News and Commentary

‘DIVERSITY’: Catholic University Scraps Women’s Conference Because It’s Too White

A Catholic university in Minnesota canceled an annual women’s conference because the qualified women chosen blindly to speak at the touted event ended up being too white, and thus not reflecting the proper “diversity” values of the school.

St. Catherine University’s Leadership Imperative Conference was set to be held on January 19, with some 30 prominent women ready to speak at the event. The speakers, picked through a blind call, were chosen “solely based on their fit” with the themes of the conference, indicates an email from the school’s associate provost.

The conference was hyped by the university as “the event of the year for professional women in the Twin Cities.”

“You won’t want to miss out,” the university site boasted of the conference. “Space is limited! Last year, the event sold out quickly.”

But when the speakers submitted their photos and bios, everything changed. The group of qualified women chosen for the event were too white for St. Catherine. So the conference was canceled in December, the Star Tribune reported last week.

In other words, the women were discriminated against based on their skin color.

St. Catherine University president Becky Roloff sent a campus email on December 8 announcing the cancellation.

“We did not set a goal to secure a diverse panel of presenters,” wrote Roloff. “Because of this, the racial and ethnic diversity of women in leadership positions was not reflected in the conference,” adding her “sincere apology for injuries caused.”

In a separate email to chosen speakers, associate provost Joann Bangs confirmed that the cancellation of the event had nothing to do with the chosen women’s qualifications, rather their “racial and ethnic” make-up. Star Tribune reports:

“The end result ‘does not reflect the diverse St. Kate’s community,’ she wrote. ‘While well intentioned, it is a case where a blind process has led to a racial and ethnic blind outcome.’ The university says that 34 percent of its undergraduates are ‘multicultural’ students.”

“The yield does not reflect the diverse St. Kate’s community of today nor the world of tomorrow we are committed to creating,” said the university of the canceled event, according to Campus Reform.

The “diversity” cancellation did not go unnoticed.

Center of the American Experiment president John Hinderaker blasted the racially-motivated move. “This is the kind of absurdity you get when you prioritize skin color over merit,” he said.

Speakers, too, were confused and unhappy.

“I was disappointed that it was canceled because I was excited to be a part of it,” said chosen speaker Karen Pavlicin-Fragnito. “When I submit something to a conference as a speaker, I have the understanding that they’re going to choose me on what I’m going to present and the value of that to their audience. I’m not expecting that they’re going to choose me on the basis of the color of my skin.”

Former St. Catherine University associate dean and chosen presenter Jeanne Bailey said she was “very surprised and disappointed” over the cancellation. “I’m still puzzled by it,” she added.

After receiving adequate backlash over the cancellation, the university issued a statement last week.

“We did not feel the list [of speakers] adequately represented the St. Kate’s community or fulfilled the objective of lifting up the voices of all women,” said the statement. “While this was a tough decision, we believe it was an important one.”