The steps one college is taking to ensure diversity and equity

Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, honoring the legacy of George Floyd, has launched campuswide efforts to back ‘racial justice and inclusion’
By: | October 15, 2020
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Back in May, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, officials at Gustavus Adolphus College vowed to make ‘meaningful changes’ within their campus community.

They sent a letter to faculty, staff and students on actionable plans the college would take to ensure that the Black Lives Matters movement would not well-represented and honored.

On Thursday, Gustavus Adolphus doubled up on that promise by passing a resolution that backed the college’s commitment to racial justice and inclusion, outlining a three-year vision for work related to diversity, equity and antiracist efforts.

“We must challenge assumptions, examine policies, practices, and procedures, and consciously commit to actions that create positive change,” President Rebecca Bergman said. “I truly believe there has never been a time like the present for systemic change that will make a difference for generations to come.”

The resolution by its Board of Trustees shows a commitment by the 158-year-old college to look squarely in the mirror at racial justice and “undertake its own steps to confront issues of racial injustice through education and evaluation of policies and procedures.”

“We want to apologize to the Gustavus community—and especially our Black students, faculty, and staff, and all people of color on our campus—that this antiracist work did not begin sooner,” Bergman wrote in May letter to constituents. “We have not done enough to listen, support, and lead our community’s march toward racial justice. We can, and will, do better.”

Trustees chair Scott Anderson says they will work to “create a more inclusive campus climate where all people feel included and benefit from our exceptional educational environment. Each of us has a responsibility to do our part.”

Taking positive steps forward

The goals of the initiative, led by its President’s Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and its Center for Inclusive Excellence, will be to achieve broad involvement, ongoing results, and long-term sustainability for racial justice. The college will earmark funds and investments for staff, training, education, marketing, communications and subject matter experts that can help in community-wide development.

The vision of the three-year plan also will include these 10 actionable steps that Gustavus Adolphus announced in its letter to the campus community in May:

  1. Providing university cabinet members with “implicit/unconscious bias training”
  2. Creating and developing a plan to expand space for its Center for Inclusive Excellence
  3. Collaborating with a third-party agency to ensure the hiring practices of all positions
  4. Hiring a new mental health counselor that will specifically help serve students of color.
  5. Forming scholarship opportunities in honor of George Floyd for students of color through an alliance with other institutions such as North Central University in Minneapolis
  6. Working with the local NAACP chapter to foster outreach within the Mankato community
  7. Unveiling new curriculum, including courses on S. Identities and Difference and Global Cultures
  8. Developing an antiracist education module for all in the campus community
  9. Launching a national search for a cabinet-level leader “whose work will focus on race, equity, and inclusion; and involve students, faculty, and staff in discerning the scope and responsibilities of this position”
  10. Holding focus groups on racial equity and inclusion and implementing an interfaith strategy that intersects with race, culture and religion.