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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,

This month we celebrate LGBTQIA+ History Month. This is a time to celebrate and honor the members of our LGBTQIA+ community. It is a time to recognize this community’s struggles and their fight against oppression and discrimination. As a country and as a state we have made progress in the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights, including  the legalization of same-sex marriage. The state of Minnesota legalized same-sex marriage on August 1, 2013, and two years later the U.S. Supreme Court legalized it in all 50 states.

This month, as we increase the visibility of the experiences of the LGBTQIA+ population, we cannot forget that not everyone feels safe to be part of this visibility. The Human Rights Campaign conducted a survey in 2018 that included more than 12,000 LGBTQIA+ youth, The LGBTQ Youth Report. The results bring light to the work that needs to be done to support this population and their human rights. Some of the statistics of the experiences of LGBTQIA+ youth are below:

  • 48% of LGBTQ youth who are out to their parents say that their families make them feel bad for being LGBTQ.
  • 85% of LGBTQ youth rate their aevrage stress level as ‘5’ or higher in a 1-10 scale.
  • Only 13% of LGBTQ youth report hearing positive messages about being LGBTQ in school.
  • 73% of LGBTQ youth have experienced verbal threats because of their actual or perceived LGBTQ identity.
  • 51% of transgender youth can never use the restrooms or locker rooms that match their gender identity.
  • More than 70% report feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week.

Below are resources that support mental health and wellbeing for our LGBTQIA+ community:

Indigenous Peoples Day
“Indigenous women have all of these solutions; they’re in the middle of their communities. They’re in the middle of their families, and they are the organizers. They’re the caretakers; they’re the culture bearers. And I thought: This is where we need to focus, especially in the environmental movement. These are the leaders who need to be supported.” — Sarah Eagle Heart

This quote from Sarah Eagle Heart, who spoke on campus on Indigenous Peoples Day, is powerful, as Indigenous women have been a key part of the resistance and movement of Native American communities. Even from the beginning, they fought alongside men during battles. Did you know? In 1977 during a United Nations conference on discrimination, the first seed about Indigenous Peoples Day was planted. However, it wasn’t until 1992 that the day was officially recognized. Indigenous Peoples Day recognizes the culture and lives of Native Americans in our country. It is also a symbol of resistance and protest against the massacres that Native Americans suffered at the hands of Europeans.

Places to Be!
Join the Wellness Center and Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion on Saturday, October 23, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. for this year’s Rainbow 5k Walk/Run. This is a great opportunity to walk or run in celebration of, in solidarity of, or as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Co-Creating an Inclusive Community Action Steps
The next step on the Co-Creating an Inclusive Community Initiative is meeting with chairs, directors, and deans from across campus to discuss findings and next steps for each area. During these one-hour meetings, we will discuss the results for each area and recommendations for next steps. The goal is to continue to make each part of this initiative a community endeavor and a partnership. Chairs, directors, and deans will be receiving an email in the next few weeks to schedule a time to connect. In order to launch Phase 3, I needed a strong team of leaders. We want to take advantage of the momentum and not take too long to address concerns. Again, I placed a call to members of our community and I am thankful to those who agreed to step up and be part of this new team of leaders. Please meet the new and improved Co-Creating Leadership Group:

  • Jo Beld, Vice President for Mission
  • Rosalyn Eaton, Dean of Students
  • Emily Foster, Head Volleyball Coach/Senior Woman Administrator
  • Erik Grell, Associate Director of the Institute for Freedom and Community
  • Martin Olague, Director of the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion
  • Reginald Miles, Associate Dean of Admissions and Multicultural Recruitment
  • Leslie Moore, Vice President for Human resources
  • Marie New, Director of Enrollment Operations
  • Emily Nguyen, Associate Director of Donor Relations
  • Deanna Thomson, Director of the Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community

Transfer of Memory
This week I had the opportunity to attend the Transfer of Memory reception hosted by the Flaten Art Museum and Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC). Through color photography and narrative accounts, Transfer of Memory illuminates the lives of Holocaust survivors who came to live in Minnesota.

This was a powerful experience. It was great to see many of the members of our community supporting this exhibition and having conversations about the importance of remembering our past. This became salient for me during the reception, especially after reading a quote from one of the survivors, Gerda Haas. She said when speaking about her journey and her human rights work, “the only thing we possess that our forefathers do not is the wisdom of the past. This we must use as our guide for shaping the present and creating a better future.”

Her words ring true for all the work we do to support transformative justice and the experience of marginalized communities. Let’s learn from our past and not repeat the injustices, but become beacons of light and agents of change.

Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Get to Know the Members!
The Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion members are an integral part of our community. We have students, staff, faculty, and alumni who represent the different stakeholders. They represent you and advocate for you to make sure that we continue to build a more inclusive St. Olaf. Therefore, I thought that it would be great for you to get to know them. During my next few updates, I will introduce you to one of our Council members. Please thank them for their service if you see them around. I would like to start with:

Opportunities for Development on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism
The St. Olaf Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office will be offering a professional development opportunity for our staff and faculty titled “Critical Dialogue Strategies to Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work and Conversations.” It will provide participants with facilitation skills that will aid in leading, participating, and moving forward the DEI work in departments and offices across campus.

Author Talk | The Power of Language: Unpacking Diversity and Intersectionality in LGBTQ Culture. From the website: Author Chloe Davis talk will explore how language shapes culture; highlight the diverse communities and intersectional identities that make up our LGBTQ community; unpack the beautiful complexity of queer history; and foreground the importance of empowering, providing resources for, and making visible queer, gay, Black, and trans identities.



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