St. Olaf College Students Protest Racist Acts on Campus

April 30, 2017 10:45 PM

Almost 1,000 St. Olaf College students are calling on school officials to respond after several racist, hate-filled acts on campus.

The sit-in protest began around 5 p.m. Saturday in the Buntrock Commons area. The crowd quickly grew until students settled in and slept on the floor overnight.

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"It was nice to see the support, but it was also crazy to have to come together in the first place for this reason," student Efrem Ramirez said Sunday morning.

Students said an African-American woman found a typed note on her car Saturday that read in part, "I am so glad that you are leaving soon. One less 'expletive' that this school has to deal with. You have spoken up too much. You will change nothing. Shut up or I will shut you up."

The note, students say, is just one incident that's occurred over the last few weeks.

"It's not just, 'It's these couple of little instances, it's these little things people are writing, it's the notes people are leaving on the cars,'" student Krystal Wetzel said. "Those are symptoms of a larger problem that's not being addressed."

The crowd took turns shouting and chanting, "end this now," and several students spoke out about a systemic problem they see with the way college officials handle reports of hate crimes.

"Untold numbers of people of color leave this campus every year because of the climate that we have here," Wetzel said. 

Junior Don Williams told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he received a racist note on his car parked outside his house on campus last week Sunday.

"So many emotions coming in my head, I'm angry, pissed, frustrated," Williams said.

Williams says he turned over the note the next day to the administration but no one from the college has contacted him. Williams was at the protest on campus Saturday night demanding answers from the administration.

"Something will change and I want to say will change because I don't think we're going to stop until something changes," Williams said.

Several students called for the dean of students to come to the demonstration and "answer their questions" about how the college plans to address what's happening to students.

The college's president, David Anderson, took questions from the large crowd in Buntrock Commons about diversity and the perceived culture on campus.

"I want to serve the college and lead it in the best way that I can toward its best future," Anderson said.

Meanwhile, some St. Olaf students are planning to boycott classes on Monday and hold a rally at Tomson Hall, the administration building on campus.

St. Olaf released this statement later Saturday evening:

The repeated violations of our values by people who have sent hateful and threatening messages to members of our community are simply unacceptable.

We are doing everything we can to catch the people involved in perpetrating these hate-filled acts. An active investigation is under way, and there are several leads that we are following up on using every tool we have at our disposal. We have also notified the Northfield Police Department and have a protocol in place to ensure their full cooperation.

Someone, somewhere knows who is perpetrating these acts of racism. We are asking for the St. Olaf community's assistance in identifying the individuals involved. If you are aware of any information that could assist in identifying anyone responsible for perpetrating these or other offenses, please immediately contact the St. Olaf 24-Hour Public Safety Dispatch at 507-786-3666. Be sure to maintain an accurate record of the timeframe for when events may have occurred, any photographs or other records, and information about any individuals you observed in the vicinity.

We appreciate the members of our campus community who are advocating for meaningful action in response. We are supporting their efforts and, most importantly, listening to their insight and concerns.

Credits

Kirsten Swanson, Tyler Berg and Joe Mazan

Copyright 2017 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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