In early November, all faculty and staff received an email that proposed establishing “an infrastructure to enhance both internal and external engagement with the distinctive mission and vision of the college.” The new body, whether it becomes an institute, a center or a forum, hopes to produce programming centering on the mission and values of the college with respect to its Lutheran tradition.
“I really see this as a [chance] to enhance opportunities for conversation and learning from each other between students and faculty and staff,” Vice President for Mission Jo Beld said. “For example, we started imagining programming where students, faculty and staff talk about how they understand vocation and how they try to pursue it, not just in their professional lives but in their personal lives as well. We’ve started talking about programming where people talk about how their faith or their ethics informs their decision making and their commitments… more indirectly, we imagine opportunities for faculty and staff to learn more about how to mentor students.”
The new center is still very much in development. President David Anderson ’74 appointed 15 people from the staff, faculty and student body to form the New Center Working Group. In the November email the working group outlined a couple of its immediate goals. By April 15, it will present to Anderson a proposal for the new center that outlines the center’s mission, costs, structure and staffing, internal and external constituencies, potential programming and name. While creating this proposal, the group will also develop and implement a plan to solicit feedback from the St. Olaf community on the details of the new center. As of now, the center hasn’t recieved any funding. Beld said that all funding for the center will come from outside the college through private donations or an endowment.
The new center’s proposal has been met with some skepticism after the creation of the Institute for Freedom and Community last year, which raised concerns about faculty oversight on co-curricular bodies and transparency issues during and after their creation. Recently there has been a push for new faculty bylaws that outline specifically how to review, oversee and implement new co-curricular bodies. A small committee of faculty is working on ideas for the bylaws and drafting some suggestions which will then be brought to and decided upon by the Faculty Governance Committee.
Correction: A previous version of this article misrepresented a quote by Professor of English and women’s and gender studies Rebecca Richards. Professor Richards’s quote referred to the distribution of resources at St. Olaf in general, rather than the proposed Lutheran center.