On January 5th, the Working Group’s published and update stating that they held a conference call with Rev. Dr. Washington and held listening sessions with representatives from CMIE (Center for Multicultural and International Engagement), Admissions, and Athletics.

Dear St. Olaf Community,

The Working Group on Equity and Inclusion gathered on campus this Thursday, January 4, for a meeting that spanned much of the day. It was an extremely productive gathering, and we are grateful for everyone who continues to invest significant time and energy in this important work.

We began our meeting by looking at best practices at other colleges. While the recommendations that we develop will be specific to St. Olaf, it is invaluable for our group to have an understanding of the work that is taking place on campuses across the nation.

We also received a preliminary update on the campus climate survey that the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) administered on behalf of the Working Group this fall. More than 25 percent of the St. Olaf community participated in the survey, which is the highest response rate among the five schools that HEDS administered this survey to this cycle. We are cross-referencing this data with the data that was collected by students in Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Ryan Sheppard’s class this fall as part of their research on racial microaggressions in the classroom. As soon as this work is completed, we will release it publicly.

We then held a video conference call with Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington, the highly respected expert in multicultural organizational development that the Working Group has retained. He shared a number of insights that he has gained in working with colleges across the country on issues of diversity and inclusion. In addition to his own experience as a faculty member, Rev. Dr. Washington has spent time helping both corporate and nonprofit organizations work toward long-term, sustainable cultural change. As part of his first visit to campus on January 17 and 18, we will arrange meetings for Rev. Dr. Washington with students and stakeholders on campus.

After our discussion with Rev. Dr. Washington, we held listening sessions with representatives from St. Olaf Admissions, the Center for Multicultural and International Engagement (CMIE), and Athletics. In each of these listening sessions, we reviewed the college’s current practices, asked for historical data, and discussed both college practices that have worked well and those that need to be improved. These sessions were helpful in giving all of us an understanding of how specific offices have approached equity and inclusion efforts over time. We plan to continue these listening sessions with the campus community in the coming months. Throughout this process, we encourage and ask for feedback to be submitted to the Working Group here.

The Working Group will convene again via conference call on January 12 and will meet on campus again on January 18. At that meeting, the Working Group will meet in person with Rev. Dr. Washington to review what he’s learned through initial discussions with campus stakeholders.

From all of us on the Working Group, thank you for your continued interest in and feedback on our work. We have a significant task ahead of us in the coming months, and your participation and support is crucial to our success.

Respectfully submitted,

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