St. Olaf College | News

Equity and Inclusion Update

A yellow "Equity and Inclusion Update" image with black and white lettering.

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

Dear St. Olaf Community,

While we’re beginning this new academic year with an optimism built on the way our campus community came together over the past year to protect each other from the pandemic and fight racial injustices, we are still experiencing many uncertainties with COVID-19 as well as the state of the world. Our neighbors in Haiti have been extremely impacted by an earthquake that has devastated an infrastructure that was already suffering. We are also seeing the desperation and pain from many in Afghanistan trying to flee a new regime. Both situations call for us to live into our values “to respond in good will to the needs of neighbor and planet” (as stated in the college mission). An inclusive community not only focuses on its most immediate members, but works internationally for the betterment and enhancement of its surrounding communities and the world.

To learn more and support the efforts in Haiti go here. To learn more and support the refugees from Afghanistan go here.

Co-Creating an Inclusive Community
Last week I had the opportunity to connect with our Co-Creating an Inclusive Community research team, led by Associate Professor of Practice in Sociology/Anthropology Ryan Sheppard and her student research assistants, to go over the final report. The report reflects their hard work and dedication to their scholarship as well as issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We will share the executive summary of the report on September 15 during a Virtual Community Forum. We will highlight major themes and next steps to continue to build an inclusive community. I look forward to connecting with all of you then!

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism (DEIA) Work Lessons Learned
Two weeks ago a group of staff and faculty met to participate in a train-the-trainer Restorative Justice all-day workshop. The methods and philosophy of restorative justice come from practices of Indigenous and communities of color. Restorative Justice allows for truth-telling and repairing harm for healed, just relationships, setting the stage for the possibility of reconciliation. Healed, just, equitable relationships are violence prevention. Restorative justice prevents violence and builds peace into our lives and communities (Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute).

This training is part of our efforts in the Bias Response Team to engage in practices that bring communities together and support healing beyond those directly involved. We invited staff and faculty who engage with students on a regular basis and who would benefit from the tools and skills. If you are interested in this topic, we encourage you to attend Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute’s two-hour “Intro to Restorative Justice for Community Healing and Transformation Training” that they offer monthly with a Pay-What-You-Can arrangement. Register and get more information here.

Opportunities for Development on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism
This week I would like to share a book I recently read, Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret by Catherine Coleman Flowers. The book was selected for this year’s Common Read at St. Olaf. The Common Read introduces first-year students to discussions on equity and inclusion that they can integrate in their social and academic life.

“In this powerful book, Catherine tells the story of systemic class, racial, and geographic prejudice that foster Third World conditions, not just in Alabama, but across America, in Appalachia, Central California, coastal Florida, Alaska, the urban Midwest, and on Native American reservations in the West. Flowers’s book is the inspiring story of the evolution of an activist, from country girl to student civil rights organizer to environmental justice champion at Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative.”

Thank you to all the staff and faculty who have volunteered their time to facilitate small group discussions during New Student Orientation!

Bias Report Update

Total Reports* Intakes** Connected with the Reporting Party via email or conversation Restorative Justice Process Investigations
69 43 8 2 10

*Reports are from August 2020 to August 2021
**Intakes are not done when a report is anonymous or the reporting party requests to not be contacted
***Reporting Parties: 52 students, 10 staff members, 17 Anonymous, 3 Faculty (the reason this total number is higher than the total number of reports is because some individuals reported and/or were involved in the same incident)
****Responding Parties: 16 students, 6 staff members, 6 Unknown, 31 Faculty



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