The emergence of the “Enough! The New Face of St. Olaf” campaign demonstrates that the discussion of race and diversity that has erupted across campus in recent weeks does not appear to be losing steam. The campaign, kicked off by 19 St. Olaf students, emerged in response to a “dramatic increase in visible hate crimes committed on campus,” as is stated in the campaign’s open letter to the campus community.
Daniel Sacerio ’13, Kasiani Nesturi ’13, Rachel Johnson ’13 and Richard Aviles ’13 co-founded the campaign after an administration-organized forum on Thursday, March 7 left them disappointed.
“After the poorly-organized and poorly-attended community time open forum to address the ‘acts of incivility’ that had occurred, we chose to organize our own session to deal with the issues,” Johnson said. A few days after this forum, on Monday, March 11, the organizers invited all students, faculty and administrators to attend a presentation and discussion. Approximately 150 people attended.
“Rather than simply talk about the issues, we culminated our event with a call to action, beginning the student-led organization that has evolved into today’s ‘Enough! The New Face of St. Olaf’ movement,” Johnson said.
“What’s different and important about our campaign is that we want to implement long-term institutional changes that will protect students,” Aviles said.
Stina Nesbit ’15 was one of many students who attended this discussion and subsequently became involved in steering the campaign. Nesbit described the Enough! campaign as “a student-led movement to end hate crimes and hate instances by acknowledging that the recent hate crimes have not been isolated instances, but a result of a larger issue on campus.”
On Tuesday, April 16, members of the Enough! campaign announced their existence, their concerns, their goals and their demands for action in an open letter published on Facebook and Tumblr.
The letter began by acknowledging acts of intolerance that students have observed on campus this academic year. The letter listed examples of these crimes, which include a racial slur written on a poster in Rand Hall, “Death to Gaza” written on an Oles for Justice in Palestine poster, the theft of Palestinian flags and the recurring theft of rainbow flags.
Next, the letter addressed larger racial issues that students have observed on campus, including lack of funding for multicultural organizations and for departments that address racial issues and the lack of non-white full professors.
Finally, the campaign presented a list of demands that it believes must ultimately be met in order for St. Olaf to experience lasting change. They are as follows:
1. Recognize the urgent need for and execute a mandatory, campus-wide conversation about these issues.
2. Publicize any changes to policies that directly affect the student body, not excluding recent changes to the published policy on hate crimes and mandatory reporting.
3. Reevaluate the Multicultural-Domestic MCD and History of Western Culture HWC curricula:
-MCD – introduce critical, theoretical framework and apply said framework in all courses.
-HWC – ensure that courses match the neutral claim on Western culture.
4. Require training for faculty, staff and administration on the realities of these issues and how to address them in classes and on campus.
5. Continually assess the community and strive for a more inclusive and respectful environment.
In addition to publishing its letter on April 16, the campaign also launched a Facebook page and a blog designed to document “microaggressions that go unreported on a daily basis.” Members of the campaign want to demonstrate that these incidences are not isolated, but rather reflect a structural inequality at St. Olaf.
“Modeled after the Oberlin College Micro-aggressions blog, this blog will document hate speech, serve as an educational tool where resources will be posted and will document the history and process of a progressive group of students committed to making change on campus,” the blog’s description reads.
The microaggressions blog can be found at http://stolafmicroaggressions.tumblr.com.
In response to the launch of the Enough! campaign and Tuesday’s open letter to the campus community, President David Anderson ’74 sent an email to students, staff and faculty on Thursday, April 18.
“We are having a useful, if challenging, conversation at our college about the nature of our community, our expectations of one another, and the role of the College in fostering a welcoming environment for everyone,” wrote Anderson in his email. He went on to say that it is time for all members of the community to re-examine their values and expectations as they prepare to welcome the class of 2017 and called on the community to join him in “affirming this responsibility.”
On Friday, April 19, Vice President Greg Kneser followed up in another email sent to St. Olaf students, staff and faculty, directing community members to the college’s current policies with regard to hate crimes and intolerance.
“This is not a change in policy, but a compilation of a number of places where these important issues are addressed at St. Olaf,” Kneser wrote in his email. “Going forward, our intent is to engage a group of students, faculty and staff that will review these policies and make recommendations for changes as appropriate.”
Members of the Enough! campaign expressed their appreciation at having their platform addressed by the administration.
“Getting attention and an email from both PDA and [Vice President] Kneser is definitely a victory for our campaign,” said Aviles, “despite the fact that there’s still more work ahead.” Aviles, Johnson and Nesbit were all eager to clarify that the Enough! campaign wants to work with administrators, not against them.
“I think one of the biggest misconceptions about the movement is that we are against the administration,” Johnson said. “This is simply not the case.”
“This campaign is not an attack against administrators,” Aviles added. “This campaign is a highly-organized and strategic campaign that is willing and committed to have the hard conversations around race, ability, class, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, religion that we sometimes are not willing to have.”
“We know that this process will be long, complicated and resisted,” said Johnson, “yet we are committed to unyielding perseverance in accomplishing our goals to make St. Olaf the community it claims and strives to be.”
Members of the St. Olaf community can learn more about the campaign and its mission, read the open letter and join the discussion by visiting http://www.facebook.com/EnoughStOlaf?fref=ts.
The group plans to host a Solidarity Rally on May 1 at 2:45 p.m. in the quad.