Update: #inSTOtutional Racism Exists

Hello All,

On September 25th, President David Anderson released an email detailing the list of members they chose for their working group, entitled “Working Group on Equity and Inclusion”. The email is as follows:


“Dear Oles,

I am pleased to announce the next step forward in our continuing efforts to ensure a welcoming and inclusive community at St. Olaf: the appointment of a Working Group on Equity and Inclusion.  I am pleased that the Task Force that met this summer agreed that this was a necessary next step.

The membership of the Working Group is shown below.  Co-chaired by two members of our Board of Regents, the charge of the Working Group is to:

Conduct a comprehensive review of the way persons from underrepresented groups experience life at St. Olaf with an eye to identifying the reasons why they experience it in this way.

Assess the overall climate of the College as it relates to the full participation and inclusion of underrepresented members of our community, ensuring that diverse backgrounds and perspectives are included, and voices of all are heard.

Identify barriers that exist to members of our community experiencing a consistent sense of belonging and to recommend ways to eliminate those barriers.

Consider best practices of other colleges and universities as they relate to access, equity, and inclusion.

Provide informed and specific recommendations to the President by May 1, 2018.

I have asked the Working Group to be inclusive in reaching out to members of the community for input, to be generous in its communication about its activities and progress, and to be fearless in its analysis and judgments. I thank them in advance for the work they will do.

Our other efforts to support inclusiveness won’t halt while the Working Group is doing its work. The “To Include is to Excel” initiative, new training opportunities for members of our community, and continued emphasis on recruiting diverse students, faculty, and staff to St. Olaf are three examples of the ongoing work.

This is an important moment in the life of our college. We are provided with the opportunity to look deeply into ourselves as individuals and as an institution to discern how we can create and sustain a welcoming and inclusive environment and then to commit to doing and sustaining that work.

David Anderson ‘74

President”


The members of the working group are as follows:

Glenn Taylor '73 - A St. Olaf Regent and co-chair of the Working Group. He is a retired healthcare executive who lives in Libertyville, Illinois.

hil Milne '81 - A St. Olaf Regent and co-chair of the Working Group. He is the owner of the Rapid Packaging company and lives in Wayzata, Minnesota.

Mary Barbosa - Jerez serves as the head of strategy for library collections and archives at St. Olaf.

Katherine Fick is the associate college pastor at St. Olaf, and she plays a central role in nurturing the college's values and supporting the health and well-being of the community.

Bruce King is the assistant to the president for institutional diversity and chief diversity officer at St. Olaf.

Donna Lee is Macalester College's vice president for student affairs. She has presented numerous workshops on topics related to diversity, leadership, organizational development, and community engagement.

David Merchant '77 is an attorney based in the Twin Cities who has dedicated much of his life to working on civil rights, racial equality, and justice for all.    

Mario Paez '01 is a vice president in the Wells Fargo Insurance Services' Professional Risk Group and lives in St. Paul. He is a member of the St. Olaf Alumni Board.

Anantanand Rambachan is a professor of religion at St. Olaf and a renowned Hindu scholar who has been involved in the field of interreligious relations and dialogue for over 25 years.

There are also two students on the working group, one domestic and one international. Both are students of color of the class of 2020.

 


Our Stance: #inSTOtutional Racism Exists

The charges that the PLT’s working group are tasked with addressing allows the institution to avoid conversations about the existence of institutional racism that has time and time again been proven to exist at St. Olaf. The institutional racism that St. Olaf continues to perpetuate has been proven through multiple reports from independent parties across decades.

Not only does this proposed Working Group focus, yet again, on proving that students of color face race-specific challenges at this institution, it presents a lack of urgency in the assumption that we will wait until May for mere suggestions on how to address this. While we wait on the Working Group to deliberate, we are still experiencing injustice. The time is over for contemplation and recommendations. It is time for action.

How can the college community expect this Working Group to be "fearless in its analysis and judgments" when the college won't even respond to the recommendations of the Task Force on Institutional Racism?

It is time for the institution to engage in the very “dialogue” that it holds in such high regard.

Where is the dialogue, when those in power repeatedly exclude the voices of those affected from the conversation? The “voices of all” are not heard. This Working Group includes only two students, yet it is to address racism and concerns that would affect student life. Two students, selected by a process unknown to said students they are to represent, are not enough.

It is time for this conversation to leave the closed door practices favored by administration, and engage with the greater St. Olaf community. This includes students, faculty, staff and alumni.

It is time for administration to be transparent. It is time for the College to put a name to what we are fighting against.

This is an important moment in the life of our college, but we are not “presented” with merely an “opportunity”. We are at a point of crisis.

We are fighting institutional racism. It is present. There is no room for debate.

There is no question as to whether these barriers exist, as they have already been identified. The charges of the Working Group have already been addressed— it is up the the College to fully listen to those who have and are providing the answers.

President's Leadership Team Response to Task Force and The Collective's Response to PLT

Hello again,

On September 6th, 2017, the St. Olaf student body received an email response from the President’s Leadership Team to the Task Force on Institutional Racism’s email of recommendations for St. Olaf they developed this past summer.

 

“The President’s Leadership Team thanks the Task Force for its report and the members for their work. When the Task Force was formed, the PLT agreed to respond to its report within 30 days.

 

President Anderson has exhorted us at the beginning of this school year to give one another grace. He describes this as, while holding one another accountable for our words and deeds, “presuming the best intentions from others, being slow to anger and quick to forgive, seeking understanding, engaging in authentic dialogue rather than rhetoric, looking for common ground, being aware of our own failings, de-escalating, and remaining resolutely hopeful.” It is in that spirit that we offer this response.

 

The charge to the Task Force was “To consider the demands presented by the Collective for Change on the Hill and the response to those demands from the President’s Leadership Team, and to make any recommendations regarding the demands by September 1, 2017.” The Task Force chose to fulfill that charge through a series of meetings in which members of the Task Force discussed among themselves the concerns raised by students and the College’s response to them.

 

Based upon those discussions, they issued their report.

 

As the Task Force itself recognizes, it is time to invite more voices into the conversation. We agree that a Working Group should be formed to listen to those voices, and we therefore believe it is premature to respond to the Task Force’s other recommendations.

 

The Working Group’s charge should include activities that the Task Force did not undertake. There should be open forums, updates to the community on its work, and opportunities for those with information, experiences or opinions regarding the campus climate to be heard. The Working Group should meet with offices on campus upon whose work it considers. Experts and best practices at other institutions should be consulted.

 

We will move forward with appointing members for the Working Group and the President will share the group's membership and charge with the campus community as soon as it is formed.

Regards,

The President's Leadership Team”


 

This email was sent out two days after the Task Force’s email containing a documentation of their suggested actions the college should take.

 

We, as The Collective, appreciate the hard work the Task Force has done this summer, and their willingness to devote their time and energy to such an important but complex task. Although our views of some of the demands differ, they have shown themselves to have had extensive conversations about each point, which is necessary for dialogue and subsequent change on campus.

 

We, therefore, are disappointed in the Administration’s response to The Task Force’s recommendations. We believe that by disregarding the efforts of the Task Force and attempting to create a separate working group does not show an effort towards creating an “authentic dialogue”, as this shuts out those who have spent hours upon hours this summer to present a comprehensive document.

 

We believe that the college should take the Task Force’s recommendations more seriously, and set up a plan of action to implement them.

 

The College should be able to properly respond to the recommendations that the Task Force has provided in either agreeing or disagreeing with the recommendations. Instead they believe that by creating a Working Group they will be able to achieve this. By creating their non-transparent working group, they are presenting a lack of willingness to engage in true “dialogue”.

 

As the Task Force recognizes, it is time to include more voices into the conversation. It is time to act on the recommendation of a Title VI Working Group. It is time to clarify the College's definitions on actions of hate. It is time to take into account the needs of a diverse population, in ways the College has failed to do so previously. It is time to turn discussion away from what the College has been doing to what the College can do better or start doing. It is time for the College to work with those who want change.

 

The Collective will continue to hold the St. Olaf Administration accountable in how they choose to accept or ignore the advice of the people their actions will ultimately affect.

 

We will not allow this to be swept under the rug. We will not allow meaningless respectability to precede justice and meaningful action, or for the Administration to take this behind closed doors.

Task Force Update

September 11, 2017

Hello all,
As of September 4th, 2017, the St. Olaf student body has received an update from the Task Force on Institutional Racism that was formulated at the end of the spring semester of last year.

"Dear St. Olaf Students,

We write to present the Report of the St. Olaf Task Force on Institutional Racism. Our Task Force officially ends with the release of this report. But the work ahead continues and we hope this report is a helpful step in the process of making St. Olaf an even more inclusive and welcoming community for all.

We thank everyone who helped us in our work this summer, and in the preparation of this report.

Best regards,

Joan Hepburn and Chris Chiappari, Co-Chairs
On behalf of the St. Olaf Task Force on Institutional Racism"

Here is a link to the full 43-page document of their recommendations for St. Olaf. 

 

In Support of Cosimo Pori

June 17, 2017

We, The Collective for Change on The Hill, stand with and support Cosimo Pori. We stand in solidarity with them as they were willing to critique the institution of St. Olaf College and the flaws it holds. We came together to promote change and unity within the St. Olaf Community by addressing institutional forms of oppression to marginalized groups on campus. We value the ability to protest and speak out against oppressive powers as a way to call for action but when that ability is withheld from us, it promotes that cyclical power of oppression.

Individuals, especially members of St. Olaf’s “community”, should be able to speak out against Administration and the Institution without being threatened. Raising awareness about the institutional racism that St. Olaf College perpetuates is the change that St. Olaf desperately needs. Cosimo Pori pushed for the awareness of St. Olaf's institutional racism and has been silenced by its Administration. This act of disciplinary action against Cosimo goes against the values that this institution claims it seeks.

St. Olaf College values that “conversation is at the heart of [its] education”, but not everyone at St. Olaf is free to converse. According to St. Olaf College, it wants its students to “develop the ability to listen carefully, argue forcefully, and be the kind of engaged thinker”, but when students such as Cosimo are denied the freedom to speak, we find ourselves in the face of a hypocritical institution. St. Olaf allows for dialogue and conversation to be held within their terms, and we will not stand for that type of hypocrisy.

St. Olaf “strives to be an inclusive community, respecting those of differing backgrounds and beliefs” and the institution has failed to do so. This institution decides to silence those who have spoken out against the “community” it has created. The value of inclusivity that St. Olaf College claims to hold did not include Cosimo’s criticism of St. Olaf’s participation in institutional racism. It is apparent that St. Olaf College and its Administration only seeks "dialogue" between themselves and not the members of the community that their decisions directly affect. In order to dismantle institutional racism in the institution of St. Olaf College, Cosimo participated in valuable forms of dialogue such as protest and freedom of criticism, so The Collective for Change on the Hill supports Cosimo Pori. 

TASK FORCE UPDATE

May 22, 2017

In the second week of May, the Collective invited applications from students of color to be nominees for the Task Force on Institutional Racism. The Collective held open elections to determine the top 5 student applicants. For sake of autonomy, it was decided that no Collective member would be on the Task Force.

The final list of students in our nominee pool are listed below:

  1. Yishu Dai
  2. SuSu Almousa
  3. Atefeh Alavi
  4. Said Alhouseini
  5. Muhammad Lucman

On May 12, 2017, Rosalyn Eaton sent out an email to the student body announcing the "Diversity and Inclusion Initiative." 

By May 16, 2017, we had also received confirmation from two faculty members (Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Chris Chiappari), one alumni member (Katie Barnes) and one attorney (Tom Fiebiger). 

On May 17, we were scheduled to meet with the President's Leadership Team (PLT) to discuss the membership of the Task Force. Two hours before the meeting Professor Kwon Dobbs withdrew her application. 

President David Anderson and Bruce King were the only members of the PLT at the meeting. We discussed and agreed upon a few amendments to the Terms and Conditions of Negotiations.  

In the meeting we only presented the names of the students, the attorney and the alumni member.  Concerns were raised regarding the alumni member's ability to be present on campus over the summer. 

It was decided that we would reconvene on May 22, 2017 to finalize the task force and that the PLT would send us a list of their own nominees before today. We did not receive any such list.

After May 17, Wednesday, the Collective sought to recruit more faculty and alumni nominees. Our final list of nominees are listed below:

Faculty Members:

  • Chris Chiappari
  • Joan Hepburn
  • Lisa Moore

Students:

  • SuSu Almousa
  • Atefeh Alavi
  • Yishu Dai
  • Muhammad Lucman
  • Said Alhouseini

Attorney:

  • Thomas Fiebiger

Alumni:

  • Katie Barnes
  • Adrian Benjamin
  • Sheridan Blanford

On May 19, 2017, PLT published their initial report on the List of Demands

Today (May 22, 2017) at 9 AM we met with the PLT again (only President David Anderson and Bruce King were present). At the meeting President David Anderson proposed that he would appoint a new committee for a "larger consideration of campus climate." 

PDA's Proposal

PDA's Proposal

After sufficient consideration and deliberation, we decided that this proposal violates the Terms and Conditions of Negotiations and hinders the work of the Task Force. The proposal to establish a committee appointed by the PLT displays a lack of transparency.  

At 12 PM today we reconvened and agreed to the constitution of the Task Force. The President mentioned that he may still consider appointing a separate committee. The Collective will not support any committee that the PLT appoints behind closed doors. 

The PLT agreed that the Task Force will evaluate the Collective's List of Demands, and the PLT's initial report. The Task Force will provide its recommendations to the Administration by September 1, 2017. The newly instituted Task Force will consist of the following individuals:

Chris Chiappari, Co-Chair
Joan Hepburn, Co-Chair
Sheridan Blanford, Alumni Member '15
Tom Fiebiger, '78 Attorney
SuSu Almousa, '19
Yishu Dai, '18
Atefeh Alavi '20
Carl Lehmann '91, PLT member

The Administration has not clarified if it will nominate more external members. Based on the amended Terms and Conditions for Negotiations PLT can nominate at most 2 external members. 

The History of #InSTOtutionalRacism

The Collective is presenting a study on the History of racism at St. Olaf.

"Racism and Change on The Hill, 1874-2017" was sponsored by the Collective. 

This paper is part of our attempt to shift the attention from individual perpetrators of hate crimes and racism to Institutional problems.

We are grateful to Claire Bransky, Udeepta Chakravarty, Camille Garrett, Graham Glennon, Andrew Lee, Pearl McAndrews, Sam Seo and others who have helped in the drafting of this report.

Please Read and Share!!!!!!!!!

PDF HERE

 

RESPONSE TO TODAY’S EMAIL. May 10, 2017

Members of the community and the general public,

On April 29, 2017, a black student found a note on their car which personally addressed and threatened them.

We, the members of The Collective, have learned from an email from the President that this event was “fabricated.” 

This has been a terrible revelation for us, not only because this “fabricated” incident sparked spontaneous solidarity within the entire community, not only because this movement and its unprecedented achievements relied on this spontaneous solidarity, but also because this movement, that occurred in a microcosm of the United States, reflects the resistance of peoples  to the larger issue of systemic racism in this country.

We believed the legitimacy of this incident like many members of the community because of our familiarity of such things happening. We unconditionally condemn such an attempt at fabrication because it questions the legitimacy of our demands for institutional change — reform that has been long overdue.

We call on all the members of the community to understand that the focus of our movement and our List of Demands is on transforming the institution and is necessitated by the alienation of people of color. This “not genuine” incident does not invalidate the experiences of others and it does not invalidate institutional racism.

The Collective stands unified in challenging institutional racism and in seeking institutional change.

#inSTOtutionalRacism Response to BOR meeting

Members of the community and concerned folks,

Since the signing of the Terms and Conditions of Negotiations, the President Leadership Team (PLT) has met with conditions 1 (a).

Today, May 4, 2017, The Collective for Change on The Hill met with the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents consented to our invitation and the meeting was live streamed. The administration has fulfilled conditions 2 (a), (b).

The Agenda of the meeting is outlined below:

  1. Address to the Gathering by the Chair of the Board

  2. Address to the Board of Regents

  3. Statement of Justification for raising the issue of institutional racism

  4. Present the members of the Board with the Document of Support

  5. Feedback and Q&A

Address to the Gathering
Statement of Justification
Uploaded by Nick Larson on 2017-05-05.

The Board of Regents was provided a Document of Support seeking signatures from the members of the Board. The statement of this Document wants members of the Board to "support the legitimacy of the issues raised by The Collective for Change on The Hill and support the initiatives and measures taken by the President’s Leadership Team to address institutional racism." 

We did not receive any signatures. The Chair of the Board acknowledged that “every member of the Board has received that document", but "we’ve not had a chance to review and discuss it.”  Part of their reason to not sign this Document of Support was a unanimous resolution that the Board passed before the meeting. 

The chair of the Board noted that “We believe that the resolution that we passed unanimously, including the cover letter to that memo, addresses everything that you are seeking in the Document of Support.” This is transparently not true. The Resolution does not mention The Collective for Change on The Hill. This resolution does not refer to the PLT signing Terms and Conditions of Negotiations nor does it refer to the constitution of the Task Force.  

President David Anderson sent out an email with the resolution. He said that the "college leaders are committed to move forward in spirit of collaboration to address these important issues." We do not understand what "spirit of collaboration" implies, since the Board refuses to sign the Document of Support, we interpret this message as vague and unconvincing.  

We also collected questions from students, faculty and alumni which we compiled into a document that was presented to the Board. The Chair of the Board, on account of shortage of time and other commitments of the members, said that “we would prefer not to address those at the present time”. The Chair did not promise to respond to these questions in the future.  

We appreciate the Resolution, but unfortunately it does not represent the contents nor does it replace the Document of Support.