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The Northfield News previewed the St. Olaf Theater Department’s production of Dead Man’s Cell Phone in early March, describing the play’s take on “modern technology’s ability to both unite and isolate people in the modern age.” The play opens in a cafe with an awkward, cellphone-less woman named Jean on a break from her job at the Holocaust Museum. She expresses irritation and eventual annoyance when the man next to her fails to answer his cell phone multiple times. Jean soon realizes the man is dead and becomes fixated on the people who continue to call his phone after he has died.
The play explores our reliance on and obsession with technology, especially cell phones. Since the invention of the smartphone, companies have increased the number of applications available on cell phones. Where phones were once used for calling, they soon became vehicles for texting, email, Facebook, Twitter, video chatting, checking news sources, Instagram, TimeHop and if all that isn’t enough for you, there are always games! When you step back and think about it, the depth and breadth of applications available on smartphones is impressive, and even more impressive is the number of people using these apps.
I could delve into a tirade about the evils of technology, how it separates us from each other, from our world, from our experiences with the world, but anything I have to say pales in comparison to the play’s expression of this phenomenon. Dead Man’s Cell Phone nearly whalloped the audience over the head with the idea of too much connection. In the play, Jean’s obsession with the cell phone is such that she feels compelled to answer in all situations, including while kissing Dwight, the man she falls in love with and who is also the brother of the dead man.
Shannon Cron ’15, the show’s director, hoped that Dead Man’s Cell Phone would “give [students] a new perspective on their use of technology and connections with other people.”
As much as I wish this were possible, I’m afraid this message is consistently lost on the intended audience. Even in the face of a play that combines the absurdism of, say, being trapped in “hell” (where the only outer-world communication you can hear is through cell phones) with the realism of obsession in such a poignant manner, I fear that endless diatribes against technology continue to fall flat.
It’s enough to make me wonder about the role of the arts behind an idea such as this. What is the best a writer, director or actor can hope for in imparting this message? Perhaps that the audience members will think twice about reaching for their phones every time they ring or work to be more present in their own lives. But how long will that last? A week? An evening, if that?
This show comes on the cusp of countless media outlets imploring us to unplug from technology (I often wonder at the irony of this message, communicated through the “cursed” media outlets themselves). However, theater remains one of the last great strongholds in which we as a society unplug. At one point in the show, the dead man’s mother makes a comment about how there are few places in society where cell phones don’t ring anymore: the church and the theater.
Placing this timely message in the context of a play strenghtens its message. The audience grows attached to the characters, can feel their anxiety and sorrow enough to – dare I say it? – consider altering their perspective on technology.
Will it change all behavior? Probably not. Yet the execution of this message underscores its importance at this time and place, particularly on a college campus. As many of us begin to transition into a working life, this show serves as a reminder of the value of true connection with others. Perhaps Dead Man’s Cell Phone, in combination with other critiques of our obsession with technology, may serve as collective weight that breaks the habit.
Emily Stets ’15 (email@example.com) is from Northfield, Minn. Her CIS major is Public Mental Health: Wellness and the Arts.
Graphic Credit: LOUISA CARROLL/MANITOU MESSENGER
about that test
about that app.
about that job
about that friend
because in 100 years
we’ll all be dead.
On Wednesday, March 11, over one hundred students gathered in the Buntrock Ballrooms to hear from alumni in the Piper Center for Vocation and Career’s 3rd Annual Oles for Public Interest. Droves of students from all class years came for more than two hours to hear from a variety of Ole Alums who work in and around the public sector.
Oles for Public Interest is part of the “Ole Suite” program that the Piper Center offers to better connect students with alumni in their field of interest. Other programs include: Making it in the Arts, Ole Biz, Ole Med and Ole Law.
The purpose of the event was to connect students with alumni so students are able to make more informed vocational decisions and help them connect with alums who are in a similar field. “The purpose is to connect students to alumni and see the many ways they can do good after graduation”, said Janine Knutson, an Associate Director at the Piper Center and coordinates Oles for Public Interest.
The keynote speaker, Rachel Hatch ’03, is a research director at the Institute for the Future, based in Palo Alto, CA. Hatch serves a diverse range of major global corporations and nonprofits in planning their forecasts for the future. Her take home message? We are living in the future now. Uber, Airbnb, Kickstarter and Udemy are all prime examples of the rapidly developing sharing economy, which will grow to be an ever important role in the coming future, according to Hatch.
One of Hatch’s most compelling aspects of her story was how she started working in my current organization, “I was in my third year of seminary when the director of the Institute visited campus.” After that, her life changed drastically as she left seminary to go and work with the Institute for the Future in California.
After Hatch’s keynote, students attended two series of panel sessions, one on types of public sector careers, and another one of connections to global issues.
“Oles are very passionate people and have diverse interests”, Madison Goering ’15 said, when talking about the alumni panel on launching a career in nonprofits. The 45-minute panel allowed for Q&A between panelists and students on their career paths and the fields they work in. Goering explained, “It was nice to hear a variety of perspectives on how to balance all those passions you have in your vocation.”
The alumni panels included alumni working in range of careers, such as a program coordinator at College Possible, a nonprofit in Minneapolis, to the Director of Government Relations at Cargill. The panels included alumni deliberately from many different sectors that connect with public interest – including large private companies like Cargill.
After the series of panels, there was ample amount of time for students to network with alumni and talk more closely with the panelists about vocation. Quickly, students formed small groups or pairs with alumni, asking them about specific aspects of their careers, and how they got there.
The panel sessions and background of the alumni reflected a diversity of ways careers can help the world through poverty alleviation, healthcare, education, sustainability. According to Knutson, the most important part of the event is that “this gives students a chance to explore various career paths to help the world.”
Photo Courtesy of Will Lutterman
Dr. Carolyn H. Livingston, currently senior associate vice president for campus life and Title IX coordinator for students at Emory University (Ga.), has been named Carleton College’s new vice president for student life and dean of students. Livingston replaces Hudlin Wagner, who announced her retirement in September, effective at the end of the current academic year. Livingston will assume her new post June 22, 2015.
Following a rare rainout on the first day of Spring Break action on Wednesday, the Carleton College baseball team was able to begin its annual trip to the Grand Canyon State with Thursday’s non-conference contest against Augsburg College. Despite a strong late-game rally by the Knights, the Auggies held on to win 10-6.
St. Olaf College Professor of Biology Eric Cole, a group of student researchers, and a microscopic organism are making big news this spring.
Cole’s cell biology research was recently published as the cover article of a scientific journal, and later this month two of his students will present findings related to that article at an international meeting in Boston.
Journal cover story
Cole’s article, “Membrane Dynamics at the Nuclear Exchange Junction during Early Mating in the Ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila,” was featured on the February cover of Eukaryotic Cell, a scientific journal from the American Society for Microbiology.
Its publication marks the end of a six-year scientific quest that involved eight undergraduate students, two college campuses, and one single-celled study organism — the ciliated protist Tetrahymena thermophila.
Tetrahymena thermophila (T. thermophila) is a single-celled organism that acts as a bacterial grazer in freshwater lakes and ponds. It is considered a model organism for molecular and cellular biology due to its rapid growth and possession of key eukaryotic processes.
The research process
In the fall of 2008, Cole spent a semester of released time at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In the university’s electron microscope suite, Cole learned how to perform three-dimensional electron tomography, a process that allows scientists to determine a cell’s three-dimensional architecture.
In 2012 Cole returned to U.C. Boulder, this time to lead eight St. Olaf students in an electron microscopy course.
“At the time, U.C. Boulder was one of only three such microscopy facilities in the country, and nowhere were undergraduates privileged with time on such an instrument,” says Cole. “The site director was so impressed with our students’ passion and commitment that he invited us back again.”
Six students from Cole’s 2012 Interim course continued working with him throughout that spring. They developed 3-D computer models of the cell structures they had captured in January, and two students — Anna Ballard ’13 and Tyler Aronstein ’12 — animated these models. Ballard and Aronstein are co-authors on Cole’s 2015 paper.
The team’s work also caught the attention of a Scientific American weblog, which published a story about the students’ activities.
Results and future questions
“I think there were three notable findings from our study,” says Cole. “First, we captured the moment when two cells initially fuse with one another during fertilization. Second, we identified a new set of membrane structures that anchor cell nuclei to the cell-cell junction and to one another through pores that form in the mating junction. Finally, we discovered tiny membrane-bound packages that are secreted by cells into the mating junction.”
This last discovery led to a new research question in Cole’s lab: are cells communicating with each other through these membrane-bound packages?
Student researchers Sasha Dmytrenko ‘16 and Adrian Ripeckyj ‘17 spent last summer purifying these “packages” from mating T. thermophila cells. Once the packages were purified, samples were sent to the University of Minnesota, where a technique called mass spectrometry was used to identify every type of protein present in the vesicles. They identified a total of 370 proteins, three of which were involved in a process called “RNA interference.”
“This is a new and exciting finding, that our vesicles might be carrying small RNA molecules from one cell to the other, possibly acting as ‘signal’ molecules during mating,” says Cole. “This summer we hope to identify which, if any, RNA molecules are present in our microvesicles.”
Dmytrenko and Ripeckyj will report on their successful efforts to purify these microvesicles at an international meeting in Boston over spring break.
And she is a poem.
And she rhymes.
And she stands out in a crowd
With no one by her side.
And she lives happiest
When she lives in the past
Drawing on memories
And childhood and things like that.
And when people smile.
They chuckle then move on
And she is glad to bring joy
But no one stays long.
And she is passed over
By big words and big names,
By people with metaphors on their minds
And mystery in the way
And her welcome is worn.
And she knows.
And she fades into lost memory.
And so it goes.
And twenty years from now
They will think back
And wonder what happened
And where she is at.
But they won’t remember
Her name or her face
Only that she once was
A part of time and of place.
So they will look.
But not find.
And they will mourn for the poem
That they lost to time.
Spring is the season of things coming anew: from green leaves on trees, to baby robins hopping around campus. Music is no exception; this season brings new songs and performances from artists both local and worldwide.
Last Saturday, St. Olaf College Poetry House hosted a benefit concert at the Flaten Art Barn, featuring campus bands Merino Wool and Fringe Pipes, along with the new and upcoming Tasha Viets-VanLear ’15 and Aleksander Seeman ’16. The Art Barn recently changed its policy on the maximum number of individuals it can contain, so a decent crowd showed up to support the house and the campus bands playing. The concert opened with Viets-VanLear and Seeman with some edgy and soulful vibes with carefully constructed lyrics, only to be expected of a resident of the Poetry House.
Merino Wool, featuring Nick Baker ’15, Zach Westermeyer ’15, Ryan Heltemes ’15 and Christian Wheeler ’16, is always worth listening to, with its classic, yet upbeat sound and a strong bass line to boot.
The band had no trouble making the audience dance with “Made for Each Other,” among other tunes. Next came Fringe Pipes, with Jay Carlson ’15, Elliot Tadanier ’15, Christian Wheeler ’16 and Colin Loynachan ’16, establishing a presence with intense guitar riffs and wailing vocals (in the best way possible) with plenty of hair flipping from all gathered in the barn.
As for new music in the metro area, Minneapolis’ favorite hip-hop collective Doomtree released a new album, All Hands at the end of January. The group blends a unique mix of influences and styles all the way from rap to punk to pop into impressively woven lines and beats. The group also is one of the few hip-hop collectives with the presence of a female artist, namely, Dessa. If there’s one track to listen to off the album, it’s “Gray Duck.”
Artist Laura Marling, hailing from across the pond, is releasing her fifth album in a span of seven years on March 23. Marling has already been established as master lyricist and expert acoustic picker, but her new album Short Movie will be accompanied by a series of videos called the “Short Movie Sessions” where Marling transforms her beautifully dark winding acoustic picking into potent electric sounds, accompanied by her always poetic lyrics. Check out singles, “Short Movie,” “False Hope” and “I Feel Your Love” if you’re getting antsy. From good old NoFo to the other side of the Atlantic, there’s good music this spring all around.
The A+ Art Club works to connect St. Olaf and Carleton volunteers with A+ club members on the autism spectrum through art projects.
The program was started by Laura Goodwin and Professor of Art and Art History Meg Ojala as an experiment to see if arts and crafts could break down barriers and help students on the autism spectrum work past issues in a more unconventional way. During its first year, the club turned out to be a huge success. Since then, it has continued to work on new ways to continue its objectives, including improvisation activities and a recent musical.
On a typical night, volunteers arrive and pair up with club members one-on-one, which allows strong relationships to form. Everyone then participates in a team building activity, which helps facilitate trust between the members, while providing a way for members to relax and enjoy themselves. Guest artists then come in and work on a particular project with the organization members, using a range of different mediums to engage the group.
“It’s a great organization,” co-coordinator and volunteer member Lara Shefelbine ’16 said. “It has a great balance between challenging students to get out of their comfort zone with new artistic techniques and new activities, but also being a comfortable and safe space with volunteers working one-on-one with club members.”
Techniques can get hard at times, but the club members are usually very willing to take a deep breath and try again. Volunteers try to do whatever they can to maximize members’ learning while also keeping them happy and safe.
Club member Aria McAfee, who lives in Northfield, has been a member of A+ for almost six years. Her favorite medium to work with is photography, and she enjoys taking photos of landscapes around St. Olaf.
“My favorite part of the club is all the friends I’ve made and doing the summer art mart,” McAfee said.
The club has also recently worked outside of the realm of 2D media into a more theatrical setting with improv activities and a recent production of “Buzz: The Musical,” the story of a bee who didn’t buzz quite like all the other bees. Typically, young adults on the autism spectrum do not like being placed in situations where the unexpected is involved. During the improvisation activities, however, many of the volunteer members were extremely impressed by the reactions of the club members who took over the stage. Many stepped out of their comfort zones and adapted to the situation with positive attitudes.
During the production of the musical, many club members were asked to memorize lines and dance routines, which sometimes proved difficult. Some members in the beginning refused to participate in certain aspects of the play, but by the end of the dress rehearsal, they participated in everything that was asked of them. As their comfort levels improved, so did their willingness to try new things.
On the opening day of Friday, Feb. 27, there was a packed house. Friends and family members from all around the Northfield area poured into the theater to see their loved ones perform. The club members and volunteers were prepared and excited. As the play started, the club members started off strong. As the play continued, one could see the members come out of their shells more and more, and at some points, ad-libs were even added in by some of the members, which only contributed to the audience’s enthusiasm. The play not only raised approximately $2,000 for A+ activities, supplies and scholarship programs, but also helped some members realize their love for theater. Some actors expressed the desire to star in more plays in the future.
For both club members and volunteers, the A+ Art Club has changed many lives and cultivated strong friendships. For volunteers such as Shefelbine, the two hours a week she spends at A+ is her favorite part of the week.
“I’ve seen really meaningful relationships form between the club members and volunteers,” Shefelbine said. “And the dynamic that forms between those people is so easy and kind, and every Tuesday when you walk in, it’s like no time has passed. It’s just such a great atmosphere for everyone involved, both volunteers and club members.”
There has been a recent trend in city design labeled “defensive” or “disciplinary” architecture, where a city will install various structural impediments, primarily to make it more difficult for those who are homeless to live on the streets. Some are blatant, such as setting up spikes outside of a store to stop loiterers from hanging around or lying down, while some are less obvious, such as splitting a bench with a metal bar so that multiple people can sit adjacent, but one person isn’t capable of lying down. Things like this seem innocuous to the average observer, but are obvious and devastating to those who rely on them for shelter.
This attempt to combat homelessness is flawed in that it simply serves to make the lives of the homeless harder rather than helping them with their situation. The fact about homelessness is that it appears simple until you put thought into the impact it can have on a life. Being impoverished to the point of having no place to live isn’t merely an aspect of your life, but a circumstance that seeps into all facets of it and begins to define you as a person, at least to the average observer. Any given person seen on the street begging is likely not the figure many perpetuate, who capitalizes off the general public’s goodwill and then steals away to a posh apartment and washes the grime off of his face with a monogrammed towel and filtered tap water. Rather, many are people who may have close to nothing, people for whom finding a place to sleep that night is such an immediate concern and perpetual means of insecurity that things other people assume are accessible, such as searching for a job, take a back seat.
Humans are creatures of habit and constancy. Even in small doses, it’s something that we thrive on. We build on needs, and when one basic necessity is satiated, it makes it easier to pursue other drives, building essentially from primary biological necessities to a pursuit of happiness or self-actualization. When you lack a very basic need, such as readily available food or shelter, the search for those resources dominates your being. It is almost impossible to shift focus onto higher level drives, such as finding job security or meaningful interpersonal relationships. If, at a job interview, you lack the certainty that you will be able to have a warm, safe place to sleep afterward, focusing entirely on the interview is more or less an impossible request. No matter how hard someone works to pursue these less pressing needs, if they are held up at the base survival level, their attention will always be divided.
All of this is why “defensive” architecture, and other similar attempts to fight homelessness work against the goal of ending poverty. Making life on the streets harder as a preventative measure operates under the delusion that being homeless is a willful choice and those who lead that lifestyle do so because it is preferable to them. The truth of the matter is that making a park bench a less reliable place to sleep simply complicates the life of the person who uses that bench as a stable bed, and will further distract them from accessing resources that might change their situation.
This is the impact that “defensive” architecture truly has. There is an old American adage that represents this attitude fairly well and is often hurled at those fallen on hard times. Those who are struggling should simply “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and work out of a situation. While hardly ever applicable, in this context, the statement feels directed at people not simply barefoot, but with their hands recently bound behind their backs.
Conlan Campbell ’18 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Burnsville, Minn. His major is undecided.
Graphic Credit: ETHAN BOOTE/MANITOU MESSENGER
Over the past couple of weeks, St. Olaf hosted a program that served as commemoration of St. Olaf alumni involvement in the civil rights movement. Entitled “A Long Walk Home,” the comprehensive program details a history of race relations, focusing on the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s and specifically on the Selma to Montgomery march. The program runs from Feb. 27 to March 12, with March 7 as the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march.
One of St. Olaf’s strongest ties to the civil rights movement is alumnus James Reeb ’50, a Unitarian minister from Boston who expressed a solid support for civil rights in the fifties and sixties. In March of 1965, Reeb responded to a call of action and joined protesters in Selma. Only a couple of days after the nonviolent protesters were stopped and beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge (a day referred to as “Bloody Sunday”), Reeb, along with two other Unitarian ministers, were beaten by a group of white men for their support of civil rights. Reeb died two days later due to injuries.
Bruce King, special assistant to President David R. Anderson ’74 and chief diversity officer, was thrilled to be able to design the program honoring Reeb.
“He is an example of what an ordinary person does to become extraordinary,” King said, “Unfortunately, sadly, he was killed in Selma, but he became a symbol of why these things are important. Not only was he eulogized by Martin Luther King, Jr., but also, President Lyndon B. Johnson cited Reeb as a reason why the voting rights act should pass. A lot of people believe [Reeb’s death] sped up Johnson’s thinking in the passage of the voting rights act.”
King is hoping that the “A Long Walk Home” events will bring Reeb’s memory back to campus and help students understand that the issue of civil rights is still history in the making.
“You need a context, you need a framework,” King said, “and I think the program provides a certain kind of framework to think about how Selma is like Ferguson. How Selma is like Staten Island, New York or New York City. I think that if students really want to understand Ferguson, or they really want to understand Mike Brown, they really have to come back and take a look at what was happening in the South, what created the system, how the system was dismantled, and how it’s coming back together as we are fighting hard for civil rights today.”
“A Long Walk Home” has included a variety of events, including guest speakers, short films, an art exhibit and screenings of the movie Selma.
Last Wednesday, Victor Rios, a sociology professor at the University of California–Santa Barbara, spoke on his criticisms of the broken windows theory of policing. Rios’s talk was part of a series of lectures about race and policing. Inviting a speaker to address modern day race relation issues echos King’s request to give students an opportunity to learn about the lasting impacts and issues surrounding the civil rights movement.
A short film titled “Alabama Return: Life in Segregated Alabama” was aired on Monday, March 2 and Wednesday, March 4. The film documented a few St. Olaf alumni who had returned to Alabama to remember a summer they spent teaching there as part of the Tuskegee Institute Summer Education Program. Two of those alumni, Jeff Strate ’66 and Sheryl Anderson Renslo ’66, returned to campus last week to give brief “gallery talks” in the Flaten Art Museum. They reflected on the hardships, the cultural differences and the tensions of living in a segregated south.
Flaten Art Museum hosted a number of “gallery talks” throughout the course of the program. Retired St. Olaf pastor Bruce Benson spoke about his experiences as an exchange student at Talladega college in 1966. Anne and Leah Reeb talked about their grandfather’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.
During the chapel service on March 10, a group of students spoke about their experiences in Alabama while visiting for the Interim class Creating Southern History. Professor of History Michael Fitzgerald led a week-long trip to Alabama to retrace some of the steps of the Civil Rights Movement. The class explored museums, churches, monuments and iconic landmarks of the movement in Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and Selma. The tour finished with a commemoration ceremony for Reeb in Selma. President Anderson and other St. Olaf faculty joined the class in Alabama to be part of the ceremony.
Julia Lavanger ’16, one of the students who went on the trip, was moved by the stories the class heard.
“During the freedom rides, there was this really bad, brutal riot outside the bus station in Montgomery and then at the church later on, and [the freedom riders] all hid in this house,” Lavanger said. “We actually got to talk to this woman who was thirteen years old when all these people were hiding in her house. I got to talk to her for a little bit and it was so interesting hearing her firsthand experience. Just being there, where all these things actually happened. Walking past Martin Luther King’s house. And it’s just, you don’t really think how recently that was. It was really cool.”
James O’Leary ’16 shared in Lavanger’s enthusiasm for the experience.
“To be able to see all of these sites in person. Like, this was Doctor King’s desk as he had it, this was his church, this was a piece of the bomb that was used against Shuttlesworth. That was incredible,” O’Leary said.
The “A Long Walk Home” program concluded on Thursday, March 12 with a lecture by Gilbert H. Caldwell on his life as a civil rights activist and on the continuing struggle for civil rights today. There was also a ribbon cutting ceremony in the Rolvaag lobby for the dedication of the Rev. James Reeb Reflection Room in honor of Reeb.
The discussion of civil rights over the past few weeks was not exclusive to St. Olaf College. President Obama and U.S. Representative John Lewis (D- Ga.), a former SNCC activist who marched across the bridge in 1965, both spoke in commemoration of the Selma to Montgomery march on March 7.
“This is in the news now, and it’s more relevant to contemporary concerns than you would think possible,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s one reason why the school should probably remember James Reeb, because he’s one of a lot of people who participated in big events at this moment of crisis in the country’s history.”
St. Olaf College Writer in Residence Benjamin Percy has added two new titles to his ever-growing oeuvre. He is now developing his second series for television, a show for the premium cable network Starz titled Black Gold, and will also write DC Comics’ reboot of its series Green Arrow.
Black Gold, “a modern-day Western set in a Dakotas boomtown that revolves around oil drilling and fracking (hydraulic fracturing),” will be produced for Starz by FreemantleMedia, known as the force behind shows like American Idol and the popular sitcom The IT Crowd. James Ponsoldt, director of The Spectacular Now and Smashed, is signed on to direct the pilot.
“The North Dakota oil boom feels like the equivalent of the California gold rush,” Percy says. “It’s a new Wild West, a place of fast fortunes and shallow graves, the perfect stage for drama. My characters are lawmen, roughnecks, farmers, prostitutes, politicians, eco terrorists — tangling up the many perspectives on the dramatic changes taking place there.”
Percy has also been hired by DC Comics to write its reboot of the Green Arrow series, the first issue of which will publish in July. Percy, who also wrote a two-issue Batman story for DC, is collaborating with artist Patrick Zircher on the series.
“My Batman story arc served as a kind of industry audition,” he says. “I ended up in conversation with some editors and artists, and I was one of several writers they tapped for pitches on Green Arrow. I wrote up a 20-page document that detailed a new direction for the series, and thankfully they hired me on as the writer.”
Green Arrow, the alias of billionaire businessman Oliver Queen, is a Robin Hood-esque superhero who uses his archery skills to fight crime. Since the first appearance of the character in 1941, Green Arrow became known as the voice of progressivism in DC’s universe.
“I’m taking on a darker, more literary aesthetic for Green Arrow,” Percy says of the reboot. “Think True Detective with superheroes.”
Percy is also the author of the critically acclaimed novels The Wilding and Red Moon, both of which he is currently developing for the screen, as well as two books of short fiction. He serves as a contributing editor for Esquire, and his work has been published by GQ, Time, Men’s Journal, Outside, The Wall Street Journal, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and Tin House. His third novel, The Dead Lands, will be available in April.
“I plan to continue to write across boundaries,” Percy says. “Novels, feature screenplays, TV and comic scripts, magazine writing … I’m a storyteller, no matter the medium.”
The NBA has recently come under a great deal of scrutiny after many of the league’s teams were accused of tanking games, allowing for the opportunity to pick up highly valued draft picks for next year’s season. Throwing games has been prevalent in other professional sports leagues that use drafts, raising the question as to whether or not tanking games in order to ensure a better future can be considered ethical.
There is no clear line, yet one thing is certain: sports were originally meant to create competition among individuals and teams. Fans have come to expect to get their money’s worth when attending a sporting event, but by tanking games, teams not only tarnish their own image but take away the experience that fans seek when attending sporting events.
Through the lens of the historical context of sports, it is easy to see just how much sports have evolved. Back in Ancient Rome, gladiators did not have the luxury of throwing games, most likely because they risked being impaled by their adversaries, taking away the hope that they might get drafted to an easier venue for the upcoming year.
Athletes these days seem to have developed an attitude that competition is a means of gaining fame and money, rather than for the sake of the game. The Olympics are a perfect example of competition that values sports at face value, considering that many of the athletes do not make large amounts of money and sacrifice enormous amounts of time and effort for the sake of their country’s image.
To be honest, Division III athletics seems like a level of competition that also values the sport, considering its lack of athletic scholarships that many Division I athletes abuse. Athletes in professional leagues look past the jersey and the team to the ultimate goal of money and status.
Considering the loss of face value when it comes to certain levels of athletic competitions, it is also important to understand the situations that many teams are in, specifically teams at the bottom of leagues that have been accused of tanking games. Many of these teams lack the funds to sign better players, and considering that many players now play for money, the chance of them signing onto a team that would offer a lower salary is highly unlikely. It would seem then that tanking games and hoping for draft picks is the only way for these lower level teams to gain momentum and actually find themselves winning games.
One only has to look toward the English Premier League to see just how much money affects sports. Fans can count on Chelsea and Arsenal to sit comfortably at the top of the league table simply because they have so much money that the players they can afford are out skill teams at the bottom of the table. Teams at the bottom of the table have one chance to rise in the league, and that usually involves a lot of luck.
Is it ethical, then, to tank games in the hope that better draft picks await? The short answer is no, yet teams are almost forced into the situation, raising the question as to whether the teams themselves are responsible for this unethical behavior or the league itself.
Either way, leagues such as the NBA will soon need to make radical changes to ensure that fans can expect nothing more than a good game of basketball in the future.
Graphic Credit: ETHAN BOOTE/MANITOU MESSENGER
Imagine a dance performance where the audience had control over the lights, or where audience members could decide what the dancers would do next, or even control their movements directly. It sounds like it could be very bizarre and chaotic, and, in some ways, that’s what “Theatre Engine” is. The innovative show premiered on Saturday, March 7 at Dittmann Center, combining cutting edge tools of technology with the age-old urge to move our bodies.
The project began two years ago when Todd Edwards, the designer and technical director for the St. Olaf Theater Department ran into faculty from Michigan State University at a conference, who at the time were beginning to work on the idea of an interactive, multimedia performance. The result was a collaborative effort that involved Michigan State, St. Olaf and Brigham Young University to develop and research this type of performance.
The performance was framed by 30 chairs set up in a square formation around the dance area in Dittmann’s Studio One. Audience members in those chairs were given Android tablets, each connecting to the unique ID of that audience member’s chair. The rest of the audience could watch, but not interact.
Director of the program Alison Dobbins, from Michigan State University, introduced the performance and emphasized that it is a highly experimental research project. She urged audience members to actively participate, but left out the details, opting to let the audience explore as the show progressed.
There were five sections to the show, each with its own unique type of interaction between dancers and viewers. As the dancers made their entrance, the first mode, “Adjectives,” was activated. Every few seconds, the spotlight would shine on one of the audience members, and the tablet in that person’s hands would show a list of words from which to choose. The word that was chosen, which was anything from “hero” to “quicksand” to “anger” to many others, would be announced on stage by a computer. The actors would then immediately switch to portraying those emotions, suddenly going from enacting a scenario where they are drowning in quicksand to being furious with each other, shoving things and stomping around.
After a few minutes, the lights dimmed and the second section, “Call & Response,” began. The spotlight would shine on five audience members at a time, one for each dancer. These five people now had control over the dancers by moving their tablets. Either tilting left to right or shaking or turning, they could alter the dancer’s movements. The motion of the tablet would signal auditory cues to the dancers that they could interpret in various ways. Audience members were able to make the dancers do anything from a slow relaxed dance to an erratic motion. One member even got his dancer to jump up and down gracefully.
The third section, “Drum Circle,” was an attempt at getting all audience members interacting, with or without a tablet. The dancers prompted everyone to start drumming on their chairs and thighs. Some of the chairs were set up so that drumming on them would amplify the sound and signal cues to the dancers, effectively getting the audience to control the rhythm of the dance with their drumming.
“Light Switch” was perhaps the most interesting section. The lights all dimmed, and virtual light switches appeared on the tablets. Flipping them would toggle spotlights on dancers. The catch was that the dancers were only allowed to move when their lights were off, becoming frozen as soon as the light was activated. The concluding section, “Poses,” invited all of the audience members with tablets onto the floor. Directions would appear on the screens, such as “mirror your partner,” “get groovy” or “cha-cha.” The result was more than 30 people dancing, suddenly and collectively switching styles every few seconds.
“Theatre Engine” is definitely a unique experience, and what excites Anthony Roberts, the Artist-in-Residence in Dance who was tasked with preparing the students to perform, is the idea that the performance itself evolves over time. The fact that it’s all very experimental means the performers get to tweak and improve it based on feedback. On a more subtle level, the performance itself will always be slightly different because new audiences will interact in varying ways.
Roberts sees a lot a potential for this idea. He is very excited about the notion of taking something that usually absorbs so much of our attention and isolates us, and enabling it to open up new forms of communication and interaction. In many ways, the “Theatre Engine” project gives us insight into the novel ways in which technology can nurture, rather than hinder, social connection.
Photo Courtesy of Dean Neuburger
At this year’s spring Mellby Lecture, Professor of English and Chair of the English Department Mary Titus will discuss her studies of material culture, the field of material culture itself, and the importance of interdisciplinary thinking.
Her March 24 lecture, titled Thinking Through Things, will be streamed and archived online.
Material culture studies is an interdisciplinary field that looks at the relationships between people and their objects using archaeology, anthropology, history, social sciences, and many more disciplines. Titus will discuss the importance of this field.
Titus was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities scholarship to participate in an institute at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City titled American Material Culture: Nineteenth-Century New York. Participants in the month-long program researched and discussed material culture, focusing on New York due to its role as a “national center for fashioning cultural commodities and promoting consumer tastes.”
The institute prompted Titus to share her interest with St. Olaf through teaching an American literature course on money and social class, a seminar on material culture, and a course that brought New York City to students on campus during Interim through a digital project map of the city.
Titus frequently teaches in and has occasionally directed programs in American studies, race and ethnic studies, women’s and gender studies, the Center for Integrative Studies, and the American Conversations Program.
“I believe that the future of higher education lies in interdisciplinary education and am very interested in efforts to revise academic structures so that they may more effectively support complex, multi-dimensional approaches to subject matter,” says Titus.
Titus earned her bachelor of arts degree from Skidmore College in 1978 and her Ph.D. in English from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1986. She joined the English faculty at St. Olaf in 1989. Titus recently returned from co-leading the 2014-15 Global Semester program.
The Mellby Lectures
The annual Mellby Lectures are named in remembrance of St. Olaf faculty member Carl A. Mellby and were established in 1983 to give professors the opportunity to share their research with the public. Mellby, known as “the father of social sciences” at St. Olaf, started the first courses in economics, sociology, political science, and art history at the college. He was professor and administrator from 1901 to 1949, taught Greek, German, French, religion, and philosophy, and is credited with creating the college’s honor system.
Following a spectacular all-around season, Carleton College forward Kevin Grow was named D3hoops.com West Region Rookie of the Year. Grow becomes the eighth Carleton men’s basketball player to earn D3hoops.com all-region recognition, and is the first ever Knight to earn Rookie of the Year honors.
The St. Olaf men’s and women’s track and field teams headed to Moorhead, Minn. on March 6-7 to compete in the MIAC Indoor Championships. Both teams performed strongly, with the Ole men finishing in second place and the women in fifth. Both teams qualified several athletes for the NCAA Division III Indoor Championships in Winston-Salem, N.C. on March 13-14.
The St. Olaf men’s team had several champions at the event on day one. Aaron Dunphy ’15 was victorious in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.48. Jake Campbell ’16 defended his 5,000-meter race title with a winning time of 14:40.93 – a new facility record.
Just under a second behind Campbell was runner-up Phil Meyer ’15, with a time of 14:41.85. Finally, Paul Escher ’16 won the mile event in a time of 4:18.05, with teammate Joe Coffey ’17 second in a time of 4:19.45.
The second and final day was also successful for the Ole men, though they were unable to close a four point deficit to the University of St. Thomas to win the event. Grant Wintheiser ’15 won the 3,000-meter event in a new meet record time of 8:25.51. Meyer found himself in second place again with a time of 8:27.68. Kevin Skrip ’16 won the 600-meter race with a time of 1:22.10.
Unfortunately for St. Olaf, the Tommies proved to be too strong once again, winning their 31st consecutive title by a margin of 20 points over the Oles. It was a repeat of last season’s result, when St. Olaf finished behind the Tommies.
Wintheiser, Escher and Campbell will represent the Oles at nationals. The rest of the team will begin preparing for the outdoor season, which will be kicked off on April 11 at the first meet of the season at Hamline University.
The St. Olaf women’s team also had several champions at the MIAC Championships. Dani Larson ’15 won three of five events to win the pentathlon, winning the 60-meter hurdles (9.43), the high jump (5-5.75) and the 800-meter race (2:23.93) to win her second MIAC pentathlon.
Larson won another individual MIAC title in the high jump, clearing 1.66 meters to win the event. She was also a part of the Ole 4×200 meter relay team that took victory in a time of 1:46.88. Larson, Abby Stets ’18, Madison VanWylen ’16 and Lillie Meakim ’18 beat the University of St. Thomas relay team by .7 seconds.
The Oles finished the championships in fifth place, with Larson qualifying for nationls in both the pentathlon and the high jump. The team will resume competition outdoors on April 11 at the Hamline Invite.
Photo Courtesy of St. Olaf College Athletics
Beginning in February, the Obama administration once again began to traverse the seemingly endless Second Amendment debate with new regulations for a specific kind of bullet. Proponents of this bullet argue it will enhance public safety, but the discussion has sparked irate responses from members of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Recently, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) proposed new legislation to place a ban on the armor-piercing 5.56-millimeter “M855 green tip” rifle bullet, a bullet commonly used by hunters and target shooters. The ban was proposed in response to the proliferation of a new handgun that uses the bullets and would therefore pose a threat to the police, as it would be portable and easy to conceal. According to the ATF, the “manufacturers will be unable to produce such armor-piercing ammunition, importers will be unable to import such ammunition, and manufacturers and importers will be prohibited from selling or distributing the ammunition.”
Reactions from gun activists have been immense, including tens of thousands of letters being sent to Congress. Following the proposal, gun shops experienced a sharp increase in sales of the bullet, as gun rights organizations urgently warned their members of the possible ban. Chris W. Cox, the executive director at the NRA, even stated that the proposal “is Obama’s latest action in a lifetime devoted to the dismantling of the Second Amendment.”
Regardless of the overt obtuseness of Cox’s statement, there is no question that gun rights and bans on certain guns or ammunition have been a persistently and hotly contested policy debate, pitting those on opposite ends of the political spectrum against each other for decades. Such vehement arguments can be traced to varied and misguided understandings of the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right of the people to bear arms. However, the ATF’s proposal is no new idea in this realm, with many attempts in the last few years to change public policy at both the federal and state levels to prevent gun crime in the United States. Gun activists fight a losing battle in a world where gun control and harsher restrictions on the sale and purchase of firearms and bullets are becoming more regulated, and the regulation in question is certainly out of necessity.
The results of stricter gun laws in other countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and Japan serve as evidence for the overwhelmingly positive impact of more prominent regulation such as the new proposal suggested by the Obama administration. For example, the Japanese have placed thorough restrictions on firearms to the point where almost no one in the country owns a gun. Given these rules, according to GunPolicy.org, there were only 11 Japanese firearm homicides in 2008, compared with the over 12,000 that occurred in the United States that year.
Such statistics cannot be refuted. Although Cox makes a purposefully inflammatory statement about President Obama’s entire life being dedicated to the “dismantling of the Second Amendment,” perhaps we must consider and integrate this very idea. Why should we continue the attempt to make relevant legislation written over two centuries ago? The gun technology of today such as the M855 green tip rifle bullet could not possibly have been foreseen by the writers of the outdated Constitution – can the intentionally unclear wording of the Second Amendment defend such a device?
In favor of human rights over gun rights, the proposal made by the ATF could be the beginning of a gateway to a safer United States in which gun violence is merely history.
Katie Jeddeloh ’18 (email@example.com) is from Denver, Colo. She majors in English and political science.
Graphic Credit: ERIN KNADLER/MANITOU MESSENGER
Skills for the Real World
The singing birds, the scent of damp earth in the air, the drops of sunlight reflected in puddles! Gleeful Oles bringing their caf trays and hookahs into the fresh air! Rolling down the car windows and blaring the radio!
It all points to one thing – no, not spring – I mean the fact that I am going to be unemployed and potentially homeless in, like, two months.
It’s time for me to make a thorough inventory of the marketable skills I’ve acquired in this hallowed institution of learning. When I agreed to take out student loans (that I would have to barter my firstborn in order to repay), I assumed that along the way I would acquire some skills that would bring all the employers to the yard.
The first one that comes to mind is definitely my ability to sleep in any location, at any time of day. The thinly-carpeted floor of the library? Yes. A couch in the middle of Tomson traffic, under the scrutinizing glare of every administrative figure? Especially yes. This should signify to prospective employers that I am adaptable. I don’t rely on an established routine; I take initiative and step outside my comfort zone.
Another quality that I think will land me a solid, no-food-stamps-necessary salary is my ability not to care what I look like while dancing. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a picture of yourself dancing at the Pause or a similarly, erm, laissez-faire off-campus venue, but I can assure you, you look like a hot mess. I am no exception – in fact, I have had the misfortune of confronting the photographic evidence – and I have learned to embrace it.
This fearlessness is actually quite the sought-after “transferable skill.” My (possibly delusional) lack of self-consciousness will enable me to project confidence and charisma during my super legit professional presentations on business-type charts and stuff.
I would also note the resourcefulness I demonstrate in seeking out myriad forms of melted cheese on weekend evenings. A basic human settles for slice or two of Pause pizza, but as an outside-the-box critical thinker, I combine my pizza with delicassies from Taco Bell and even the (grossly underrated) mecca of processed fare that is Kwik Trip. I don’t settle until I’ve achieved the exact ratio of carbs to saturated fat that will knock me into a stupor. If that isn’t being a go-getter, I don’t know what is.
To highlight my superior problem-solving capacity, I would point to my successful handling of mold problems in every dorm room I’ve lived in. Never mind whose negligence created the mold in the first place; that’s neither here nor there. What matters is that I have always eliminated it, like a boss.
What allows me to sleep peacefully at night knowing that I am a viable candidate for paid, non-imaginary employment is my superior ability to enter a room ten minutes late and convince everyone it’s not a big deal by acting like it’s not a big deal.
I’ve exercised this mind control on just about every professor I’ve had, and let me tell you, I have perfected it. No supervisor will ever be able to perceive my flaws – namely, regular tardiness – if I refuse to acknowledge them!
Writing this has been a tremendous relief. I trust that I will nail the segue from graduation to the 9-to-5 world. Some pessimists would have you believe that a Bachelor of Arts degree isn’t worth what it used to be, but I know that these four years have granted me a full arsenal of marketable skills. I expect that a year from now, you’ll be reading my success story on the St. Olaf Web site. Um ya ya!
This is a preview of just a few of the contested races in the Student Government Association (SGA) spring elections. For information on all races, candidates and platforms, visit Oleville.com. Primaries will be held on Tuesday, March 17, with general elections on Thursday, March 19.
Emma Kieski ’16
Major – Political science and Latin American studies with a management concentration
Bio – PAC Marketing and Communications Officer, member of College Democrats Executive team, Captain of Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team.
Platform – Politics does not have to be boring, it can be interesting and fun! PAC should not be just one more lecture to sit through. In addition to our weekly dinners and big speakers, I will emphasize interactive events including, but not limited to, lively discussions, social media-themed events and political comedy.
I want to establish an atmosphere of informed debate between individuals with different political perspectives. I do not expect everyone to agree, but I want to create an environment for political discourse without prejudice.
I’ll move away from bipartisan gridlock and widen the scope of our events by bringing in speakers that force us to question our current beliefs.
St. Olaf has many organizations dedicated to awareness and social impact. I want PAC to be seen as a partner, using our resources to bring in speakers that interest you!
Kelsey Henquinet ’16
Major – Political science and history with a Middle Eastern studies concentration
Bio – PAC Weekly Events Coordinator, Volunteer Network Assistant Coordinator, Co-President of Mental and Spiritual Health Awareness House.
Platform – Students are often being told who to listen to and what kinds of conversations to have. It’s time to take back the conversation and work together to raise awareness beyond the Hill. It’s time to burst the St. Olaf bubble, and this is how I intend to do it:
I want to increase awareness about issues beyond the hill and encourage discussion, no matter the topic. Too often we have presented only one side of the argument, and I want to change that. I believe the only way to strengthen your opinions is to thoughtfully listen to the other side, and in order to do so, I am committed to bringing in speakers who will widen the scope of conversation.
International issues are undeniably important to students, but we rarely hear about the work of the international community and its implications on the world. I am dedicated to raising awareness about international politics, and I believe it should be a priority of the committee.
Rebecca Kunau ’17
Major - Economics and political science
Bio - SAC Social Media Director, Chair of the President’s Ball Committee, member of St. Olaf Model UN team
Platform – I’ve been on SAC for almost two years now, and during that time I’ve plotted out a roadmap for where we need to grow: socially, as SuperFans and in our selfless acts.
Our committee is the largest on SGA, and our events reach a large swath of the student body. But we need to go farther. Our Facebook page is our main point of contact for many of our events, but has only around 1800 people following it, many of whom are not current students. Through careful programming and advertising, I hope to grow SAC social media in order to reach those students who do not normally attend or hear about SAC events. At the National Association of College Activities this spring, Christian Dwyer and I booked an act for next fall that I think you’ll love. I’ve watched the SuperFan subcommittee grow, and I think I understand how to open it up to more Oles. And with my work on the Tackle Cancer initiative, I watched Oles and the Northfield community give back. I can’t wait to do it again next year, and I hope you’ll join me.
Eden Faure ’16
Major- Political science and Asian studies
Platform – SAC is a meaningful way for students to build a stronger, more cohesive St. Olaf identity through events that appeal to Oles from all corners of campus. Through the utilization of different advertising and media outlets, we can spread the word about events in a way that reaches a larger portion of St. Olaf students. I want to emphasize getting more students involved in decision making processes, including getting genuine feedback about potential events.
More specifically, I would love to see a greater promotion of weekend events in coordination with student organizations. There are so many unique student groups and it would be awesome if Oles could spend a day exploring and learning about different activities! Expanding recreational opportunities more heavily into the Cities is also something I would like to explore. Opportunities for students to familiarize themselves with St. Paul and Minneapolis and chances to get off campus are relatively slim, and I hope to work toward creating a more efficient and accessible system that will change this.
I have many ideas to extend the scope of SAC to cater to a more diverse body of students, and would love the have the opportunity to implement them.
Mara Stutzman ’17
Major – Economics with concentrations in statistics and Chinese studies
Bio – Co-Chair of Senior Days 2015, member of Off-Campus Subcommittee, former Hillboe-Kittelsby Senator
Platform – Let’s make SuperFan a primary focus next year! Specifically, I want to increase the number of sports we support and the size of the events we put on. I plan to contact all teams and ask what games/meets are most important to them that season. Let’s get a huge number of Oles to show up and cheer you on for your big games!
Next year I would like SAC to collaborate more with student organizations and honor houses to create programming that appeals to different audiences. This will allow you to have more say in what events SAC brings next year. My office will always be open to you. Come talk to me about your ideas and lets see if we can make something great!
In order to be mindful of our consumption, I will appoint a Sustainability Officer to be part of the SAC executive team. This person will be in charge of monitoring what types of materials we are purchasing, what can be reused and the environmental impact of our events during the planning and executing stages.
Juliette Emmanuel ’18
Major - Political science and French with a concentration in race and ethnic studies.
Platform - I am running for the SAC Coordinator position to make activities one of the principal assets of our campus and make sure that students, including myself, get the best out of their experience while here on campus. Conscious of all the opportunities that our campus has to offer, such as the creative and diverse student body that it possesses, it is our goal as students to make the best use of them in order to create the campus that we wish for. My plan is thus to reinforce all the activities that our students enjoy the most and reshape them in a more fun and enjoyable way and through feedback, make possible what has not yet been done.
Talia Mackay ’16
Bio - Member of Curriculum Committee’s Policy and Planning Subcommittee
Platform - I plan to be your voice. You know your classes better than anyone else. Therefore I want my recommendations about new courses and programs to reflect your opinions to the administration and professors. Specifically, I will make the Curriculum Committee’s work more inclusive by hosting forums where students can submit course proposals and revisions. I will also conduct major-specific surveys to gather feedback from the individuals most invested in a specific discipline. Finally, I will look into revising the multicultural General Education requirements so students graduate with an open mind about other cultures and ways of life.
Andrew Parr ’16
Major - Music
Bio - Member of St. Olaf Choir, KSTO Radio Program Host Liaison, Admissions Tour Guide
Platform - I have two main goals. The first is to re-evaluate the WRI requirement. I think that having a four class requirement is great – people need to learn how to write – but for some majors, it’s really difficult to fulfill this comfortably. I want to reevaluate what constitutes a WRI and perhaps alter the definition so that more classes can be eligible. I would also like to work to revise the Music curriculum. Right now, the Music department only allows predetermined music majors into its 100 level classes. The department will be submitted to the “Continuing Programs” subcommittee next year. As a music major, and someone who knows the department well, I feel I would be a valuable contributor to this project.
Nate Webster ’17
Major - Political science and economics
Bio - Intercampus Liaison, PAC Weekly Events Coordinator, Sustainability Subcommittee Member, member of Cross Country and Track Team
Platform - Having served on Senate as both a Hall Senator and as the Inter-Campus Liaison, I hope to bring practical experience and vision to the position of Curriculum Senator. If elected, I will be a determined advocate for the interests of students on the curriculum committee, which has significant impact on the college’s academic opportunities and courses. Having participated in various branches of Student Government, as well as residential learning programs and varsity athletics, I believe I bring a large variety of experiences and familiarity with a wide mix of the student body. This, in turn, will help me serve as a better advocate for the interests of all students, including those who normally are not as engaged in student government.
Dillon Cathro ’17
Platform - Provide the student body with information regarding the ins and outs of how the St. Olaf curriculum is organized. As a transfer student with an outsider’s perspective, I feel that there a serious lack of transparency regarding our general education system/why specific GE’s are chosen, and my goal will be to relay this information to the student populous.
Represent the student body in the Curriculum Committee. Before every meeting, I will send out a forum (most likely in the form of a Google Doc or on Facebook) in which students will be able to voice their ideas/concerns regarding anything academically related. I will then discuss these ideas with the Committee, and relay their responses to the study body within the week.