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Reconciliation Task Force Announces Results

After meeting for 18 months, the Reconciliation Task Force discusses plans for the university during two community feedback sessions.

In fall 2010, Bethel University President Jay Barnes appointed a 14-person Reconciliation Task Force to rethink the university’s “central paradigm for promoting reconciliation, increasing diversity, reducing racism, elevating global engagement, and enhancing cultural competence.” After meeting for 18 months, the task force presented its report during two community feedback sessions last week. The task force co-chairs, Provost David Clark and Leon Rodrigues, chief diversity officer, also presented the group’s findings and recommendations to the Board of Trustees during its spring meeting, as well as to President Barnes and the Executive Leadership Team.

The task force was originally comprised of 14 faculty and staff members from across the university who were selected for their diverse perspectives. Their process began with discussions of the president’s request. The task force then solicited community input through a survey comprised of eight quantitative questions and three qualitative questions. The task force members were encouraged when they received about 365 survey responses in just seven days. The general survey results indicated that the Bethel community strongly supports the value of reconciliation, but would like the university to adopt a new approach toward reconciliation.

The task force noted the work accomplished during the past 15 years by Bethel’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, by the Bethel Anti-Racism and Reconciliation Commission (BARRC) and by the Office of Intercultural Programs and Services (formerly Office of Diversity and Community). These early efforts focused on structural change as the strategy for opposing racism. The task force concluded that Bethel must not only continue to oppose racism, but also broaden the effort toward reconciliation by adding emphases on personal development. The task force recommends a focus on gaining cultural competence as a critical educational goal.

In his directives, the president asked the task force to come up with a biblically-grounded model for reconciliation at Bethel. “The challenge was to find a paradigm that is grounded in the Bible, honors both individual development and social change, and recognizes that all humans are entangled in a broken world,” Clark said during the community feedback event. According to the Report to the President, which includes the task force’s recommendations, “The Reconciliation Task Force proposes the biblical story of Shalom as the framework for Bethel’s commitment to reconciliation.” Most commonly translated as “peace,” the concept of Shalom includes the “enjoyment of all relationships between God, self, others, and the whole earth,” according to the report.

“The goal is to be an educational community that prepares graduates to join in God’s redemption and to work for God’s Shalom. Bethel prepares graduates to do excellent work in the world and to see their work (including teaching, nursing, parenting, ministering, researching, and so on) as a contribution to Shalom wherever God calls them to serve. Bethel meets this goal through instilling biblical values in its graduates and developing skills such as cultural competence, a keen sense of justice and equality in society,” the task force noted in its Report to the President.

In order for the Bethel community to live out the Shalom model, the task force recommends:

  • Further modifying the new employee orientation processes.
  • Forming a team whose task will be to analyze and make recommendations about policies and structures relating to racism, cultural bias, and intercultural competence.
  • Assisting faculty with incorporating intercultural competence in the classroom setting.
  • Teaching competencies in constructive dialogue, civil discourse, critical self-reflection, navigating of difference, and conflict resolution to all Bethel employees.
  • Developing and maintaining a diversity key measures report that includes data that can be used to improve programs.
  • Developing a “Comprehensive Diversity Plan” to accomplish these initiatives.

The members of the task force are:

David Clark (Co-Chair), Executive Vice President and Provost;

Leon Rodrigues (Co-Chair), Chief Diversity Officer

Keith Brooks, Associate Professor of Education

Laurel Bunker, Dean of Campus Ministries and Campus Pastor

Paul Eddy, Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies

Mark Harden, Dean of Intercultural Relations at Bethel Seminary St. Paul

Lori Jass, Dean of Academic Affairs at the College of Adult and Professional Studies/Graduate School

Carrie Jones, Senior Administrative Assistant

Joe LaLuzerne, Senior Vice President for Strategic Planning and Operational Effectiveness

Karen McKinney, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies

Elizabeth Peterson, Associate Professor of Nursing

Dan Ritchie, Professor of English (withdrew from the task force)

Ruben Rivera, Associate Professor of History

Steven Sandage, Professor of Marriage and Family Studies

Edee Schulze, Vice President for Student Life

Bernard Walker, Associate Professor


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