On January 30th, the Working Group’s update announced that they had met with the Dean of Students and Provost.

Dear St. Olaf Community,

Yesterday the Working Group on Equity and Inclusion met with Provost Marci Sortor and Dean of Students Roz Eaton, both of whom implement diversity and inclusion efforts. We entered the meetings with several questions and came out encouraged by the care and attention they are putting to fight racism at St. Olaf. We believe that everyone has a role to play in creating a welcoming campus community, and our challenge as a Working Group is to help guide these efforts and recommend areas of improvement.

We first talked to Provost Sortor, who oversees all faculty members as well as the college’s curriculum. She shared several related efforts that are already underway:

  • The General Education Task Force is reviewing the college’s general education requirements. There could be opportunities to better weave elements of diversity and equity into these requirements, especially in first-year courses.
  • Faculty recruitment processes seek applicants with both academic expertise and emotional IQ.
  • The To Include is To Excel grant provides opportunities to review our curriculum in light of how our diverse student body engages with that knowledge, as well as examine faculty and staff development opportunities.

We next spoke with Dean Eaton, who oversees student life on campus. She reflected on this spring’s protest and shared several interesting insights about the work ahead:

  • Dean Eaton is working closely with the Student Government Association, which has prioritized race and inclusion as an issue they want to continue to focus on this academic year.
  • She has received feedback that the community would like to have more conversations about race and racism in the classroom, at residence halls, and throughout the campus.
  • She is working to improve Week One, the first-year orientation program, to better prepare students for school and life on a residential liberal arts campus. Done right, Week One could help create a common experience and starting point for people of all backgrounds.

At the end of each meeting, the Working Group shared with Provost Sortor and Dean Eaton that the issue of racism and diversity has been elevated to the highest level. As co-chairs and members of the Board of Regents, we are here to eliminate barriers at the institutional level to ensure that we create a more inclusive campus. This issue is so fundamentally important to the college that we plan to continue to engage with this issue at the board level well beyond the tenure of the Working Group.

Respectfully submitted,

Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion