor of religion at St. Olaf and a renowned Hindu scholar who has been involved in the field of interreligious relations and dialogue for over 25 years.