Letter to the Community

woman smiling
11/10/20

Dear Minneapolis College Campus Community,

The outpouring of grief and anger over the murders earlier this year of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, among others, highlights a longstanding pattern of unjust deaths of Black citizens, along with many systemic, racist injustices that impact African Americans, Indigenous Peoples, Latinx, Asian Americans and other populations that are underrepresented in higher education and at Minneapolis College. As a nation, we can — and must — do better.

We recognize that Minneapolis College is not immune to the kind of racist systems and behaviors that perpetuate institutional racism. Historically, this has created barriers and persistent disparities on campus and caused pain for our Black students, alumni, faculty and staff. As a College community, we can — and must — do better.
 
As the administrative leaders of the institution, the President’s Council and I understand that each and every one of us shares in the responsibility to enact meaningful, action-oriented change at our College. To create an anti-racist college of authentic inclusivity that is full of opportunity for all, we are committed on our campus to working for justice and human rights and doing what will improve the diversity, equity and inclusivity of Minneapolis College. We are called to embrace human diversity, communicate with respect and to understand, disrupt and dismantle systemic racism.  

Recently, I promised to provide an update for you regarding what we are currently doing and where we anticipate going. Some initiatives will come to fruition quickly and others will require deeper conversations and more time, but we stand for justice and are committed to doing our part to enact progress and tangible change.

Under the leadership of Interim College Diversity Officer, Patrick Troup, the Equity and Inclusion (E&I) Division continues its focus on providing learning opportunities and professional development for our campus community to increase our knowledge and build our skills to be anti-racist. These are action-oriented opportunities for colleagues to talk about race and learn, collectively, how to be actively antiracist.

  • The Professional Learning Series was launched last month with a session on How to Talk about Race. The second session was on Antiracism in Action and the third was on The Power of Diversity.
  • Four feedback sessions were hosted for staff and faculty to share their voice on what it means to be antiracist. The results will be shared in an upcoming Connect Announcement.
  • Culturally Relevant Advising Training will have its first offerings this month (November).
  • Skill building continues with the launch of the President’s Book Club on Ibram X. Kendi’s book How To Be An Antiracist. We had our first discussion on October 30, however there is still time to sign up.
  • The next IDI Meet Up will focus on Cultural Appropriation.  
  • The Examining Whiteness Learning Circle is hosting several sessions this year. The focus is on increasing individual awareness, knowledge and skills to work toward becoming an anti-racist community.
  • Living Room Conversations continue offering our community opportunities and a place to express their views and learn from others on a variety of key topics.
  • The Culturally Responsive Inclusive Trainers Corps grant is providing funding to hire two student alumni as contractors.
  • The Community Healing Collaborative continues to support multiple efforts to guide practices that transform our institution toward healing racial justice.

In addition to the work being led by our E&I Division, the college has an Equity by Design team working in concert with the Minnesota State Office of Equity and Inclusion that will assist us in moving beyond policy and planning to institutional equity-minded practices. This short list is not exhaustive. Many colleagues are working on other projects across the System, serving as thought leaders who bring their experiences and expertise to lead courageous conversations. Valuable work is occurring in classrooms, courses, meetings and departments in support of our efforts to become an antiracist institution.

For example:

  • The Library (with leadership from John Daniels and contributions from Amanda Mills and other library faculty) has created an anti-racism LibGuide (library guide). This easy-to-use reference resource creates a simple way for the Minneapolis College community to find and access books, articles and other works related to anti-racism.
  • Faculty-led professional development offerings include the Culturally Responsive Pedagogy Institute (led by Lisa Bergin) and a teaching circle (facilitated by Kleber Ortiz) for faculty who have previously participated in the CRP Institute or the Anti-Racist Pedagogy Across the Curriculum program.
  • Faculty from across the College continue to revise courses and programs to make them more responsive to our diverse student population. In some cases, instructors have devoted their entire sabbatical to this important work.

 In thinking through our collective challenge, I find it helpful to conceptualize our journey and efforts thematically.

  1. Strategic Plan. Our plan has 2 main foci: eliminating achievement gaps and improving student outcomes.
  2. Becoming a healing institution for our students and ourselves. We recognize our students arrive having experienced trauma. We also recognize that, unfortunately, sometimes our College is the source of trauma or serves as a contributing factor. We have made some progress toward being trauma informed. Student Affairs has taken a leadership role in incorporating healing practices toward racial justice. In the Employee Engagement Survey, staff sited psychological safety as a primary concern. Just like our students, employee may arrive having experienced trauma. We also recognize that, unfortunately, sometimes our College is the source of trauma or serves as a contributing factor for employees as well as students. We must extend the efforts toward being a healing institution beyond Student Affairs to our entire campus community. Fortunately, we have received grant funding to help us to lean into this work.
  3. Policy, procedures and practices. Our review of each policy and procedure incorporates an equity lens. Selecting vendors and external contractors will also incorporate an equity lens. Minneapolis College is participating in the Minnesota State procurement pilot designed to increase supplier diversity through contracts with additional minority- and women-owned businesses.
  4. Employee Diversity. Minneapolis College has made significant progress in diversifying staff. We must continue our efforts to recruit and retain diverse faculty.
  5. Equity and Inclusion. The work guided by and led by our E&I division, Equity by Design team, CLC and professional development opportunities.

 As you can see there is a great deal going on and a great deal left to be done. This is just the beginning. On behalf of the President’s Council, I can assure you we are committed to working with you, our faculty, staff, students and alumni, to take concrete actions that will mark Minneapolis College as an anti-racist institution, enhance the quality of our educational environment for all students, enhance the quality of life for Black and marginalized populations and, in doing so, enhance the quality of life for ourselves and the broader community as well.

For ongoing updates about this important work as it continues, please visit our Equity page at minneapolis.edu. Thank you for joining me in supporting these efforts in whatever manner you are able.

Sincerely,

President Sharon Pierce