The Board of Regents met with A Collective for Change on the Hill on Thursday, May 4 at 4:15 p.m. in the Black and Gold Ballrooms. Students lined the halls outside the ballrooms to demonstrate their support for the Collective and the meeting was livestreamed – a historic move for the College and requested by the Collective in their “terms and conditions of negotiation.” The Board was already on campus this weekend for their spring meeting, but they created time on Thursday to meet with the group in light of campus events and after President David Anderson '74 sent the Board the Collective’s list of demands.
Board of Regents Chairman Larry Stranghoener ’76 introduced the meeting and specified that it was “not an official board meeting, rather a listening and learning session.” He then affirmed the Board’s condemnation of the recent racist hate speech on campus and acknowledged the lack of diversity on the Board itself.
“We have a modestly diverse board, we seek diversity on the board for sure … we recognize we have much more work to do with respect to racial, ethnic and gender diversity,” Stranghoener said.
Tia Schaffer ’20 and Udeepta Chakravarty ’17 addressed the Board and explained the purpose of the Collective’s movement and described the racial climate on campus.
“[Recent events] shows us that the inclusive community that welcomes diversity and difference is superficial,” Chakravarty said. “This enchantment however is not only a source of pain but a source inspiration, that made me join the movement with the hope that others like me do not have to carry that weight of disenchantment.”
The Collective also informed the Board that they included a list of questions from students and were hoping that the Board would address some of them. Stranghoener declined, and insisted that after the Board formed a Task Force of individuals to address the Collective’s demands, the Board would be better prepared to answer any and all questions. Earlier in the day the Board passed a resolution addressing recent campus events.
Following the meeting, members of the Collective gathered in the Buntrock Commons Crossroads to address numerous other students. Leaders of the Collective spoke briefly to the crowd about the meeting.
“These are the first the steps, whether small, big, medium, these are steps that have to happen for us to live in a community and be in a community and create a community that is equal, that is hopeful,” Don Williams ’18 said. “Please don’t let this be the last day you talk about this. Don’t let this be the last day you fight for this … Let the world know, let the nation know what is happening on this campus.”
The demonstration ended with a moment of silence.
The resolution, approved unanimously by the Board of Regents, is attached below.
May 4, 2017 Resolution of the St. Olaf Board of RegentsThe St. Olaf College Board of Regents hereby reaffirms the College’s principles and values concerning inclusion and diversity including the following:
1. The Board loudly and uniformly condemns racist behavior, and in particular the racist messages left on campus by unidentified persons. We deeply regret the impact these messages have had on the St. Olaf community and especially on students who do not feel safe. The Board calls upon College leadership to continue aggressive efforts to identify the perpetrators and hold them accountable for their actions.
2. All students, faculty and staff are welcome at St. Olaf. We strive to maintain a diverse community of teachers and learners. To promote this principle, students, faculty, staff, and visitors must feel safe on campus and experience a welcoming environment.
3. The Board reaffirms its commitment to St. Olaf’s strategic goals regarding recruitment and retention of diverse students, faculty and staff and reaffirms the continued monitoring of goals that are ambitious, specific, timely and measurable.
4. The Board affirms the importance of maintaining an environment in which all members of the community feel empowered to freely express their ideas and engage in civil discourse about them.
5. The Board empowers the College leadership to do everything within its power to promote understanding and genuine reconciliation among all St. Olaf community members and stakeholders.
Unanimously approved this 4th day of May, 2017.