Regents approve housing project, GE reform

At their meetings on campus Jan. 29 to 31, the Board of Regents approved the new campus housing project and the OLE Core general education curriculum, which was passed by faculty late fall 2019.

Over three-quarters of faculty members in attendance voted in favor of the OLE Core general education curriculum at a Nov. 7 meeting. Prior to the faculty vote, the regents had expressed support for a revised curriculum. Their approval represents the final step in the revision process, with implementation of the new curriculum now the focus.
The new housing, referred to as the “Ole Avenue Project” in an email sent to the campus community by President David Anderson ’74 on Feb. 24, will replace the current honor houses and increase student housing capacity on campus. The College plans to construct one dorm and fourteen townhouses on either side of St. Olaf Avenue and is currently set to break ground in fall 2020. Under current estimates, the townhouses will open for residency in fall 2021, with the new dormitory and attached Health and Counseling Services set to open one year later.

Alongside the regents’ approval, the College has developed a financing plan for the housing project, which places the project at a cost of less than $60 million. Finalized project schematics closely follow proposed schematics introduced late last semester, with noticeable additions including a new entranceway near the dormitory and a statue of Ole the Lion in a courtyard outside the dorm.
Additionally, part of the hill leading up to Rolvaag Memorial Library will be terraformed to accomodate an outdoor seating area. All of these new additions, as well as a detailed walk-through of parts of the dormitory, can be accessed through the Ole Avenue Project website.

According to Chair of the Board of Regents Student Committee (BORSC) Melie Ekunno ’21, investment partners to the College offered a presentation to the regents as part of their January meetings. The presentation detailed the partners’ conversations with campus student groups pushing for divestment from fossil fuels, most notably the Climate Justice Collective, who led the climate strike early fall semester. The partners also expressed interest in learning more about student activism surrounding divestment.
The regents will meet on campus for the final time this year in May. Instead of their usual semester presentation to the regents, Ekunno wrote in an email to the Messenger that BORSC plans to put together a discussion panel to better engage with the regents over important issues at the May meeting.

Throughout her time as BORSC chair, Ekunno has experienced a shift in her perspective and now sees more room for structural reform in order to affect change on campus.
“I’m spending the final lap of my tenure hoping to create systematic processes where they have been nonexistent, and tear down ineffectual structures where they are failing,” Ekunno wrote in the email.

The regents plan to continue discussions surrounding divestment and other important administrative and student-focused issues at future meetings on campus.