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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,

I hope you are all finding some time to slow down after a hectic academic year. One of the main lessons I have learned in this field is that the same amount of effort we put into creating change and challenging the status quo, we have to put into celebrating the wins and creating spaces for self care. If you ever want to know some ideas for doing self care, I have tried it all!

This month we celebrate Pride Month and Juneteenth. These are two celebrations that intentionally carve spaces to recognize excellence, joy, and acknowledge the shoulders we stand on.

Pride Month. Globally individuals experience violence, inequities, and disruption to access of basic services just because of who and how they love, because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Gender identity and sexual orientation are critical parts of our identities, and no one should ever be discriminated against or abused because of it. Did you know? Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Did you know? Transgender people, drag queens, and Black and Latinx people played outsized roles during many of the earliest milestones of the LGBTQIA+ rights movement. Today, however, these same groups have been denied many of the benefits of the revolution they sparked. During this month let’s take an opportunity to celebrate the work that many activists have done and continue to be part of the change and action.

Juneteenth. On the evening of January 1,1863, many waited for the Emancipation Proclamation to take effect. Once it did, many took to the streets to celebrate freedom and the change to come. However, this was not the case across every Confederate territory. It was not until June 19, 1865 that it was announced that all Black enslaved people were free. This day came to be known as Juneteenth. This year Juneteenth is especially important. This last year has been particularly painful for the Black members of our communities.This Saturday will be a moment for many members of the Black community to acknowledge the journey walked and reclaim joy. Also, yesterday President Biden signed into law legislation establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a U.S. federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. This is the first federal holiday established since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. This is a small win but let us not forget how much further we still have to go. Voting rights, removing critical race theory from schools, the racial wealth gap, justice in policing, and many other issues still need to be overcome.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism (DEIA) Work Lessons Learned

St. Olaf Librarians in Action — Language Matters
St. Olaf librarians understand the importance of language and how it continues to perpetuate oppression and hate. Therefore, they have have locally replaced the term “illegal aliens” with the term “undocumented immigrants” in our library catalog, including other variations of the term (i.e., “children of undocumented immigrants,” etc.). This change affects both search and indexing. Desired resources can be found using the old, “official” term, or the replacement term.

Background: The Library of Congress maintains the list of official subject terms available to apply to records representing library resources. The term “illegal aliens,” while still in the official list, has been very hotly contested since 2016. The issue has even made it to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Library of Congress has indicated a desire to change it, but is currently under a mandate by Congress not to. Many in the library community have been advocating for change to this term for five years. For more information, there’s a wonderful short one-hour documentary about a group of undocumented students at Dartmouth College who first voiced opposition to the presence of this term in their library’s catalog. It’s called Change the Subject (freely available).

Taylor Center – Creative Collective
This fall, after the murder of George Floyd, Sarah Warren ‘99 contacted me because she wanted to work with Black, Indigenous, and students of color to create a circle of support — a space where they could rediscover their voice. The Creative Collective was started. The Creative Collective was made up of four core members, plus Warren. It provides a space for community building and self care.This was a powerful initiative that shows the impact and importance of our alumni engagement with our students. Read more here.

Anti-Racism Training
In January and February, staff, faculty, and students participated in the “Building an Anti-Racist Campus Community” training led by the Washington Consulting Group. We recently surveyed students, staff, and faculty about their experience. We shared the quantitative results earlier this spring. Today I am excited to be able to share the results from the qualitative data. To access the report please go here. I want to thank Professor Ryan Sheppard and students Margret Emborsky ‘21, Wendy Garcia-Torres ‘22, Victoria Gutierrez Pereira ‘21, and Teresa Kayser ‘21 for their excellent work with the data analysis and report. To learn more about the Anti-Racism Training, visit the website.

Opportunities for Development on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism

2021 Women of Color Leadership and Empowerment Virtual Conference
The St. Olaf Office of Admissions is proud to be a sponsor for the 2021 Women of Color Leadership and Empowerment Virtual Conference on Thursday, June 24, 2021, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend. To register go here and for more more information go here.

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 for the recordings:



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