To the WSU Community,
As we approach this time for giving thanks, I ask WSU students, faculty, and staff to be grateful and give thanks for the things we have received, but also to be reflective about ways we may have failed to extend to others the benefits we have received, and how we might do more to extend those benefits in the future.
We want our campus to be inclusive and welcoming to all. We want to create an interculturally competent environment in which we can communicate with people in a way that earns their respect and trust. We want to foster a cooperative and productive community that will allow everyone to achieve their academic and professional goals. Although I give thanks for the learning community we have already built here, I worry that it is not as inclusive and hospitable as it could be. Every student, every employee, and every visitor should feel welcomed and appreciated in our classrooms, residence halls, and common spaces. Unfortunately, everyone does not feel equally or equitably welcomed.
This year we have chosen for ourselves the university theme of “Equity as a Human Right.” This noble ideal is not always lived out at Winona State. I invite you to ask yourself, as I intend to ask myself: is there more I can do to expand my circle? Am I listening to those with different life experiences—really listening and not talking through or dismissing their discomfort?
We Minnesotans pride ourselves on being “Nice.” There’s nothing wrong with being nice, but our “nice-ness” means sometimes we are silent when we see exclusion, racism, and unfairness that occurs around us. Consider looking closer because there surely is racism in Minnesota, in Winona, and on campus. The challenge before us is how can we do better. We cannot ignore this, and we must do all we can to recognize it, call it out, and help eradicate it. We have policies in place that help us do this, such as the MnSCU Board Policy 1B.1, that prohibits discrimination against any person on the basis of race, sex, color, creed, religion, age, national origin, disability, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
So, as you give thanks for all that you have enjoyed, please be thoughtful about ways in which we can extend hospitality to everyone so that next year we can all give robust and joyful thanks in equal measure, everyone sharing in this bounty. We need each other—each and every one—to sustain a community of learners that improves our world. Life is short and precious. Please consider using your life to stand for fairness and inclusion.
Scott R. Olson