Equity and Inclusion Update
This is part of a new series of regular updates that Interim Vice President for Equity and Inclusion María Pabón Gautier sends to the campus community.
Dear St. Olaf Community,
This coming month we celebrate AAPI Heritage Month. This has been an extremely difficult and painful year for the members of these communities, marked by an increase in violence towards AAPI bodies and the continuous sexualization and fetishization of the culture and people. I strongly believe that one of our tools to not survive but thrive in the face of racism and hate is our resilience, community, and excellence. Since I was child, I found my resilience and refuge in writing (not that I was any good), and every word reminded me that I was strong and I had my own power. Poetry and literature are powerful vehicles not only for expression but for liberation and transformation. The AAPI communities have been contributing to U.S. literature for over a century, yet their work wasn’t recognized until the 1970s. This recognition of excellence has opened the door for many members of the AAPI communities to explore where tradition meets protests, where labels meet reality. I wanted to share a poem from poet Li-Young Lee. In this poem, Lee describes hearing his mother and grandmother sing about their Chinese heritage and history. It’s a short and vivid poem with a bittersweet mixture of remembrance and celebration.
I Ask My Mother To Sing
She begins, and my grandmother joins her.
Mother and daughter sing like young girls.
If my father were alive, he would play
his accordion and sway like a boat.
I’ve never been in Peking, or the Summer Palace,
nor stood on the great Stone Boat to watch
the rain begin on Kuen Ming Lake, the picnickers
running away in the grass.
But I love to hear it sung;
how the waterlilies fill with rain until
they overturn, spilling water into water,
then rock back, and fill with more.
Both women have begun to cry.
But neither stops her song.
AAPI Heritage Month Celebrations and Activities
We are celebrating, uniting, and creating change with AAPI Heritage Month. Many members of our community have collaborated to bring awareness, change, and conversation this month through a series of events.
Day of Healing and Reflection
Last Wednesday, honoring and respecting the time our community needed to process the Derek Chauvin trial verdict, we took a pause. We stopped to connect, begin healing, and refuel to continue to do the work. The day included different types of activities, from quiet and spaces of prayer to self care through art and time with puppies. Many of us got a chance to connect during our staff and faculty gatherings. For someone like me who has been doing this work for close to two decades, a day like last Wednesday was powerful and fed my heart. The day’s activities wouldn’t have been possible without the work of many members of our community. I am so grateful for you, your commitment, and your willingness to show up. Thank you…
- Jenny Ortiz
- Jane Becker-Nelson
- Mary Titus
- Brandon Cash
- Kathy Glampe
- Nekeidra Morrison
- Leslie Moore
- Deanna Thompson
- Joshua Lee
- Katie Fick
- Matthew Marohl
- Peter Nelson
- Michon Weeks
- Hannah Ryan
- Jessica Cameron
- Norma Charlton
This spring several student groups used their creativity and innovation to create magical events. During these times when we need community and connectedness more than ever, the celebrations of Omkara and Hmong Heritage Celebration created exactly that. Please join me in congratulating the students who organized and led these events, and see below for more information on how to watch their performances.
Celebrate South Asia (CSA) presented 2021 Omkara: Unmasked
Hmong Cultural Outreach (HCO) & Hmong Dialogue and Leadership (HDL) presented Hmong Heritage Celebration
DEIA Work Lessons Learned
The work and commitment toward diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism is spread and represented throughout many areas of the College. There are so many people doing wonderful and powerful work, from our students to our staff, faculty, and alumni. In addition to identifying the gaps and areas we need to work on, I believe it is important to recognize the members of our community who have been working hard to create change at different levels. Therefore, I will permanently add this section to my communication to share information about work that offices, departments, and groups are doing. This is just the start of learning from each other and sharing best practices. If you would like the work your group, department, or office is doing included, please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org). This work is not and cannot be done in a silo.
Co-Creating an Inclusive Community Initiative
We are a month into our initiative, and what a wonderful experience it has been. As of today we have conducted 44 Co-Creating Sessions, which means that we have had approximately 660 members of our community (students, staff, faculty, and alumni) participate in at least one session. I am thankful to our strong facilitators who have taken ownership of this work and to students, staff, and faculty for working with us to schedule a time to have these conversations.
What comes next? We will be running Co-Creating Sessions until mid-May.Then, in collaboration with faculty and students, the data will be synthesized and action/next steps will be identified. The main purpose of the Co-Creating Initiative next cycle is to act based on what we have heard in the sessions.
Bias Report Update
Connected with the Reporting Party via email or conversation
Restorative Justice Process
*Reports are from August 2020 to April 2021
**Reporting Parties: 36 students, 6 staff members, 10 Anonymous, 1 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)
Dr. María C. Pabón Gautier
Interim Vice President for Equity and Inclusion
Director of the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion