Earlier today, every single member of the gray shirt team at St. Olaf College graduated.
Over the past several months our efforts to raise awareness about the inadequacies of our college’s sexual assault policy received attention from Minnesota-wide news outlets like the Star Tribune and MPR and nationally syndicated outlets like Mic.com, Newsweek and Teen Vogue.
From the first day, before any media attention, alumni took notice, and thousands of them started a conversation over social media and in person about how they could help. Many alumni have supported our movement by writing to the administration, spreading the word through social media, notifying the press and withholding donations from the college until adequate policy reform takes place.
Thanks to the efforts of these alumni as well as many current students, St. Olaf’s administration created a working group to recommend changes to the sexual assault policy. We look forward to seeing the results of the working group’s efforts. We hope that adequate steps will be made to sharpen the college’s policies and to ensure that administrators are held accountable when they fail in their legal obligation to victims of sexual assault.
We also look forward to seeing the results of the impending Office for Civil Rights investigation, which will determine whether St. Olaf is ‘creating a sexually hostile environment.’ If the OCR finds this to be the case, they will look to rectify college policies and procedures themselves.
Today, the grey shirt team became a part of the alumni community. After two months of wearing shirts that say “ASK ME HOW MY COLLEGE IS PROTECTING RAPISTS,” we cut up our shirts and fashioned them into honor cords to create a visual reminder at graduation of the long way that St. Olaf’s administration still has to go to address the issue of sexual assault. Many amazing alumni, parents and other students wore gray ribbons to show solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and with efforts to change college policies.
We wish to emphasize that our activism has not disappeared because we are leaving campus, but it has changed form. The fight for an accountable administration and a safe campus is far from over, and we will be watching St. Olaf’s attempts to address these issues closely in the coming months.
A lot of the success of our advocacy owes itself to activist groups and movements on campus such as the Cultural Union for Black Expression, Feminists for Change, Gay Lesbian or Whatever, Students for Reproductive Rights, Black Lives Matter and many others who have paved the way for change at our college. These groups have long been advocating to make St. Olaf a better, safer, more inclusive place. Ole activists have contributed to a student body that is more aware of social issues, and more ready to look out for their fellow students than ever before. This campus climate was essential in raising awareness and in getting our administration to act.
We are proud to leave the future of St. Olaf in the hands of an increasingly compassionate student body. Diversity, inclusivity and safety are ideals towards which our college must constantly strive. We encourage alumni, faculty and members of the St. Olaf community to listen to the voices of student activists in helping better the college.
As our team transitions from “student” to “alumni”, the posts on this blog will be much less frequent. However, we will offer our thoughts on the working groups suggestions after they are published on July 15th. Furthermore, we will be in contact with current members of the student body to ensure these suggestions are implemented and the administration is being held accountable in future years.
There will be opportunities over the summer for alumni to join the discussion about sexual assault policies and procedures at class reunions, and others will arise during the school year. If you wish to be involved, you can join the group, “Alumni for a Safer St. Olaf College” (link to the facebook page) or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.