St. Olaf College | News

Commitment to Anti-Racism

Dear Colleagues:

We are living in a challenging moment for our country, for the College, and for each of us as individuals. The coronavirus has upended our lives, sowing fear and anxiety and socially, culturally, and emotionally distancing us from one another. The appalling murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the other murders of Black people around the country, and the outpouring of peaceful protests against the structural racism in America, have all made us starkly aware of the bias and inequity that continue to taint our society.

St. Olaf College may be a beautiful place on a hill outside a lovely small town in Midwest America, but we are not immune from the effects of systemic racism. My pledge to you is that we will be better, we will do better, and we will never rest from that important work.

With this message I reaffirm the College’s commitment to anti-racism. We will fight racism and structural inequity everywhere we can, including on our own campus. Listening will be an important part of that work, but so will taking concrete steps to change the way we experience our lives together, so that every member of the community feels valued, can do their best work, and can flourish personally and professionally.

The President’s Leadership Team has committed to work, with the assistance of an outside anti-racism trainer, to deeply examine our own knowledge gaps and blind spots regarding the ways systemic racism manifests itself at St. Olaf and in our own work. I personally commit to holding the leadership of St. Olaf accountable for examining and eliminating racism on our campus. St. Olaf will be part of the movement for change.

The commitments of institutions and individuals can be seen most clearly in their actions. There will need to be many new actions at the College as we move forward to become an anti-racist institution. Here are the first steps we will take immediately. These commitments have been posted on the College’s website. We will add more action steps to the website as we develop them, and we will hold ourselves accountable by reporting on the website the outcomes of these steps we are taking.

Acting on Our Commitments

Comprehensive Anti-Racism Training. We will require every area of the College to engage in ongoing anti-racism training during this academic year, with a special emphasis on listening and self-reflection.

College-Wide Audit of Equity and Inclusion Plan Action Steps. The College has a Plan for Equity and Inclusion. All areas of the College are expected to take and report on action steps to implement that plan. We will conduct a rigorous audit of what steps have been taken, what their impact has been, and what further steps are required. Because the College has chosen as part of its current reaccreditation by the Higher Learning Commission to gather, share, and act on evidence of both accomplishments and shortcomings in St. Olaf’s efforts to become more equitable and inclusive, the results of this audit will receive external scrutiny by the Commission.

Review of Early Career Faculty Experiences. The Provost and Dean of the College will conduct a thorough review of how early career faculty are experiencing the tenure and promotion process, with a special emphasis on the experiences of faculty of color, to determine how that process can better support them. The review will incorporate outside reviewers.

Student Testimony. The Student Life Division will gather testimony from St. Olaf students to better understand barriers they experience to their thriving and make recommendations on how to remove those barriers.

Communications Audit. We will review the College’s internal and external communications platforms to identify how St. Olaf’s communication practices can better promote and support a more inclusive culture.

These immediate steps focus on identifying where systemic change is needed. As we welcome Oles back home, we will continue to do the hard work of making the Hill equitable, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of all. I know that this won’t happen overnight, but we will pursue the work with a greater sense of urgency and determination. We will make mistakes along the way, and we will hear expressions of anger, of opposition, and of pain when we do. We will listen and learn from them, evolving as we do. There is work to be done.


David R. Anderson ‘74