Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Building names depict Augustana’s lack of diversity

Augustana continues to build its diversity, increasing its multicultural population each year – this year raising it to about 20 percent. The diversity of students, however, does not seem to be reflected in its academic buildings or history of Augustana’s presidents.
The first building named after someone was Ericson Hall, named after Iowa State Senator C.J.A Erickson who donated money to Augustana for the purchase of the land. Since then, eight buildings have been named after Augustana’s administration including Andreen (President Gustav A. Andreen), Bergendoff Hall of Fine Arts (President Conrad Bergendoff), Erickson Residence Center (Vice President and Treasurer, Dr. Knut Erickson), the Slough Path (Campus chaplain Rev. Richard Swanson), Sorenson Hall (President C.W. Sorenson), Thomas Tredway Library (President Thomas Tredway), Betsey Brodahl (Dean of Women Betsey Brodahl 1997), and Dorothy Parkander Residence Center (Alumnus and professor 2007).
Of those eight, only two are named after women (the first only 22 years ago, in 1997), and none have been named after people of color. The first building named after a woman was Emmy Carlsson Evald Hall, otherwise known as Evald, constructed in 1927. The money donated came from the Women’s Missionary Society (WMS). Once the building was changed to a men’s dormitory, it was named after Dr. Erland Carlsson, one of the presidents of the college’s board of directors. About 81 years later, it was renamed after Emmy Carlsson, who was president of WMS and “had raised much of the money for its construction,” according to Special Collection’s Campus History.
According to Augustana’s website, there there haven’t been any women Presidents of Augustana, nor have there been any Presidents of color. Ashleigh Johnston, Director of Public Relations and Social Media confirms that Augustana hasn’t had “a female college president, nor has there been a person of color that has served as chair of the board of trustees … but it is something we are highly cognizant of and looking to improve.”
Sam Schlouch from the Office of Advancement says that Augustana is “very fortunate  to have thousands of donors, spanning many varying socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds” but that there is not any information on the composition (race, gender, ethnicity, etc) of the donors.
Danny Kim, director of international Student Life, reveals that the lack of large international and multicultural donors is due to the history of Augustana. Because until recently, Augustana’s population has been mostly white, there haven’t been as many students of color to give back: “demographically, there has always been a very low number of underrepresented people at Augustana… the majority, due to the systems that exist in this country, are less affluent than people with the most privileges, that would be white male”.
“I think there is a sort of ethic to donating to a college or university” Senior Aaron Hollatz said. “You have to buy into the idea that colleges are philanthropic institutions that better society through the promotion of knowledge as opposed to institutions which primarily serve to maintain their position as gateways to the knowledge elite.  You have to be someone who benefits from that system as it exists.” Which is why he believes donors are particularly concentrated “in a certain class of people, white, liberal, educated, and wealthy.”
Kim explains that students of color may not donate back to the college because they don’t have the same “sense of belonging” as their white counterparts. Kim shares that although students may not think about the effect of building names directly, it gives an “internal message” about the history of the college.
Kim happily mentions that many International students tell him that they’d love to donate back to the college, especially the Office of International Student Life, but that they just have to get rich first.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Augustana Observer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Building names depict Augustana’s lack of diversity