After last weekend’s hateful act on campus where KKK and a swastika were stomped into the snow on the football field, I have had the opportunity to be present with students, faculty, and staff. The responses to the incident vary from shock to numbness to fear to vigilance. Unfortunately, we are not immune to such an act and the incident we experienced this past weekend was significant.
I was saddened and angered to learn of this hateful act Sunday morning and deeply offended. My direct thoughts were and continue to be with those in our community who are marginalized and have to confront racial, anti-Semitic, sexist, homophobic, and other sentiments expressed in various behaviors on an ongoing basis. This has called us to act as a community, and I call for all in our community to act everyday to prevent, confront, or report such acts regardless of scale. Any act harms and hurts.
I have worked at four other residential, liberal arts colleges and at each one, on at least one occasion, a hateful act occurred that deeply affected the campus. Sadly, I have lived through these experiences and with the events this past week, my past pain has been brought to the surface. I have sat with students, faculty, and staff following these incidents like I have here at Luther. Emotions expressed have included tears and pain, anger and fear. People hurt and look to one another for answer and support.
In moments like this it is important to provide opportunities for the community to process and grieve. Likewise, we need to be looking ahead to what steps we can take to prevent such occurrences in the future. This is shared work within the community.
We have taken several steps in response to the incident, including:
The Decorah Police Department has increased their routine patrols and presence on campus. Campus Safety and Security has reminded students they offer safe walk/rides to students who call and request such support. Additionally, they have also adjusted their schedule to have an increased presence since the event. Leads are being investigated and pursued to the fullest extent.
Students have had multiple opportunities to engage in dialogue since Sunday. Staff, faculty, and peers have been listening and providing support to those most directly affected and to those who were deeply offended. Ideas are being shared, actions are being taken, and plans are being developed. Luther’s new strategic plan includes goals and objectives that align with much of what we have heard this past week.
The Counseling Service and College Ministries have been offering support to students as have other offices on campus including the Diversity Center and the Student Life Office. Students have had opportunities to engage staff in multiple settings and in ways that work best for their present, emotional needs.
More is being done and will be done to help our community heal and move forward. We will keep our community apprised of the investigation as we are able, measures we have or will be taking, and ways in which students can voice their idea and concerns.
This was a week I hope we never experience again. It is a week we will remember forever.