On February 23rd, we met with the Working Group, the summer Task Force on Institutional Racism, and President David Anderson in a conversation facilitated by consultant Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington. This meeting was the first coordinated effort in which all of these groups were gathered to discuss the issues pertaining to the work that is to be done as well as to address the existing tensions among us.
Posted here is the update released by the Working Group about the meeting (posted on March 1st).
We will be meeting again with the same members when Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington returns to campus in mid-March.
Dear St. Olaf Community,
Last Friday, Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington facilitated an important conversation with members of the Working Group, the Collective, the Task Force, and President Anderson.
After his initial visit to campus in January, Dr. Washington felt that it was critical to bring this group of stakeholders together to create a space for deep, authentic conversations; to begin the process of building trust and real relationships; to explore where we have been, where we are, and where we want to be; and to share hoped for outcomes to move this effort forward.
At the beginning of the meeting, each participant was given the opportunity to share what was on their mind and in their hearts about the past, present, and future of inclusion at St. Olaf. The group acknowledged the historical challenges and frustrations with campus climate issues associated with civility, bigotry, and systemic racism. Over time, these factors have eroded the level of trust and transparency among and between various communities on campus and their relationship with the college’s leadership.
Participants sought deeper engagement with race and racism at the interpersonal and institutional levels. A common fear among all stakeholders around the table was that the movement was stalling and that we as a whole won’t make lasting change.
As a Working Group, we know that increased training and changing policies aren’t enough. We need to change the culture on campus to create an environment where all of us thrive. Our recommendations will strive to accomplish this with both short-term and long-term efforts.
We appreciate the willingness of all stakeholders to be vulnerable and open in our meeting. We plan to convene this group again to continue our important conversations when Dr. Washington returns to campus on March 20.
In addition to this meeting, Dr. Washington and the Working Group also met with other stakeholders on campus during the day on Friday to help move forward the efforts of the Working Group. Stakeholders included:
- President’s Leadership Team (Dr. Washington only)
- President Anderson (Dr. Washington and Working Group)
- Race and Ethnic Studies Director Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Professor Jon Naito, and Professor Lisa Moore (Working Group only)
From all of us on the Working Group, thank you for your continued interest in and feedback on our work. Your participation and support are crucial to our success.
Glenn Taylor ’73 and Phil Milne ’81
Chairs, Working Group on Equity and Inclusion