Gustavus Actions for Racial Justice Posted on June 11th, 2020 by

Gustavus Adolphus College President Rebecca M. Bergman and her senior leadership team sent the following message to Gustavus students, faculty, and staff on Thursday, June 11, outlining steps the College will take in pursuit of racial justice.

TO: The Gustavus Community
FROM: President Bergman and the President’s Cabinet
SUBJECT: Gustavus Actions for Racial Justice
DATE: June 11, 2020

Since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police on May 25, our local and global communities—from Gustavus to Minneapolis-St. Paul to Washington D.C. to cities around the world—have cried out for justice and organized for change.

George Floyd’s name joins those of other Black men and women who have been killed by racist ideologies that manifest in systemic oppression and racial violence. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Mike Brown. Sandra Bland. Walter Scott. Eric Garner. Jamar Clark. Philando Castile. Many other names could be added to this list. Too many.

As Gustavus looks to the future, we—as the College’s senior leadership team—assert and publicly declare that Black Lives Matter. Furthermore, we want to apologize to the Gustavus community—and especially our Black students, faculty, and staff, and all people of color on our campus—that this antiracist work did not begin sooner. We have not done enough to listen, support, and lead our community’s march toward racial justice. We can, and will, do better.

Today, we write with concrete steps that Gustavus will take to confront racial injustice. First, however, we acknowledge and thank the many of you who have reached out to us and other College leaders over the last two weeks to call for meaningful changes on campus. We also recognize the many members of our community who have engaged in peaceful protest, donated time and money to support organizations and help your communities, and redoubled your efforts for justice.

Gustavus commits to taking action in the following ways:

This summer, we will:

  • Conduct an independent review of the College Bias Response Team’s membership, processes, and practices;

  • Create a new mental health counselor position in the Gustavus Counseling Center with a primary focus on supporting students of color;

  • Continue planning and generate a timeline for expanded physical space and other resources for the Center for Inclusive Excellence;

  • Act on the recommendations of consulting firm Team Dynamics, who is currently conducting an independent, external review of hiring practices for staff positions;

  • Work with the President’s Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (PCDEI) to identify and complete additional implicit/unconscious bias training for members of the President’s Cabinet;

  • Join our colleagues at North Central University in Minneapolis and institutions of higher education across the nation in creating scholarship opportunities for students from historically underrepresented groups in honor of George Floyd;

  • Pursue organizational membership in the Mankato Area Chapter of the NAACP and support the Chapter’s work in our local communities.

This fall, we will:

  • Begin the process for launching a national search for a Cabinet-level leader whose work will focus on race, equity, and inclusion; and involve students, faculty, and staff in discerning the scope and responsibilities of this position;

  • Develop an antiracist education module for all students, faculty, and staff;

  • Roll out the College’s new general education curriculum, which includes graduation requirements and new courses related to U.S. Identities and Difference as well as Global Cultures;

  • Host focus groups on topics related to racial equity and inclusion that are impacting our campus community;

  • Implement the College’s interfaith strategic plan, with attention to the intersection of race, culture, and religion;

  • Increase community outreach, partnerships, and advocacy in the Saint Peter/Mankato area, the Twin Cities, and beyond.

Gusties, this is part of a longer conversation about how all of us can work to dismantle systemic racism in our own community, commit to antiracist action, and act on this great challenge of our time both on campus and in the world. If you have thoughts you would like to share about these actions or other steps the College should consider in its antiracist work, please email

Today, we commit to listening and learning. We commit to humility. We commit to deepening our own racial understanding and antiracist work. We commit to embracing discomfort as our community grows toward greater justice. We commit to action. 

Yours in community,

President Bergman

Brenda Kelly, PhD, Provost and Dean of the College

Curt Kowaleski, MBA, Chief Financial Officer, Vice President for Finance, and Treasurer

JoNes VanHecke, PhD, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students

Kathi Tunheim, PhD, Vice President for Mission, Strategy, and Innovation

Thomas W. Young, Vice President for Advancement

Tim Kennedy, Vice President for Marketing and Communication

Richard Aune, Associate Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admission

Kirk Carlson, Associate Vice President for Enrollment and Associate Dean of Financial Aid


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad



  1. Timothy R. Swanson says:

    I am a graduate of the class of 1968. I had moved to N.C. in 1960 when my dad, Rueben J. Swanson, Gustavus class of 1942, began teaching at Lenoir Rhyne College. He was a devoted worker for civil rights at that time which was met with a lot of resistance. One Sunday, after our segregated worship service, he purposefully went to a black church and introduced himself to them which was the beginning of a process of trying to bring together leaders of both the black and white communities. I remember joining dad with several college choir members at that same black church when be was invited to preach. It was a humbling experience when they had us sit while they served us southern fried chicken in thanksgiving for our presence. I was given the assignment in my senior high year in my sociology class on the topic of “prejudice”; when finished, I looked out at the class who appeared like the breathe at just been taken from them including the teacher; like they were caught off guard. It was a long way back to my seat. Only one female student reached out to me to affirm what I said. I had to endure pep rallies with the Dixie flag and singing saying to myself that I am not a Confederate but an American; not knowing then the historical racial implications entailed in it but feeling it not right. Dad remained active in this effort so that in my senior year at Gustavus, when MLK was killed and our black community was in an uproar, he was the only white person the black community welcomed and listened to him: so he convinced them to make a peaceful protest march and he would march with them; so that is what happened in that community. Dad, a graduate of Gustavus was a Ph.D from Yale and a professor of religion, an internationally known textual critic, an author but always and foremost a pastor whose congregation was the parish community he served. From him, I learned the value of all human life and a model for pastoral ministry in the parish life and the college communities he served. It is good to see that Gustavus continues to date to pursue such movements toward justice that my dad, an alumnus of Gustavus, pursued in his day.

  2. Mary Sue Hansen says:

    What a beautiful testimony about your father Timothy. As a parent of a soon-to-be Gustie I am grateful, that you and your father were graduates of Gustavus! I am also very grateful that the leadership at Gustavus is committed to critical reflection, sustained action and transformational change.