I’ve been monitoring the recent on-line conversations about St. Olaf College’s sexual assault policies and procedures. As an alumnus, a (hopeful) future parent of an Ole (or two), a liberally educated mathematician (so I’m not the greatest writer), and a higher education professional, I have some serious concerns about St. Olaf’s track record in dealing with sexual assaults on students. After all, every alumni of St. Olaf College is connected to me, and I want the best for all of them.
Before I proceed, let me lay out some disclaimers. First, I’m a heterosexual guy. Second, I’m exceedingly agnostic. Third, I’m a Minnesotan, cultural Lutheran, and Swede, which means I am uncomfortable talking about sex. Fourth, I am a higher education professional who has been made aware of Title IX issues that face American campuses. Until recently, I didn’t think these issues affected St. Olaf, but now we all know that’s not true.
Before I expound and expand on my concerns, let me get to the crux of the matter: St. Olaf College must adopt a policy on sexual assault that reflects a modern Christian foundation (i.e., one that reflects gender equality), values transparency and equity for the accuser and accused, and protects access to a safe learning environment for all. There are signs that the recently empaneled working group is moving in the right direction. Specifically, this group has been allowed to publicize their recommendations in advance of sharing them with the President. This is good for alumni and the College.
There are also signs that President Anderson, whose adminstrative tactics rely on defensiveness and denial, may not be the person who can lead St. Olaf into an era where it deserves the mantle of in loco parentis. Traditionally, the Regents decide who should be President, but I think this is a time when alumni should weigh in and share their thoughts. Email the Regents. Email the President. Let them know that St. Olaf College is stronger if it creates a safe learning environment for women and men.
P.S. Also reach out to the faculty mentors you admired. Department Chairs. And advocate for transgender students, and those who don’t fall into common classifications. St. Olaf College is stronger when it provides for students from all backgrounds!