UPDATE: St. Olaf Explodes in Protests, College President Gives in to Demands

Protesters stormed a forum and demanded that the college’s president agree to their 11-pages of demands.

NORTHFIELD, Minn. – St. Olaf President David Anderson gave in to student demands following days of student protests and a boisterous forum.

The protests were triggered by a racist note left on an African American girl’s car.

“I am so glad that you are leaving soon. One less n‑‑‑‑‑ 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,” read the note, reports Northfield News.

Apparently the note was the latest in a series of such incidents. Samantha Wells was the girl targeted by the note.

“It’s been something that’s been going on all year,” Wells told Northfield News. “There’s one thing that happens and it stops and then it happens again and then it kind of stops. I think the big message is we shouldn’t let this happen again. The administration needs to do something that stops it indefinitely.”

Hundreds of students boycotted their classes Monday, occupying the student union starting at 7 a.m. reports the Star Tribune. An organization calling itself The Collective For Change On The Hill presented a list of demands to St. Olaf President David Anderson and his administration.

The list of demands begins with requiring the removal of Managing Director of Policy and Politics for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Arne Christenson from St. Olaf’s advisory board for The Institute for Freedom & Community. The Institute states its mission is to encourage, “free inquiry and meaningful debate of important political and social issues.” It is designed to “foster constructive dialogue among those with differing values and contending points of view.”

Protesters demand Christenson’s removal because of his “political views and views as a Christian Zionist.” They fear he might influence which speakers are brought to the school.

Other demands are more standard among college protesters in recent years. This includes hiring more faculty of color and LGBT members, and restructuring the general education requirements to include a minimum of two race or gender studies courses. They also demand expanded mandatory sensitivity training, and a “zero tolerance policy on racial, sexual, and homophobic epithets.”

Anderson organized a forum between him and students in place of classes Monday, reports the Star Tribune. The Collective for Change on the Hill stormed down the hall and interrupted the forum demanding that Anderson sign the 11-page list of demands.

Anderson originally balked at the demands, and the way the Collective for Change on the Hill presented them. Eventually however, he signed a revised list of demands that was worked out in front of 500 students at the auditorium, and hundreds more listening over loudspeakers across campus.

“The demands reflect a whole set of concerns that students have about their experience at the college and the environment it provides. Let’s get them named, let’s talk about how they can be addressed,” Anderson said, reports the Star Tribune. “Let’s find a way to move forward together.”
Editor’s note: This story was originally published May 1 at 3:16 p.m. It was updated May 2 at 12:08 p.m.

Anders Koskinen