FARGO — North Dakota State University announced Thursday, July 30, a list of efforts to improve inclusion and promote diversity on campus.
The efforts include drafting a statement acknowledging that the school sits on land once occupied by Native Americans, recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day, and creating a president’s council on diversity.
President Dean Bresciani laid out these actions in a letter to the campus. He wrote that NDSU intends to form a President’s Council for Diversity, Inclusion and Respect to improve the campus for "historically underserved populations and to operationalize the diversity and inclusion goal of the strategic plan."
“These steps are only the beginning of making NDSU a better, more welcoming place,” Bresciani wrote. “With these initiatives, we are setting up both a process and a commitment to continuously improve so that we can help NDSU and our country better live up to their ideals.”
The announcement comes after more than 200 faculty and staff signed an open letter earlier this month asking the university to take action to improve diversity and inclusion on campus.
Bresciani expressed Thursday his support for drafting a land acknowledgment statement saying the school sits on land once cared for by Native Americans. Previously, the school declined to say whether it would support or oppose a similar statement drafted by what it called a small group of faculty, staff and students.
Bresciani thanked that small group in his Thursday letter, adding that he will appoint a committee with some of the original authors to “review and finalize the statement which respectfully and accurately recognizes the Indigenous American and Canadian First Nations from this region, as well as NDSU’s land-grant history.”
“I would like this work to be completed as swiftly as possible,” he wrote.
The University of North Dakota and the North Dakota State College of Science approved their own acknowledgement statements this year.
In his letter, Bresciani wrote that “systemic racism exists in our country" and the nation has never “fully grappled with” or fully resolved racial disparities and discrimination. The U.S. has the opportunity to improve, he noted.
“Together, we can help ensure that our campus is a more diverse, inclusive and welcoming place to all historically disadvantaged groups,” he wrote.
After a year’s worth of work, the university almost has completed a strategic plan that, in part, focuses on diversity, inclusion and respect, Bresciani wrote.
The school also plans to relocate the Grandmother Earth's Gift of Life Garden, which “honors and connects the campus to Indigenous cultures and lifeways,” Bresciani wrote. The garden was moved to make way for the construction of Sugihara Hall, a science building that will replace Dunbar Hall. Potential sites for the garden include the west side of campus, Bresciani wrote.
Along with changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, NDSU may recognize other days with cultural significance, such as Juneteenth. Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth marks the freedom of black Americans from slavery.
Other additions include creating a resource room for Indigenous students and holding “an extensive series of conversations about racism, diversity and inclusion on campus and throughout the state.”
NDSU’s Northern Plains Ethics Institute will host the conversations with the YWCA’s racial justice committee. Dates for the conversations have not yet been finalized.