“All are welcome” campaign continues

“All are welcome” campaign continues

Madelyn Swenson, Sports Editor

Winona State University President Scott Olson sent an all campus email on Tuesday, Jan. 16 that reminded students that everyone is welcome at Winona State.

The email began with a reference to the comments that United States President Donald Trump made that weekend about Haiti and certain countries being “shithole” countries.

However, Olson stated that he used that language as a hook. It was not a message to President Trump.

“I didn’t print out a copy and send it to everybody in Congress and the White House,” Olson said. “It was a response to what the news was that weekend.”

Olson and Andrea Northam, interim director of communications, marketing and media, were working on a theme for a ‘welcome back’ message since December last year. They knew that they wanted to incorporate inclusion in some way.

What Trump may have said just helped to write it.

“I wasn’t in the room so I don’t know what was said by who, I know what was being reported,” Olson said. “But listening to that I was like, ‘this thing just wrote itself.’”

Jonathan Locust, the vice president of inclusion and diversity, was pleased with the email.

“I think it was wonderful. It was timely,” Locust said. “I think [Olson] understands the importance of inclusion and he understands the importance of diversity.”

Locust also said that he thinks that if Trump said the things he is accused of that it is divisive.

“Especially since what makes the U.S. so awesome is that there are so many different people here,” Locust said. “I look at it as limiting a group of people from coming will limit the awesomeness.”

The message of Olson’s email was furthered by the university putting up the year-old video made by Sara Cheong, a senior marketing and public relations student, for the “All Are Welcome” campaign that was happening across the country at the time.

“It became a nationwide campaign and our department [international services] caught on and wanted to make a project to show our students and the community that all are welcome,” Cheong said.

Olson stated that having a video that was made in the past illustrates that being an inclusive campus has always been a value of Winona State.

“It is an eternal value,” Olson said. “We weren’t being opportunistic saying that everyone is welcome. We said the same thing via video a year ago.”

However, sophomore cell and molecular biology and psychology major Qhawe Mahlangu does not believe the university is reaching its full potential.

“Though Winona State’s policy promotes inclusivity and acceptance, the campus experience is a slightly different atmosphere to be quite honest,” Mahlangu said. “For many students, the pressure to fit in and abandon your authenticity is high because we are misunderstood. I believe that Winona State is an inclusive campus but because of different perceptions people retain about other people, it is sometimes difficult for those people to fully be themselves.”

He said that people are sometimes not excepting of certain cultural differences. For example, African apparel typically is colorful and stands out. He says it is hard to be yourself without becoming a stereotype.

“It’s difficult to indulge yourself in a huge part of who you are without being stereotyped,” Mahlangu said.

Cheong has a slightly different opinion on Winona State’s inclusion.

“Everyone is really welcoming and [international students] honestly feel that when we first come here a lot of faculty and community members try their best to help us get accustomed to the environment and that has been really helpful,” Cheong said. “I feel like it’s really inclusive just because everyone is open to new ideas and open to different cultures.

She gave the example that 250 students come to the international dinner that is held every year. “I’ve met some wonderful people in Winona,” Mahlangu said. “From strangers who give you a ride back from Walmart to friends that I’ll have for the rest of my life.”