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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Update

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This is part of a series of regular updates that Vice President for Equity and Inclusion María Pabón Gautier sends to the campus community.

Dear St. Olaf Community,

Last week I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon surrounded by community organizers and leaders. I am a board member at Hope Community, and last Thursday we had our retreat. During my initial years in Minnesota I worked at another nonprofit organization, Esperanza United, and when I started working in higher education I knew that I couldn’t lose the connection to communities and the innovative work done by BIPOC nonprofit organizations. Some of the most transformative approaches I’ve learned have come from working with communities and engaging in creative thinking in the nonprofit sector. I have applied these lessons today. They remind me that at times in higher education we exist in a bubble and that for us to impact communities at large we need to burst that bubble, no matter how uncomfortable it is. One of the most impactful lessons came from Doña Guadalupe (Lupe) Serrano. She used to say “when we start with weaknesses we get problems but when we start with strengths we get solutions.” I have lived by these words. Many times, especially for communities of color, the narrative focuses on “at risk,” “marginalized,” “statistic,” etc. Her way of being and doing this work interrupted this narrative and because she mentored many of us, I know her message will continue to disrupt and resist.  

Places to Be!
In celebration of the intersection between Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month and LGBTQIA+ History Month (the next DEI update will be dedicated to celebrating LGBTQIA+ History Month), I will be hosting a virtual panel discussion on the meaning of “Latinx” among communities in Latin America. I will be joined by Patricia Tototzintle, Chief Executive Officer at Esperanza United; Jonathan Echevarria, Sexual Health Educator and Youth Program Coordinator at Centro Tyrone Guzman; and Kristina Medina-Vilariño, Assistant Professor of Spanish at St. Olaf College.

Title: Latinx: To Be or Not to Be?
When: October 15, 2021 at 4:30 p.m.
Where: Join us on Zoom

Save the date! The Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion will be leading the celebration of Indigenous People’s Day. On October 11, 2021, from 6–7 p.m. in the Buntrock Commons Ballrooms join Sarah Eagle Heart in a discussion about Indigenous women’s leadership. More information from the Taylor Center to follow! 

Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion would like to welcome Martin Olague, Director of the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion, as our newest member. One of the changes the Council approved this summer was to add the Director of the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion as a permanent member of the group starting this fall. We are excited for the opportunity to be in community with Martin and learn with him. Welcome, Martin!

Have you ever wondered what happens during our meetings? Wonder no more! To access our agendas and submit any questions or ideas, visit our Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website

Co-Creating an Inclusive Community Initiative
On September 16, 2021, we held the Co-Creating an Inclusive Virtual Community Forum (watch the recording here) where we presented the Executive Summary Report. This was our official launch of Phase 3 of the Co-Creating an Inclusive Community Initiative. The next steps for this year will be:

  • We will build college-wide recommendations in partnership with the Co-Creating leadership team, Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Student Government Association.
  • We will work with specific departments/offices (e.g., vice presidents, chairs, deans, and directors) to develop next steps that address specific cultures and issues that are unique to each area.
  • We will conduct a third cycle of Co-Creating sessions to address some of the main themes such as transparent communication, Ole culture, and division of staff and faculty.  

Bias Report Update 

Total Reports* Intakes** Restorative Justice Process Investigations
12 11 0 0

*Reports are from September 2021
**Intakes are not done when a report is anonymous or the reporting party requests to not be contacted
***Reporting Parties: 10 students, 2 staff members, 0 Anonymous, 0 Faculty
****Responding Parties: 1 students, 1 staff members, 6 Unknown, 4 Faculty
*****Targeted parties: 6 students, 0 staff members, 6 Unknown, 0 Faculty

Opportunities for Development on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism
Thank you to Victoria Gutierrez Pereira, the Writing Desk and Speaking Space Intern in the Center for Advising and Academic Support (CAAS), for sharing this wonderful resource with me! Latinx identities are not monolithic and are based on rich histories that impact who we are today. Latinx History is Black History explores the intersections between race and ethnicity, provides a historical primer on Afro-Latinx identities, and reviews resources for teaching Elizabeth Acevedo’s poem “Afro-Latina,” which beautifully illustrates this intersectional identity. Want to take it beyond building competency? Watch the video with friends and family and discuss your reactions, assumptions, and new ideas. 



Dr. María C. Pabón Gautier
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion