We stand with the Black community. Hate, racism, and bigotry have no place at Winona State University. The senseless killing of Mr. George Floyd has cast a spotlight on the systemic racism prevalent not only in Minneapolis but all across our nation, and we have much work to do.

Up to this point in 2020, we have expended all our energies and best thinking in fighting a virus, but we are now called to combat something far more insidious, far more ingrained, and far more dangerous. COVID-19 is a pandemic. Racism is endemic. Someday soon, we will have a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, our social distancing will end, our masks will be removed, and we will leave this disease behind. Not so with endemic racism. No vaccine will inoculate us from its evils. There will be no “one-and-done” cure to inequity, no injection that prevents hatred.

The solution to the racism endemic will come inch by inch, one day at a time: vigilant, perpetual, and hopefully ubiquitous. It will require each one of us to listen, to learn, and to take action:

  • We will organize more campus conversations about hatred, racism, inequity, and injustice.
  • We will commit to preparing culturally competent professionals through our courses and curriculum.
  • We will encourage WSU employees and students to give their time, talent, and treasure to organizations that combat racism and build diverse communities.
  • We will establish more need-based scholarships, starting with the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship Fund.
  • We will host cultural competency workshops for campus leaders, starting with me and the WSU Cabinet officers.
  • We will encourage and support peaceful protest on and off campus.
  • We will work with the local law enforcement and city leaders to ensure a safe, respectful, equitable environment.
  • We will work with education partners to share anti-racist ideas and resources.

These steps will not cure endemic racism, but they will be a start. Contact me, and let’s add your ideas to the list, too.

I graduated from college 40 years ago, and I’m still learning. This past year, watching WATCHMEN on HBO, I learned about the violent destruction of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street nearly 100 years ago. I’m learning about historic wrongs, and I’m learning about ways to help make them right. I learn from you, WSU students, all the time. And – after 162 years – Winona State is still learning.

What we learn, we must put into action. We will not rest until Winona State University, Winona, and Rochester are truly equitable and inclusive. Only then will we truly be an inclusive community, truly be free to learn without fear, and truly be positioned to improve our world. Please join me on that journey of learning and action.

Sincerely yours,

Scott R. Olson