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Current focused efforts to address rising racial tension at St. Olaf

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Following the publication of former professor of theater Michelle Gibbs and former professor of social work and family studies Lisa Moore’s letters to faculty, various groups, both new and pre-existing, responded to concerns about race and culture at St. Olaf.

Below is more information provided by these various groups affiliated with the St. Olaf community at the time of publication.

Oles for Racial Awareness, Change and Equity (ORACE)
Formation and Membership: ORACE began as a grassroots alumni response to the campus protests of May 2017. The group includes community members who “exist to support St. Olaf in becoming an anti-racist institution that consciously chooses to investigate, understand, and challenge racism through academics, policy, and campus life,” according to the group’s Facebook page.

Mission and Actions: The group aims to support the RACE program and other St. Olaf community members “committed to leading positive change.”

On July 1, the group created a petition calling for the Board of Regents to immediately begin a search for a new President and Provost of the College who “have the qualities, experience, and skills necessary in this critical transformational moment.” The petition also highlights several areas of leadership awareness, which include understanding race and racism historically, examining every aspect of the College through an anti-racist lens, and embracing the inherent discomfort of anti-racist work.

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Formation and Membership: In the account’s first post on June 28, the group shared that “@stolafanonymous exists to amplify the voices of BIPOC and other marginalized identities that have passed through St. Olaf’s campus. We are run by BIPOC, International, and Queer Alumnae.”

Mission and Actions: At the time of publication, the account has shared over 30 stories from current and past St. Olaf students recounting their negative experiences as a part of marginalized groups at the College.

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Formation and Membership: Comprised of BIPOC alumni who have graduated in the past decade, the St. Olaf Out group began posting calls to action via Instagram on July 1.

Mission and Actions:  The “Call for Action” has three “non-negotiable” hashtagged stances — #PDAOut, #OutWithTheOle and #DefundOlaf. The group is calling for these demands to be met prior to the beginning of the fall 2020 semester. As for longer term goals, “We are seeking for a new administration that will lead with an anti-racist and decolonizing approach to the curriculum, student affairs, and the campus as a whole,” the group told the Messenger via direct message.

For more information:

Marginalized And Diverse Faculty of Color Anti-Racism Coalition (MADFACS)
Formation and Membership: According to the statement issued June 21, “MAD FACs is a coalition of St. Olaf faculty who identify with the experiences of faculty members who recently departed due to a hostile, racial work environment.” The group formed following the release of Gibbs’ and Moore’s letters. 

Mission and Actions: As described in the June 21 statement, “Our purposes are to address complaints about white supremacy at St. Olaf College and dismantle the institutional culture and practices that produce them.” According to the group’s website, MAD FACs intends to continue standing in solidarity with the experiences of faculty of color at the College by publishing statements and requests for action. 

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Task Force to Confront Structural Racism at St. Olaf College
Formation and Membership: The task force was formed by faculty and staff members following the release of Gibbs’ letter. The group is still being finalized and co-chairs anticipate student as well as faculty and staff involvement moving forward.

Mission and Actions: Immediate next steps for the task force include solidifying faculty and staff members’ involvement, seeking to include students in their work and deciding on their first action item. The task force plans to establish subcommittees to focus on specific initiatives.

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Community reflections
Hosted on the official College website, the page is a call for “community members to share their reflections and calls to action”.

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The Olaf Messenger is committed to providing ongoing coverage. Check back for more information.