(Updated March 5, 2019)
This week Augsburg University concluded a review, initiated in October 2018, of student reports about the leadership, culture, and environment of specific classes and in a specific program area. This review involved a wide-ranging set of issues beyond the single classroom incident that was the subject of public discussion and news coverage.
Because of its commitment to respecting confidentiality of student and personnel information, the university does not intend to publicly share factual details about the full scope of the concerns reported, but confirms that its actions during the review process were not based solely on the publicly reported classroom incident.
The conclusion of this review resulted in changes to the instructor’s leadership and teaching assignments in the specific program area, while affirming that future course assignments and instructional load would remain in alignment with the contractual obligations between the instructor and the university.
The following statement outlines the process and conclusion of this review.
Process and resolution
On October 31, 2018, Augsburg leadership began to receive reports related to a classroom incident and to the experiences of students in a specific program area at the university. In response, the university immediately set in motion the process for investigating such situations.
Through this process, Augsburg leadership heard from more than 30 individuals, some of whom who had submitted non-anonymous reports through a variety of available mechanisms, including personal interviews and the university’s Student-Faculty Bias/Discrimination reporting process. The information gathered raised a variety of issues relating both to the particular classroom incident as well as to student experiences beyond that specific event.
In early January, it was concluded that the informal resolution process was insufficient for achieving an appropriate resolution in this case, and the university’s chief academic officer initiated the formal resolution process. As outlined in Augsburg’s Faculty Handbook, the formal process requires consultation with the university’s faculty-elected Committee on Tenure and Promotion and provides a means for faculty to review the administration’s actions as well as to provide input on appropriate next steps.
Based upon all of this input, the university determined outcomes taking into account the broader set of concerns raised by students. As noted above, the outcomes included changes in leadership and instructional roles in a specific program area. Any personnel discussions related to this process will remain confidential.
In addition to the faculty process, Augsburg’s chief academic officer charged a team of faculty, students, and multicultural student services staff to review the specific program area about which concerns had been raised. That review is focused on the program’s vision, structure, and curriculum, and is expected to extend beyond the current academic year.
Throughout this process, Augsburg remained committed to supporting students’ academic success. Augsburg’s equity commitment, approved by the Augsburg Board of Regents in April 2018, states that “Augsburg must fully embrace the challenge of being the institution its students need today, creating culturally relevant learning spaces and opportunities that build students’ agency to lead change at Augsburg and in their communities.”
Beyond the specific reviews described above, Augsburg leadership recognized that the experience raised important questions about inclusiveness at Augsburg more generally. A variety of institution-wide efforts are underway as a result—including student-led initiatives, faculty-led discussions, and more. A student survey was launched as part of a curricular inclusivity study. A faculty and staff work group was formed to review proposed general education requirements to support intercultural learning. Time was dedicated on Martin Luther King Jr. Day for workshops and intercultural competence development across campus.
“We know that the work of fostering an inclusive learning environment is ongoing, and we are fully committed to it,” said Augsburg President Paul C. Pribbenow. “We are grateful to the students, faculty, and staff who have spoken courageously to raise campus awareness, who have engaged in actively listening to the issues being expressed, and who have called for changes that advance our equity work. Augsburg will address this important topic like it has many other critical issues in our 150-year history: We will acknowledge and engage the topic, not shrink from it, and work together to make the university better.”