Rationale

 

Institutions. The values that underpin the College of Saint Benedict (CSB) and Saint John's University (SJU) provide an ethical imperative to conscientiously and comprehensively address diversity. As liberal arts institutions, our joint 2009-2011 college catalogue reads that CSB/SJU exists to "call forth new knowledge for the betterment of humankind. The colleges will excel in the study of the intersection of global cultures and community sustainability...[and in] fostering the understanding and cultivation of the individual and communal vocation of all, informed by the Catholic intellectual tradition, Benedictine values, ecumenism and respect for diverse cultures"  (CSB/SJU Catalog, 2009).

          As Benedictine institutions, we are committed to the "cultivation of the habit of promoting the common good which is formed by knowledge, faith and an open-hearted response to the needs of others." (CSB/SJU Catalog, 2009). A central Benedictine value and important aspect of the CSB/SJU mission is to value individual worth and foster "reverence all persons," compelling us to recognize and act such that all persons "are deeply respected for who they are as human beings" (Klassen, Renner & Rueter, 2001). The institutional statement on diversity exclaims, "College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University affirm our mission to teach and foster respect for diversity, to embrace the marginalized and break down the privileges that would exclude those who are different or disadvantaged.  Embracing the transcendent dignity of the human person, we accept our common call to build a community and contribute to a larger social world that reflects and celebrates the splendor of human diversity" (Institutional Statement, 2011). These liberal arts and Benedictine values are not only compatible with diversity initiatives, they demand them.

          There is also a very practical imperative that propels CSB and SJU forward to act on their joint commitment to diversity. The percentage of ethnic and racial minorities in the United States is increasing. The U. S. census projects that by 2050, 46.3 percent of the national population will be non-Hispanic White and 53.7 percent people of color and Hispanic white (U.S. Census, 2008).

          Furthermore, by 2050, the nation's children are expected to be 62 percent minority ethnicity, an increase from 44 percent today, and only 38 percent will be single-race, non-Hispanic white (a decrease from 56 percent in 2008). (U.S. Census Bureau, An Older and ..., 2008).  The Metropolitan Council's recent report on population changes in the seven county greater Minneapolis and Saint Paul metropolitan area predicts that "minorities will make up 43 percent of the population by 2040, compared with 24 percent in 2010. While whites ages 25 to 64 will decline by 270,000, minority members in that age group will increase by 445,000. Whites ages 15 to 24 also will decline, while minorities will increase by 152,000.  The report predicts the arrival of 463,000 international immigrants, with 83% of them nonwhites" (Doyle, 2012).

          Moreover, the number of school-aged children living in poverty is expected to increase substantially from the current rate of 19 percent children living below the poverty level (Child Poverty, 2008; Lopez, 2006). In 2009, 40 percent of all children were in a low income bracket while "8 percent of related children (5.9 million) lived in extreme poverty, defined as living in a family with income less than one-half of the poverty threshold" (economic circumstance, 2010). Colleges, secondary and elementary schools (as well as all other major social institutions) must prepare deliberately for these anticipated changes. CSB and SJU must help ensure that their graduates are prepared to live peacefully and productively for the common good in our increasingly pluralistic world.

Education Department. Commitment to diversity is an integral part of the Education Department's philosophy and model. The department philosophy statement identifies a number of values that inform teachers' decisions. Two of those values are particularly germane to its perspective on diversity. One is our desire to promote humane interaction. The second is our belief that all children, without exception, are capable of experiencing academic success. The Education Department is deeply committed to these values with its diversity plan.

          As its "Teacher as Decision-Maker" conceptual model would indicate, the Education Department's goal is to prepare candidates who are equipped to make effective and responsible decisions on behalf of their students' learning and development. According to James A. Banks (2002, p. 36), "[t]he key goal of the multicultural curriculum should be to help students develop decision-making...skills." He explains that effective and responsible decision-making requires higher level thinking and acknowledge, clarification of related values, and informed action choices. A perusal of the Teacher as Decision Maker model confirms that those components form the backbone of the Education Department's model. The model is intended as a guide to ensure that our candidates have the necessary professional preparation to ensure that all learners have the opportunity to succeed.

          Our diversity report and plan emerges naturally from our status as liberal arts institutions, from our shared Benedictine values, from the Education Department's deeply held convictions about all learners, from the department's decision-making model, and from the practical necessity imposed by rapidly changing demographics.

          The Education Department recognizes that the challenge of addressing diversity is an enduring, evolving work. There are no quick fixes for tasks of this dimension and importance. The department recognizes, too, the challenges of our own history and our geographical location. Our colleges are largely white institutions that attract largely white populations. Moreover, they have been steeped in a liberal arts tradition that for centuries was dominated by white-male thought. The department, informed by the work of James Banks, Julie Landsman, Paulo Freire, and others, has worked for several years with the challenge to re-make itself. We realize this work will be ongoing, and we are committed to the challenge. The following is a description of the status of our diversity objectives and ongoing efforts to continually build and improve our program.