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:
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
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.