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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 honor of traveling to San Francisco with a group of my St. Olaf colleagues to select our Posse 2 from the Bay Area. The Posse model works for both students and college campuses and is rooted in the belief that a small, diverse group of talented students — a Posse — carefully selected and trained, can serve as a catalyst for individual and community development. St. Olaf has been partnering with Posse for eight years, first in Chicago and now with a program in the Bay Area and a Virtual Posse.

Posse students come from different walks of life, ethnic/racial backgrounds, and have demonstrated grit, resilience, and leadership skills in high school. We meet approximately 15 to 20 finalists, and at the end we select 10. The finalists we meet are already a very special group of students who have gone through multiple interviews and have been selected among thousands of nominations. This is one of my favorite parts of the job. It is a chance to get to know the future changemakers of our country, the next scientist who finds the cure for cancer, the next president of the United States, the next teacher who inspires a new generation. The reach and possibilities are endless.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism (DEIA) Work Lessons Learned
The freedom and right to vote in the United States is one of the most basic rights of a democratic society. However, it wasn’t a right afforded to everyone and if it wasn’t for the protests, resistance, and fight from many members of marginalized communities, many of us wouldn’t be able to exercise this right. However, across the country, we have seen voter suppression tactics that continue to restrict and limit the voting rights of particular communities, such as Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), people with disabilities, and students. At St. Olaf the Election Engagement Group, with members from all areas of our community (students, staff, and faculty), has been actively working for the last few years to educate and help students register and vote. Their work is peer-to-peer, community engagement at its best. Their effort has not gone unnoticed.

Last week it was announced that St. Olaf College won the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Democracy Cup Challenge for private colleges and universities with an overall voting rate of 87.6% (this is in comparison to a 65% voting rate for Minnesota youth in general), according to the National Survey on Learning, Voting, and Engagement. Michael Dean from LeadMN will visit campus to present the college with a trophy for the Democracy Cup Challenge. Please join us!

What: Democracy Cup Trophy Presentation
When: Thursday, December 16, at 1:30 p.m.
Where: Viking Theater, Buntrock Commons

Opportunities for Development on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism
As part of our membership in the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance (LACRELA), we have started to get access to the monthly convening/training recordings. See below the recording for one of the latest workshops.

Bias Report Update
As part of continuing to educate and inform the community about our bias reporting process, I would like to take the opportunity this week to describe some of the most common incidents of bias in our campus. Next month, I’ll discuss some of the most common practices to address incidents.

Most Common Incidents. 

  • The use and misuse of language that negatively impacts students, staff, and faculty with marginalized identities. For example, misgendering, terms to describe communities that are obsolete, insensitive, inappropriate, and/or reinforce “isms.”
  • The use or misuse of examples in classrooms that are too close to home and/or exacerbate identity-based related stress and/or trauma.
  • Microaggressions between students.
Total Reports* Intakes** Restorative Justice Process Investigations
25 23 0 1

*Reports are from Sept-Nov 2021
**Intakes are not done when a report is anonymous or the reporting party requests to not be contacted
***Reporting Parties: 20 students, 3 staff members, 0 Anonymous, 2 Faculty
****Responding Parties: 4 students, 1 staff members, 8 Unknown, 12 Faculty
*****Targeted parties: 18 students, 0 staff members, 6 Unknown, 1 Faculty


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