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Update on Equity and Anti-racism Initiatives

A message from President Suzanne Rivera

Dear students, faculty, and staff:

We are in the second week of February and, as we continue to celebrate Black History Month, I want to acknowledge that the observances and events are important but not sufficient to achieve our equity and anti-racism goals. Macalester continues to do the important work of self-assessment with a focus on identifying opportunities to increase the diversity of students, faculty, and staff on our campus and to foster a culture of inclusion in which each member of this community can thrive and flourish.

Recently, I shared a message announcing a new partnership with The Posse Foundation to recruit cohorts of 10 talented local students annually from historically excluded groups. These students from Twin Cities high schools will receive full tuition scholarships to attend Macalester. The partnership with Posse is just one of several initiatives to advance our institutional commitments to equity and inclusion. Today, I’m providing updates on other aspects of our work. 

  • We will create a new Vice President position to lead the college in the fostering of inclusive excellence in learning and teaching, institutional equity, and community flourishing. This new role will have responsibility for advancing our anti-racism and social justice goals, removing barriers for members of underrepresented groups, improving intercultural relations, and fostering a safe and welcoming campus climate. The draft position description is being shaped by conversations with campus and alumni stakeholders, and will be shared broadly for feedback in the coming weeks. 
  • Employment Services, in conjunction with the Staff Affirmative Action Working group (SAAWG), has been working to hire a more diverse workforce. This past year (2020), 50% of our full-time staff hires identified as being a part of a minoritized group. Opportunities for others to join SAAWG to help us in our commitment to equitable and inclusive search processes will be available later this spring. 
  • Identity-based affinity groups are being established to provide support for underrepresented employees at Macalester. Information about these spaces will be posted on the Employment Services website by the end of the week. Please watch for a post in the Mac Daily about ways to join these groups.
  • Last week, Business Services announced details of our new Equity Purchasing Initiative. This initiative helps us all to consider the ways and the places we spend the college’s money, and how those decisions can reflect our values. The equity purchasing initiative provides resources to help identify minority-owned businesses and women-owned businesses. Business Services welcomes specific vendor recommendations from members of the community.
  • We noted in November that Dana Suttles has taken on the new role of Mental Health Counselor, BIPOC Support Coordinator. In addition, we have been engaged in a search for an additional full-time mental health counselor, with expertise in mental health care for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, international, and/or first-generation students. We will be making an announcement about the appointment of the successful candidate soon. We are grateful to the students, faculty, and staff who have been involved in the hiring process for this position.  
  • We have expanded programming for students with underrepresented identities. Examples include the Department of Multicultural Life’s BIPOC Gatherings; and movement-based classes focused on BIPOC students including yoga and Yorchhā, and weightlifting for women of color, provided by Health Promotions. 
  • We announced in November that Macalester is one of the founding members of the Liberal Arts College Racial Equity Leadership Alliance (LACRELA), a consortium that will provide professional development tools for employees at member institutions to lead more effectively on issues of racial justice and addressing racial and equity issues. The first professional development event for LACRELA will take place this month, with the topic “Leading Productive Conversations on Race.”  
  • A committee including students, faculty, staff, and alumni, led by college archivist Ellen Holt-Werle ‘97, is developing a list of names to propose for portraits that will be displayed in Weyerhaeuser Hall. We are mindful of how our choices in physical spaces reflect our history and values, so we will expand the group that is honored with a portrait on campus. If you would like to share names of people the committee should consider, please reach out to Ellen Holt-Werle.
  • I have set aside time for multiple listening sessions with BIPOC faculty, staff, students, and alumni. These conversations have been helpful and I appreciate the thoughtful perspectives that so many community members have shared with me.
  • The workshops offered by Dr. Chavella Pittman on inclusive pedagogies and evaluating teaching effectiveness have drawn 68 faculty and staff registrants. Dr. Pittman also will host a session with BIPOC faculty about navigating pushback in the classroom and the challenges of being evaluated.
  • Later this month a reading group for faculty and staff, facilitated by Britt Abel, Bethany Miller, and Marjorie Trueblood will focus on the book From Equity Talk to Equity Walk: Expanding Practitioner Knowledge for Racial Justice in Higher Education. The reading group has 46 participants registered.
  • Finally, I hope members of the community will make time to attend programming for Black History Month, including the Black Joy as Archival Resistance Practice event scheduled for tomorrow, Feb. 9, from 5-6:30 p.m. with Black Muslim poet Sagirah Shahid.

I’ve said before that there is still much work to be done as we advance our institutional commitments to equity and inclusion. I’m excited to be engaging with so many of you in this important work. If you have questions or ideas to share, please contact me directly at president@macalester.edu.

February 8, 2021