This email and video were sent to Luther Seminary students, faculty, and staff on January 9, 2018.
Dear Luther Community,
I’m writing about something that is difficult, but important, to address. Last week, there was an incident of racial harassment and intimidation on campus.
Needless to say, I am disappointed and heartbroken that this occurred here. We all bear responsibility for the fact that our campus climate is such that someone felt this was acceptable behavior. Our entire community has been summoned to the long, difficult, and vital work of metanoia and reconciliation.
I have created a video message with more details; you can access it in the Google Drive folder linked below. Included in the folder are resources, including our current policies around harassment and discrimination, community events and conversations over the next week to process what has happened, and next steps for our community and institution.
Please take the time to watch and read carefully.
Robin Steinke, President
1. Key Resources and Next Steps
2. Policy Against Harassment, Unlawful Discrimination, and Hostility
3. A video addressing the situation, view link below:
In response to this new information, President Robin Steinke issued the following update.
Dear Luther Community,
I have a very important update to this morning’s message. A lot has happened since then, and I want to be sure the entire community is aware of these developments.
After receiving my message this morning, a student reached out to self-report that they had been the one to put the figurine in Dean Shannon’s stocking. While this kind of message is, in our western context, a clear message of racial intimidation and harassment, we discovered that the person who gave the gift is of non-western descent and was unaware of its full cultural implications.
Dean Shannon and the student met in person to talk about what happened and to begin the process of reconciliation.
In reflecting on this event, I want to express my gratitude for how this community has responded. I am grateful for the student who had the courage and integrity to step forward. I am grateful for the open-heartedness of both Dean Shannon and the student to engage in a difficult conversation directly. I am grateful for the way faculty, staff, the pastor’s office, student groups, and the student council stepped up with support and solidarity. Most of all, I am grateful for the way our community has come alongside one another in a difficult moment, and to make sure we understand the story as correctly and fully as possible.
But I want to reiterate: our work is not done. If anything, this incident has further revealed the many layers of work we have to do. Our call to engage in the difficult, soul-stretching work of cross-cultural competence, anti-racism, and relating across difference is perhaps more urgent than ever.
The community will still gather for worship and prayer multiple times over the next week or so.
We will still have professionally-facilitated talking circles on Thursday and throughout the semester to process this and other situations of racial and cultural tension.
Dean Shannon and HR director Arnita Walls will continue to expedite recommendations for training sessions, community conversations, and policy updates.
Among the greatest gifts and challenges of being church together is our diversity. Our community cuts across cultural, linguistic, ethnic, generational, racial, and denominational divides. We have beloved community members with different nationalities, sexual orientations, gender identities, political perspectives, cultural backgrounds, and theological commitments. This diversity brings a richness and vitality to our community—but engaging differences is difficult. We misunderstand one another. We disagree. We get defensive.
Somehow, paradoxically, the call of the gospel is to be unified despite our differences. This isn’t easy. We will struggle and make mistakes. But to see and hear and love one another through it all is the promise and potential of Luther Seminary—and, indeed, the entire Body of Christ.
I said in my initial message this morning that this is a defining moment for our institution. It still is. Let’s take this moment to lean into the work of reconciliation and healing. Let’s be present at community events over the next week, where we can pray together, talk together, be together, and engage in practices of grace, listening, and love.
I leave you with the same message I expressed in my initial video: the road to reconciliation is a long journey to which our entire community has now been summoned.
May the Holy Spirit accompany us along the way.
Grace and peace to you,