Summary of the February 6, 2017 Presidents and Chancellors Conversation

Nineteen college and university presidents and chancellors from across Minnesota gathered on February 6, 2017, to reflect on what we can and must do in a time of visible polarization along lines of race, class, religion, location (urban/rural), political ideology, immigration status, and more. Our goal for ourselves and our communities is not necessarily agreement, but an enhanced ability to live and work together constructively in a free society.

We discovered a strong, shared commitment to championing dialogue across differences and to practicing it ourselves. Listening deeply to each other’s stories is powerful. It can build trust, seed new relationships, and help us recognize the full humanity of those we see as other. We do not expect this work to be easy for our institutions or participating individuals. Thus we need to create space for conversations that include opportunities for both discovery—learning more about ourselves and others—and recovery from the pain, anger, and grief that may arise in these conversations. We also need to continue developing our skills for facilitating meaningful dialogue, creating the conditions for full participation, and fostering the combination of courage and humility necessary for democratic engagement.

As much as our discussion focused on the importance of dialogue in these times, we also acknowledged the importance of creating institutional cultures, policies, and practices that deliberately support inclusion and equity. Whether public or private nonprofit institutions, we have a legal obligation to serve the public good. We agreed that purposeful dialogue on our campuses and in our communities is one part of building greater understanding and capacity to attract and retain diverse administrators, faculty, staff, and students. We will each live out this commitment somewhat differently, given our varied contexts, but this work is aligned with our core educational missions—and it was valuable to come together and realize we are not alone.

We encourage presidents/chancellors across sectors to step up both personally and collectively. In addition to supporting the space, skills, and conditions for dialogue as described above, we identified three possibilities:

Many of us also act together through membership in Minnesota Campus Compact, which brings the following resources to our state:

In addition to offering these resources, Minnesota Campus Compact will follow up on the February conversation among presidents and chancellors by exploring the possibility of a statewide series of dialogues. Co-sponsored with colleges and universities and other partners across the state, the series could deliberately connect people from different locations, types of institutions, and backgrounds and inform longer-term strategies for strengthening our democracy and shared prosperity as well as our educational outcomes.

Contact Minnesota Campus Compact staff regarding any of these follow-up opportunities:
Executive Director Julie Plaut (julie {at} mncampuscompact(.)org, 612-436-2081) Associate Director Sinda Nichols (sinda {at} mncampuscompact(.)org, 612-436-2080)

Also see the national Campus Compact’s online knowledge hub about dialogue resources (http://compact.org/actionstatement/knowledge-hubs/), which provides useful links including:

Finally, we thank the presidents and chancellors who participated in the February conversation: Douglas Allen of Ridgewater College, Ron Anderson of Minnesota State, Ginny Arthur of Metropolitan State University, Adenuga Atewologun of Riverland Community College, Anne Blackhurst of Minnesota State University Moorhead, Chris Cassirer of Northwestern Health Sciences University, Alan Cureton of the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, Rassoul Dastmozd of Saint Paul College, Joyce Ester of Normandale Community College, Faith Hensrud of Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College, Connie Gores of Southwest Minnesota State University, Stephen Lehmkuhle of the University of Minnesota Rochester, Fayneese Miller of Hamline University, Annette Parker of South Central College, Sharon Pierce of Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Paul Pribbenow of Augsburg College, Tom Ries of Concordia University-St. Paul, Robin J. Steinke of Luther Seminary, and Joel Wiggins of Crown College, as well as Paul Cerkvenik of the Minnesota Private College Council. Thanks also to Susan Platt of Minnesota State for coordinating logistics and to Kirsten Johnson and Paul Robinson of the Wilder Foundation for facilitating the discussion, with the support of Wilder Foundation vice president and Minnesota Campus Compact board member Kristine Martin.