POLITICO highlights St. Olaf’s Outcomes initiative

St. Olaf College - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 4:30pm

“When St. Olaf College started formulating an idea to assuage concerns about the value of a liberal arts education, President Barack Obama hadn’t yet talked about a federal college ratings system, and his College Scorecard wasn’t around.

“It was 2008 or so, the height of the economic recession, and St. Olaf administrators were more concerned about prospective students, pundits and parents than policymakers or the president. But what they came up with — an ‘Outcomes initiative‘ — put the Minnesota liberal arts college ahead of the game,” begins a POLITICO story that looks at what colleges are doing to provide data on student success. [Subscribers can read the full story here.]

“Today, state and federal regulators are pushing or have signed on to at-times controversial policies basing college funding on student outcomes such as loan default rates, job placement rates and salaries,” continues reporter Allie Grasgreen. “And more institutions are, like St. Olaf, publishing data online to make the case that they prepare their graduates for good jobs.”

The college’s Outcomes initiative aims to clearly outline the return on investing in a St. Olaf education by measuring student success and making that information readily available online.

Other schools, ranging from American University to the University of Texas System, have recently launched similar initiatives, notes the POLITICO story.

U.S. Department of Education Undersecretary Ted Mitchell tells POLITICO it’s “perfectly fitting” that colleges would push out their own data ahead of any government accountability plan, and he applauds the effort.

“More transparency about learning outcomes is good for everyone,” Mitchell notes.

Terry Hartle, senior vice president of government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, tells POLITICO that for individual institutions to be identifying and documenting their aspirational outcomes — a trend he expects will only escalate — is “a very welcome development.”

The POLITICO piece ends by noting that “Anderson is well aware of the growing pressure — from the federal ratings system to performance-based funding in states from Hawaii to Maine — on colleges to show they’re worth the investment. But it doesn’t bother him. He’s only concerned about St. Olaf.”

“I’m still skeptical that we have any ability to influence what the federal ratings people are going to devise,” Anderson tells the publication. “I just don’t think they’re going to take into account what a liberal arts college with 3,000 students is going to do.”

Categories: Colleges

Knights Pick Up Academic Award as Team GPA is 11th in Division III

Carleton Sports - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:50pm

The Carleton College men’s soccer team earned the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s (NSCAA) Team Academic Award after posting a team cumulative GPA of 3.40 for the 2013-14 academic year. This is the 15th consecutive year that the Knights have picked up this award.

Categories: Colleges

Knights Boast Fifth-Best GPA in Division III, Earn Team Academic Award

Carleton Sports - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:45pm

For the 14th consecutive year, the Carleton College women’s soccer team earned the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s (NSCAA) Team Academic Award after posting a team cumulative GPA of 3.58 for the 2013-14 academic year. The Knights have earned this honor every year since 2001.

Categories: Colleges

Carleton Athletic Department No. 9 in NCSA Power Rankings

Carleton Sports - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:48am

Carleton College is listed at No. 9 in Division III and No. 16 across all divisions in the annual Athletic Recruiting Collegiate Power Rankings released by the National Collegiate Scouting Association (NCSA).

Categories: Colleges

Everything you need to know about Yik Yak

Manitou Messenger - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 10:00am

Between checking email, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter, students at St. Olaf and around the country have added another social media app to their web of connectivity. Most frequently described simply as an “anonymous Twitter,” Yik Yak displays unsigned posts from other users in a close geographical area.

According to its own Web site,, the app allows users to “get a live feed of what people are saying around you.” The Apple Store’s description reads, “Yik Yak acts like a local bulletin board for your area by showing the most recent posts from other users around you. It allows anyone to connect and share information with others without having to know them.” You must be at least 17 years old to download this app (or be able to tap your screen saying that you are of age).

Unlike other familiar social media apps, Yik Yak brings an appealing new twist to the constant communication and affirmation millennials so eagerly seek because all the posts are anonymous. The creators, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, describe Yik Yak as a forum for people living in close vicinity to share thoughts, observations or funny quotes. Since there are no followers, friends or even usernames, votes on posts are based solely on content and not judgment of a specific person.

However, this anonymity can also bring out the worst in people, causing cyber-bullying problems in middle and high schools. As this app quickly gained popularity since it was launched in November of 2013, employees have worked diligently to combat negative repercussions of its use. Teaming with the Vermont-based company Maponics, the Yik Yak app team was able to locate school zones and set up geofences to block Yik Yak from middle and high schools, but the system is not perfect yet. There are many news reports of threats, cyber-bullying and other worrisome content posted from middle and high schools all around the country.

The creators acknowledged that just as all social media struggles with its unintended uses, Yik Yak will continue to face and try to combat harmful use. Intending their app to be used for college-age students to connect, Droll and Buffington hadn’t anticipated high school students using and abusing the app, but Droll said that “any technology can be misused.” On the St. Olaf campus, students complain about “the negative things people say,” “unoriginal content” and “people complaining about stuff they don’t even know about” on the app.

In addition to the widespread iPhone and Android app, Yik Yak also has a Web site, Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter profiles that share quotes from popular “Yaks” or pictures of the mascot interacting with students at various college campuses throughout the country.

Some favorite topics of the St. Olaf Yik Yak feed include food (especially Chipotle), the trials of registration, funny moments with strangers/profs/parents/prospies/friends, Netflix, relationships and stories of Friday night adventures.

The entertaining posts, the game of trying to get votes and the appeal of judging content that has no link to a username create the interesting social media experience of Yik Yak. If you haven’t given it a try yet, perhaps it is time for you to “join the herd!”

How to Yak:

1) Write a post (known as a “Yak”) up to 200 characters long about something you think is worth sharing.

2) Vote on posts. Other users (aka “Yakkers”) vote on Yaks they see in their news feeds by clicking an arrow to either “upvote” or “downvote” the post. If a Yak gets a score of -5 (that is, five downvotes), it is deleted from the feed.

From the home screen of Yik Yak, users can choose to sort through posts based on time stamp (under the “New” tab) or popularity (under the “Hot” tab). Yaks with the highest votes appear at the top of the “Hot” tab until they have been posted for 15 hours, at which point they disappear.

3) In addition to writing Yaks and reading those from users in your vicinity, the “Peek” feature of the app allows users to read what students are talking about at colleges all around the country.

Categories: Colleges

Are student athletes missing out?

Manitou Messenger - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 10:00am

In recent times, there has been an uproar in relation to charges filed by a student athlete at the University of North Carolina. The student claims that the institution pushed him into classes that required very little effort and ultimately provided him with a “bunk” education. Staff employed at the school have corroborated the claims that this phenomenon of simplifying college for athletes is an ongoing and fairly pervasive reality.

Arguments regarding this situation are generally centered on two claims: that athletes are favored in the admissions process – as previous academic standing is less heavily weighed than it is for other incoming students – and that, once admitted, athletes are pushed into taking easier classes.

It is not a secret that for many college athletes, academic success does not function as a primary driving force, especially for those that intend to become professional athletes. The image of a meathead jock, partying every night and sleeping through classes until practice starts is a trope so saturated into our popular culture that it no longer requires an explanation in film or television. You see the buff dude with the baseball cap and sleeveless shirt sitting on his frat’s front porch and you know who that character is.

Still, that conception is a sort of mass cultural joke – something that is stretched to the extreme for comedic effect. A college student is a college student, regardless of what brought him or her there, and all college students are entitled to the education they pay for.

Perhaps to broach the issue of educational deprivation for college athletes, it is important to look at the career course of an athlete in the United States. The fact is, if an individual intends to be a professional athlete, it is more or less required to play at the collegiate level before being drafted to a professional team. From this perspective, it is easier to see the justification for a system that requires less of athletes in class. It is possible that some students are only in college as a stepping off point for professional play, and that is the extent of their career plan.

In that case, it seems unfair that those individuals should be forced to receive, and possibly pay for, an education that is outside their fields of interest, and not in line with their future plans. This goal may be shortsighted in a sense, but it is still real. Here, assuming the school is offering a simplified education, the problem is that these easily-achievable degrees will either mean little or work to devalue degrees achieved by students on a more rigorous path.

For those who do not intend to pursue a professional athletic career – those who used their proficiency in a sport to help them get into college to achieve higher education or those who simply play for the experience – this cheapened education is a disservice. Maybe it will provide athletes with more time to exercise or practice, but ultimately it robs them of the education they are presumably at the school to pursue. These students are likely to leave colllege having acquired less knowledge than they should have, considering the time and money they spent on their education.

If a school propagates athletic achievement as its ultimate goal, academics will fall behind, especially for the athletes. This will ultimately cause problems for the school, but more importantly, problems for the students themselves.


Categories: Colleges

Collaborative course brings together St. Olaf and Carleton students

St. Olaf College - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 9:20am

Carleton College Associate Professor of Political Science Greg Marfleet answers a St. Olaf student’s questions during the collaborative course that he teaches.

At first glance, the class looks like any other taught at Carleton College. The room features desks, a blackboard, and a projector. The students tote backpacks and laptops, take notes, and sip their coffee while listening to a professor in glasses and a blazer lecturing at the front of the room.

But there is one thing about them that makes this course unique: half of the students are from St. Olaf College.

The course — Political Psychology of Presidential Foreign Policy Decision Making — is the first to be offered through Carleton and St. Olaf’s Broadening the Bridge: Leading Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges into a More Collaborative Future.

The program, which received a $1.4 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aims to advance collaboration between the two colleges in library services, information technology, management operations, and academic programs in order to strengthen liberal arts learning and teaching in ways that each college could not accomplish individually.

Making connections between departments
The colleges are using the Mellon grant to support faculty-led exploration and pilot activities with potential for substantive academic collaborations, both in formal classroom curricula and experiential learning. The Political Psychology course is the first collaborative class to come out of this program.

St. Olaf students (clockwise, from top left) Evan Davis ’15, HaYe Jun ’16, and Megan Jekot ’16 work with Carleton students during class.

“It began as a conversation about collaboration between our department chair, Al Montero, and St. Olaf’s department chair, Tony Lott,” says Carleton Associate Professor of Political Science Greg Marfleet, who teaches the course.

“There had been some excitement about the collaboration grant, and the two began to think about how we might expand the curriculum on each side of the river by offering some additional courses.”

Excited by the opportunity to build a connection between the two departments, Marfleet volunteered to design and teach the course.

“We discussed the kinds of courses St. Olaf students might like to take given the range of offerings already, and I noticed that political psychology and foreign policy were both areas that might attract Ole enrollment,” he says. “We thought it could help Oles seeking some variety, and it might also be helpful to have additional Ole enrollment for some of the more specialized offerings that occasionally don’t fill up with Carls.”

Providing new academic opportunities
With those goals in mind, Marfleet developed a course that explores the literature on personality, cognition, and decision-making and relates these insights to U.S. presidents.

Through psycho-biographical profiles of the presidents and word-by-word analyses of presidential speeches, Marfleet wanted to show students how a president’s personality affects his (because, Marfleet points out, so far it has always been “his”) foreign policy decision-making.

St. Olaf students Amy Mihelich ’16 (left) and Emma Youngquist ’15 work together during their political science class at Carleton.

“Part of the draw, at least for me, for taking this class was Greg’s expertise in political psychology, especially in view of foreign policy,” says Bayley Flint ’15, one of the 12 St. Olaf students taking the course. “That is really unique, and is something that we don’t have in the St. Olaf Political Science Department.”

Though making the course work for both Oles and Carls took some ingenuity — for instance, the course was taught on Carleton’s trimester schedule, while St. Olaf operates on a 4-1-4 academic calendar — Marfleet says getting students from both campuses working together was worth any added headache.

“It has been nice to see the students make friendships over the term, and I really wanted to have the students work on collaborative projects involving students from both campuses in teams,” he says. “That caused some issues of coordination, but it was well worth the effort. And since Carleton and St. Olaf have different mid-term breaks, rather than take both off I met with half the class each time and we watched a movie and ate pizza.”

Carleton student Nicole Nipper ’17 says having St. Olaf students in the course enhanced the diversity of perspectives during discussion.

“I really enjoyed being able to work collaboratively with a group of students who were really interested in political science concepts and issues,” she says. “Most of the individuals in the class were political science majors and most of us had different areas of interest, which really enriched the discussion and collective intelligence in the room; it was really engaging.”

Categories: Colleges

Neglect of chapel time points to NCHA statistics

Manitou Messenger - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 10:01am

I came to St. Olaf with a preconceived notion of what daily chapel service would be like. My parents, both Ole alumni, always mentioned chapel time while reminiscing about their college years. The entire campus stopped during those precious 45 minutes and everyone convened in one place, my mother would tell me. In that day, perhaps more students identified as Lutheran, but by no means did they all practice their religion to the same degree. Chapel time was a short spiritual pause in the day for fellowship, music and prayer.

Chapel attendance has decreased among Oles since my parents’ time, and I cannot help but wonder at the correlation between decreased interest in chapel and trends described in the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) from 2014: Oles are stressed out. Students, faculty and administration alike are well aware of this fact.

When I came to St. Olaf after graduating from high school in 2011, The Board of Regents Student Committee (BORSC) Report of 2010 had just been released. Its findings?

- Over 92 percent of Oles report feeling overwhelmed in the past 12 months, compared with the national average of 86.4 percent.

- The number of Oles reporting exhaustion also beats national averages, at 87 percent compared to the 81 percent average.

- More St. Olaf students sought treatment for depression (12.8 percent) than the national average (10.1 percent). And this only measures those who sought help – it may not include the many others who suffered from depression and failed to report it.

- Over 68 percent of Oles reported feeling lonely, surpassing the national average of 57 percent.

Current research from the NCHA of 2014 suggests these numbers have increased in the four years I have attended St. Olaf. I can almost feel these changes occurring – those numbers ticking up every time I sit down and talk my friend (or myself) through a breakdown, when I see others rushing to their activities in a frenzy of over-commitment, when I collapse into my bed and realize I haven’t stopped moving since six that morning. Most of us know this feeling.

My plan for part of an intervention? Chapel time.

Notice I didn’t say chapel service. I care about the intention behind the time spent in those 45 minutes, not your specific location during them. It’s always amazing to me that people still feel overbooked in every minute of their days, when there are 45 specific minutes mapped out where (gasp) there are no classes, (gasp) no meetings, and (gasp) no commitments.

And don’t you dare shake your head and tell me that that’s when you meet with your advisor or your organization, or catch up on homework for your 10:45 class. You might as well eat your words: that time is filled because you filled it yourself.

During chapel time, the college blocks out 45 minutes for students to attend chapel if they wish, or simply to take a mental break during the day. Many of the main offices are closed, including the Post Office, the Student Activities Office and the Registrar’s Office, to name a few. Yet Oles continue to fill chapel time to bursting when it should be approached with intention and reverence. Is nothing sacred anymore? Will we do nothing in reaction to the NCHA’s troubling assessment of St. Olaf’s state of affairs? I do not enjoy the fact that 92 percent of us that are stressed, exhausted, depressed and lonely. Consider this time with respect for your own mental well-being and that of this community.

I am also not asking you to add another thing to your plate – this part of the intervention does not entail “adding” chapel time to your daily activities. It involves integrating something that is already present, but hidden: the time to stop. To rest. To be.

To paraphrase the author Wayne Mueller in his book Sabbath: “We do not stop because we have accomplished everything on our to-do list. We stop because it’s time to stop.”

Emily Stets ’15 ( is from Northfield, Minn. She is a CIS major in Public Mental Health: Wellness and the Arts.

Categories: Colleges

Horoscopes: November 21, 2014

Manitou Messenger - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 10:00am


I am Loki. I am the turkey hangover that plagues you for three straight days after Thanksgiving. I know you inside and out, and will shed some light on your upcoming week.

Scorpio (Oct. 23 – Nov. 21)

Go without caffeine for a week. Ha. Even Loki can joke.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 21)

You will feel sad about the weather. To combat this, harness the power of the sun Doc Ock style. Just watch out for those friendly, neighborhood, radioactive spiders.

Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19)

You will feel sick this week. So do something sick. Maybe even do something sick nasty. Something so sick it makes other people sick. The only way to fight fire is with fire.

Aquarius (Jan. 20 – Feb. 18)

Remember hand turkeys?  You will turn these in for every assignment this week and you will be rewarded with a failing grade.

Pisces (Feb. 19 – March 20)

Get ready for Black Friday. Treat the Home line food like a prized electronic device on Black Friday and start a riot for it. You will not succeed in your preparation unless you scald two people with hot gravy.

Aries (March 21 – April 19)

Prepare yourself for cheek pinching at Thanksgiving. Lie face down in the snow for three hours.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

You’ll begin to worry about your family silently judging you for being single at Thanksgiving. So pull a That’s So Raven and dress as your own significant other. Then eat an entire apple pie and throw up on the dinner table so that your family will appreciate single you even more.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

Your professors will fail to understand the “break” part of Thanksgiving break. Write them an “excused from class” note and forge Loki’s signature. They won’t believe the note but they will question your stress level and will reduce your work load accordingly.  

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

You’ll procrastinate, but do not worry. To compensate, you’ll burn the midnight oil. Meaning, you’ll burn the oil in your unshowered hair in a fit of stress. Remember, though, no matter what happens, you’re strong, beautiful and hot. Like sexy hot and like on-fire hot.

Leo (July 23 – Aug. 22)

Resist the urge to purge. Release your hate and then constipate. Your blocked up bowels will save you time. Now that’s prime.

Virgo (Aug. 23 – Sept. 22)

You’ll start worrying about finals. Take a step back and realize that, in the big picture, your finals are relatively insignifcant. In fact, you’ll remember that we’re all just specks on this giant blue and green ball and once your fleck gets swept away, you have only the unkown to look forward to. Then, once you finish your quarter-life crisis, you’ll cuddle up and watch Netflix until Thanksgiving.

Libra (Sept. 23 – Oct. 22)

Be thankful. Remember what Thanksgiving is all about and tell those close to you that you are thankful for them.

Categories: Colleges

Ruth Steinke 4th, Knights 14th at NCAA Championships

Carleton Sports - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 3:12pm

Ruth Steinke capped her spectacular junior season with a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships. That result propelled the Carleton College women’s team to 14th out of the 32 teams competing at the national meet. This was Carleton’s ninth trip to the NCAA Championships since 2004.

Categories: Colleges

Knights Finish 18th at NCAA Championships

Carleton Sports - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 1:57pm

Led by Hart Hornor’s top-20 finish, the Carleton College men’s cross country team placed 18th out of 32 squads at the Division III Championships. This was the Knights’ second straight trip to nationals and 22nd overall time competing at the NCAA Championships.

Categories: Colleges

Music on Trial: Popular artists are all about that bass, and lyrical freedom

Manitou Messenger - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 10:00am

Miley, Britney, Kesha and Justin Bieber are widely controversial artists. They have each had their ups and downs, including run-ins with law enforcement, questionable personal choices and provocative projects. Many people recognize the influence of celebrities and heavily criticize those who put forth a negative image.

It seems quite logical that the more popular an artist, the more widespread his or her message will be and the more influence it will have on the general population. The phrase “it takes a village” holds truth in that everyone has some impact when it comes to shaping Generation Z. But should impact necessarily mean responsibility, particularly in a society that values so highly rights to speak and act freely?

In arguments against publicizing negative celebrity viewpoints, critics often cite the popularity of certain artists as reasons to be careful of the images and ideals they put forth, but what this criticism fails to recognize is the volatility of the music industry. Can you say you knew Meghan Trainor six months ago? “All About That Bass” is controversial in many ways, and yet it has been near the top of the Billboard Top 100 for 18 weeks, while Miley isn’t on it at all.

Let’s take a second to talk about why “All About That Bass” is arguably problematic, for those of you who are shaking your head saying, “it’s a beautiful song about body image; what’s your problem?” One of the lyrics mid-song says, “I’m bringing booty back/ Go ahead and tell them skinny b*tches that . . . No, I’m just playing.”

So, yes, she took the time to acknowledge that she shouldn’t be skinny shaming, but there are two problems. First, “no, I’m just playing” is so quiet it is practically background noise – an afterthought – thoroughly undermining the work it does to save Trainor from her own implied prejudice. Second, it is sort of like saying “no offense.” Has anyone ever done that to you? “No offense, but… you could stand to participate/exercise/work harder/do better/etc.”

Trainor did not expect the song to go anywhere and wrote the “skinny b*tches” lyric as a joke. So how do we account for negative messages that are spread by artists who had no idea how popular their songs would become? What responsibility do musical artists have to the community? It’s a tough question to address, but let me try.

Music is art. If we lump music in with other arts, rhetorical and visual, we should treat it as such. There are paintings and novels galore that tell gruesome stories, use vile language and depict sexual activity or violence. Other media explore elements of sexual and physical subjects through erotic poetry, nude figure drawing and even pornography. The complexity of, and emotional reactions to, this provocative subject matter lead artists to continually experiment with it in their work.

The music industry is primarily different from these other media because music gains popularity in a way that no other medium does. It is easily accessible via the Internet, the radio and almost any store’s PA system. Musicians are the face of their art like no other creator. We make excuses for actors, because, generally, they didn’t write the film. Authors tell stories which rarely have visuals, and books are not often forced upon people (we college kids are in a special, controlled environment).

Given the freedom of speech and art of expression, along with the fact that no other industry operates quite the same way music does, I think it is only fair to allot musicians the same artistic freedoms other artists receive. If you don’t like the music, you can choose not to listen. If something like “skinny b*tches” stirs the pot, as it has, we all have the opportunity to express our opinions on the matter in order to learn what to watch out for the next time a well-intentioned artist with a foolish lyric or two comes along.

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf Sentiments: Nov. 21, 2014

Manitou Messenger - Fri, 11/21/2014 - 1:57pm

In a few short days, Thanksgiving break will be upon us. Many Oles spend these five days traveling home, spending time with family, enjoying home-cooked meals and engaging in pleasant conversation with relatives. Reuniting with parents, siblings and extended family members around the dinner table is a highly-anticipated event for many students who have been away for several months.

At a glance, Thanksgiving appears to be a time for celebration. After all, this may be the year that you are finally allowed to sit at the “adult table” (ooh, ahh!). However, after the turkey has been carved, many Oles find Thanksgiving to be a time of discomfort, confrontation and annoyance. After only a few bites, one relative or another is sure to ask the most dreaded and irritating question of the holiday season: “So, how’s school? What are you majoring in again?”

These questions may not seem all that daunting, unless you are one of the many Oles majoring in the humanities. At this point in the conversation, humanities majors have two choices: gloss it over or tell the truth. If you are majoring in English, history, art or any of the other humanities disciplines, you have most likely contemplated this awkward encounter:

You can simply say, “It’s good; classes are good, my roommate is great and I love college,” regardless of your actual feelings on the matter. This response allows you to provide a polite response and appease the relatives while simultaneously shutting down the conversation. Unfortunately, this answer does not allow you to share anything about your passions or interests, the exploration of which dominates your life on the hill.

However, if you are feeling bold and courageous – as in, you would be up for bungee jumping or swimming in a tank of sharks – you can answer truthfully. This is a highly risky choice, because it gives you an opportunity to share your true passions with your family while simultaneously setting you up for a fleet of awkward and unanswerable questions.

Are you getting nervous already? Fear not! Here are three tips for humanities majors to survive Thanksgiving dinner conversation this year. This simple survival guide will provide you with all the tips necessary to enjoy an only slightly-awkward Thanksgiving meal.

1) Your major does not define your intellect or self-worth. The first thing you need to remind yourself is that everyone at this school is “smart.” We all went through the same admissions process and took the same standardized tests, and therefore, for the most part, when we enter this school as  first-years, Oles have similar academic qualifications. Just because students don’t decide to major in math or science doesn’t mean that they couldn’t major in these disciplines. It simply means that their interests lie elsewhere. You may even feel pressured to add a caveat, such as “I’m a history major, but I am pre-law” or “I am an English major, but I am pre-med.”  If you really are one of these unique vocational combinations, then that is excellent. If you aren’t, that is also excellent. Be proud of the major that you have selected and use Thanksgiving dinner as an opportunity to affirm your passion for your area of study.

2) It is okay if you don’t know what you want to do with your life right now. After you explain your academic situation, most relatives are likely to ask the dreaded follow-up question: “So, what are you going to do with that?” This can be a heart-stopping, blush-inducing quandary. While it might be a good idea for your own vocational discernment to frequently consider this question during your time on the Hill, you do not need to commit to any single career path this Thanksgiving. It is okay to provide a broad answer, explaining the types of careers you are interested in. It is even okay to admit that you aren’t sure yet. Under no circumstances should you feel like you need to make an excuse for your major. This is your education, and these are your choices.

3) Use this as an opportunity to find common ground. The people you are dining with this Thanksgiving are often people you only get to see a few times a year.  Take advantage of this conversation as an opportunity to strengthen your relationships with family members.  Remember that your interests are not a coffee table book for your relatives to flip through absentmindedly. Actively engage in the conversation by highlighting some things you care about. Maybe talking about your academic interests will make your family members think about an artist, author or cause that they care about as well. Who knows? Maybe this Thanksgiving you will rekindle a new relationship with that slightly eccentric aunt or uncle.

Let’s face it. Even if you follow these tips, your conversation is still going to be a little awkward. Okay, it will probably still be really awkward. But your conversation will be a reflection of your true interests, rather than a superficial description of a falsely-constructed identity.  So this Thanksgiving, proclaim your passions unapologetically, and find affirmation in your own intellect rather than the approval of your relatives. Also, eat lots of pie.

Categories: Colleges

‘Love of Three Oranges’ keeps things fresh

Manitou Messenger - Fri, 11/21/2014 - 1:16pm

Last weekend, the St. Olaf Theatre Department premiered its newest show, The Love of Three Oranges, written by Carlo Gozzi and directed by Assistant Professor of Theater Jeanne Willcoxon. The show was done in the style of Commedia dell’Arte, a classic form of comedic troupe acting that reached prominence in 16th-century Italy (think the street performers in movies such as Gladiator). In keeping with the Commedia dell’Arte traditions that inspired the production, Three Oranges is set up as a traveling show, each performance taking place at various St. Olaf locations and even a trip to the Carleton campus.

With auditions taking place at the beginning of the semester, the cast and crew had substantial time to build their show from the ground up.

“Early on in the rehearsal process we all read the script together as a group . . . and then we threw it away and never looked at it again,” cast member Matt Stai ’18 said.

The actors used the basic structure of Carlo Gozzi’s script more as a jumping off point to create an entirely unique show custom-fit to the specialties and talents of the cast.

These talents were on display even before performances began. For about 20 to 30 minutes before each show, a few members of the troupe would be out among the crowd to mingle with and entertain the waiting audience. These preshows included the acrobatics of Memo Rodriguez ’16, card-tricks performed by Francesco D’Aniello ’16 and the opportunity to take a selfie with actor Denzel Belin ’15. Also during this time, another cast member, Jenna McKellips ’16, offered every audience member a button that looks like an orange as a souvenir of the show.

“Come to three shows so you can get three orange buttons,” Belin said. “Then you can put on your own show called The Love of Three Buttons!

Once it was time for the show to begin, the rest of the cast – all in clown get-up – flooded the performance area, prancing around and howling with exaggerated laughter. The play was introduced with a prologue delivered in character by Christine Menge ’18. She outlined the story of a prince, played by Shannon Cron ’15, who falls in love with three pieces of fruit. Though a relatively short play, with a runtime of about one hour, Three Oranges was not at all short on laughs. The charming comedy won audiences over.

The show leaves absolutely no time for boredom with a constant stream of unrelenting jokes and gags to accompany the wonderfully hammy plot. But what really sells the comedy is the top-notch chemistry between the actors that makes all of the character interactions truly come to life. Whether it is the bickering of the king’s advisors (played by Nathan Aastuen ’17 and Stai), a magic battle between sorceress Fata Morgana (played by Joey LeBrun ’15) and the Great Wizard Celio (played by Noelle McCabe ’15) or a tap dancing competition between two country bumpkins (played by Shannon Brick ’16 and Amy Jeppesen ’15), seeing the actors have as much fun performing as the audience had watching was definitely a treat.

The comedy was very well played, with gags ranging from playing around with a mannequin arm, to throwing confetti as an ineffective magic spell, to an entire scene performed as a puppet show. A couple of the jokes fell a tad flat, mainly the references to modern day pop culture. One such reference was a rant about Kim Kardashian’s eyebrows. Another was the cringe-inducing line: “My anaconda knows you twerk.” These seemed very out of place in a show of primarily zany, timeless comedy.

However, whenever these lulls occurred they never lasted more than a couple of seconds as the actors pushed through with the show and kept the laughs coming. Through the use of clever puns, rib-tickling physical gags, wacky props and the occasional musical accompaniment, the cast of Three Oranges created one of the funniest works on the Hill this year.

The Love of Three Oranges performs in venues big and small through the course of its tour. The venues do indeed impact the performances. Bigger venues, such as the Caf, draw much more energy from the actors, as they are fueled by the booming thunder of laughter inevitably produced by a larger audience. Smaller venues, on the other hand, are not quite as zany, but find value in a stronger connection between the actors and audience, facilitating subtler gags, such as Prince Tartaglia drawing hearts on fogged-up windows upon seeing his loves. Audiences are encouraged to attend more than one performance to get the full experience.

The Love of Three Oranges continues this weekend with a 7:30 p.m. show on Friday, Nov. 21 in Tomson Hall Atrium, and two shows on Saturday, Nov. 22 at 2:00 p.m. in the Ytterboe lounge, and 7:30 p.m. in Stav Hall.

Pro tip: sit in the front row, it’s even more fun!


Categories: Colleges

Sexual assault gets needed attention: SGA Town Hall meeting raises community response

Manitou Messenger - Fri, 11/21/2014 - 12:00pm

No e-mails carry as much weight as those from Fred C. Behr. So far in the 2014-2015 school year, students have seen an unnerving rise in messages tagged “Crime Alert.” As of Nov. 7, there have already been five reports of sexual assault – as many as there were in the entire 2013-2014 academic year.

This increase in assault reporting on our campus – as well as increased attention to the issue on a national scale – has understandably sparked concern and confusion. St. Olaf Student Government Association (SGA) responded with the launch of “It’s On Us,” a campaign to foster community accountability for sexual assault on campus. The sense of urgency spiked, though, after a student reported an assault that took place at this year’s SGA-sponsored Halloween Pause dance. To generate feedback on how to move forward, SGA hosted a “Town Hall” meeting and open forum on Tuesday, Nov. 18.

In the spirit of discussion, chairs were arranged in a circle, with a central ring consisting of administrative figures and representatives from SGA and the Sexual Assault Resource Network (SARN). Vice President for Student Life Greg Kneser, Dean of Students Rosalyn Eaton-Neeb ’87 and Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Pamela McDowell were present to field questions regarding the institutional end of assault procedures.

Students filled the available seating and flowed over into standing room. Though the event was Wellness swiped, less than half of attendees lined up to swipe their cards.

SGA President Rachel Palermo ’15 kicked off the conversation by addressing the student body’s concerns about increased assault reporting. She emphasized that although frequent reports are upsetting, they can be “a step in the right direction.” More reporting does not necessarily indicate a surge in actual rates of assault; it is more likely that more students feel empowered to speak up.

Maren McGill ’15, Co-Chair of SARN, took the floor next to establish a common understanding of the terms “rape” and “consent.” She clarified the need to refer to “survivors” and “perpetrators” rather than “women” and “men,” since sexual assault does not always adhere to the stereotypical man-attacks-woman model. McGill then explained the difference between confidential (Boe House, pastor’s office, SARN) and non-confidential (residence life, faculty, Public Safety, EMTs) resources, which is that non-confidential resources act as mandated reporters. Eaton-Neeb rounded off the introduction by breaking down St. Olaf’s sexual assault statistics from the past several years, and elucidating the action that the College takes when an assault is reported.

“When a complaint is received by the college, a no-contact order is issued and an investigator is assigned,” she said. If there are witnesses, they are called upon. Throughout the proceedings, the complainant and respondent never meet in the same room.

A disturbing trend in reported cases at St. Olaf is the near-universal presence of alcohol. Eaton-Neeb noted that of the cases brought to her attention over the past five years, all but one of them involved alcohol and/or other substances.

The discussion was then opened up to questions from the group as a whole. SGA members passed around microphones to participants who raised their hands. The first question – posed by Olivia Slack ’15 – asked why college and police discipline are separate, with the latter often completely absent from the proceedings. Kneser explained that the decision to report assault to the police is at the discretion of the survivor.

“We encourage people to make the report to the Northfield police, but ultimately, it is [the survivor’s] choice,” he said. Jo Treat ’15, Co-Chair of SARN, reiterated that survivors often make the decision not to involve the police.

“For a survivor, it’s whatever they choose… we never push them to a certain option,” Treat said. She acknowledged that going to college authorities rather than the police tends to be “a lot less traumatic.”

Further questions focused on the degrees of punishment available to perpetrators. A general sense of dissatisfaction with disciplinary measures pervaded the conversation. In an emotional moment, a survivor rose and spoke about her dismay that her assailant still attends St. Olaf, and stated that he was in the room. Josiah Mosqueda ’15 also questioned the apparently limited range of discipline.

“Why is expulsion not on the table?” Mosqueda said. Though the Deans were eager to engage in the dialogue, it was difficult to do so while respecting the confidentiality of individual cases.

“We can’t release the outcome of cases. We can’t say exactly what happened,” Kneser said. “Expulsion is on the table… ‘suspension’ often means four years.”

“Suspension does not mean automatic return,” Eaton-Neeb said.

Two other survivors shared their experiences near the end of the conversation, receiving thunderous applause for their courage. One of them suggested having a SARN advocate present at Pause dances, rather than flat-out canceling them. The other – a survivor of male-on-male sexual assault – also suggested taking another path.

“If you cancel Pause dances, it won’t eradicate the problem,” he said.

Some students were interested in the concrete steps that the campus community could take to prevent assault. The possibility of mandatory bystander training was discussed, though SARN’s first-year corridor training remains voluntary. McGill mentioned that SARN is seeking “increased support from Residence Life.”

The conversation was still heated as the SGA leadership drew the event to a close. Though it was emotionally-charged and wide-ranging in subject matter, SGA regarded it as a success.

“I think it was good that we got people together for a dialogue. These are the conversations we should be having,” said Nick Stumo-Langer ’15, SGA Vice President.

“Seeing 300 people show up to the event meant a lot to us. We were proud to see so many of our peers and friends thoughtfully share their questions, comments and ideas, especially when it was about difficult topics,” Palermo said.

Although many attendees were grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in an open forum, there is still a limit to the tangible change that can stem from such an event.

“There were many helpful questions asked and points made at the town hall meeting. Students are right to ask what the college is doing,” said Campus Pastor Matt Marohl. “But, a truly safe campus requires every individual student to be part of the solution.”


Categories: Colleges

School suspension policy requires overhaul

Manitou Messenger - Fri, 11/21/2014 - 11:01am

Recently, Minneapolis schools have been embroiled in a conflict surrounding school suspensions for students. The issue has ignited debate about race and suspensions.

Minneapolis Superintendent Bernadela Jones is changing the suspension policy in Minneapolis public schools to combat the unfair treatment of minority students. New data reveals that black students are 10 times more likely to be suspended from schools than white students, reflecting some problems that the superintendent and other school officials hope to address by approving all suspensions (excluding cases of violence) before the student is sent home. The superintendent’s hope is to eliminate the racial gap in suspensions by 2018, while closing the achievement gap by 2020.

The U.S. Department of Education’s graduation rates show that Minnesota – as of 2012 – has a high school graduation rate of 78 percent. The break down according to race is disproportionate. Racially black students have a graduation rate of 51 percent, and Hispanic students have a rate of 53 percent. The group that suffered the most were American Indians, who graduate at a rate of 45 percent.

There are many contributing factors that influence the graduation rate, such as district funding, access to a school, student-to-teacher ratio and family involvement. Minneapolis schools are now saying that suspension rates are also a factor.

According to statistics cited by Superintendent Jones, racially black students are also even more likely than their white peers to be sent home for the same offense. Jones is asking for future nonviolent suspensions cases of students of color to be reviewed by public school officials.

There has been pushback on this new policy by teachers who think they now have to accommodate students who are being disruptive to the learning environment. Many teachers are claiming that this disruptive behavior is a result of untreated mental illnesses or behavioral issues.

These responses to the new policy are cop-outs. There is strong evidence to support a disturbingly large graduation gap, but also that suspension rates may factor into that outcome. Also, by attributing the behavior to what they perceive as “mental illness” or “behavioral problems” is to ignore one thing: race.

By ignoring race and not reflecting upon internalized racism and prejudice, it is easy for teachers who are racially white to justify their suspensions by simply saying that “this is just how this group of students acts.” If this is “just how students act” then the suspension rates would not point to an inordinate gap between white students and students of color. Racial profiling is not a new thing, nor a thing that has gone out of style.

In other words, teachers have internalized negative stereotypes and generalizations about people of color and let these stereotypes infiltrate the classroom.

Many would say that this is discriminatory to the white students, but as stated in a recent Star Tribune article, they aren’t being suspended for the same behavior as their racially diverse peers. Certain privileges are being extended to racially white students by their teachers and school officials.

Suspension policy has two purposes: to stop students from disrupting the learning environment and to discourage poor behavior. Although removing a student may create a peaceful classroom environment, it does nothing to rehabilitate the student. Suspension removes the “problem” from the classroom without fixing or addressing that “problem.” There are even plans to reduce police forces, as many are saying these suspension rates are also a factor in the school-to-prison pipeline that has been created.

In reality, though many would like to think that making someone “pay time for their crime” changes behavior, it has shown time and time again to be ineffective. There are greater structural problems that need to be addressed.

Removing a student from the classroom for any amount of time means that the student is accumulating large quantities of homework without the instruction to understand the material. This student now not only has a record with the school but also poor grades. If the student is not receiving passing grades they will be failed and held back. By missing out on the credits, they either do not graduate on time or at all. Because these students tend to be students of color, it perpetuates the cycle of poverty.

There are other ways of addressing the suspension gap and graduation gap at the same time. For instance, implementing adequate training for teachers to teach in a multiracial and cultural environment might foster a sense of interracial acceptance. Having teachers understand the environment that they come from contextualizes students’ experiences and leads to understanding. It also addresses internalized racism that could lead to racially-charged suspensions.

Another tactic that should go into effect is increasing the percentage of teachers of color relative to students of color. According to an article from Minnesota Public Radio, 30 percent of students attending public schools in Minnesota are students of color. Yet the percentage of teachers of color is around three and a half percent, hovering below the national average.

Suspensions are causing more harm than good for our students of color in Minnesota. This new policy and possible additional routes of implementing change will close gaps in suspension and graduation, and will help public schools become a place of equality for all children.

Cynthia J. Zapata ’16 ( is from Rosemount, Minn. She majors in English and race and ethnic studies.


Categories: Colleges

Movember: facial hair for a worthy cause

Manitou Messenger - Fri, 11/21/2014 - 10:57am

Members of the St. Olaf community may have noticed an increase in the number of campus mustaches over the past few weeks. Movember is here once again, the time of year when the world rejoices in the growing of mustaches and other facial hair escapades.

Movember is not only an excuse to grow out that mustache, but it is also first and foremost an attempt to raise awareness of men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and depression. The Movember Foundation charity, founded in 2004, sponsors events in order to raise funds for the cause, and many students have put the time and effort into growing that perfect mustache all for the sake of men’s health.

The hope is that this movement will increase the detection of many male health issues, and inspire men to take preventative measures against these conditions. The Movember Foundation has raised over $174 million thus far in November.

From the thin, refined English mustache, to the thick “Ron Swanson” version, there are many different styles to choose from. As usual, the hockey team has had no trouble growing an impressive array of facial hair and continues to impress mustache aficionados throughout the area with an assortment of Minnesota-inspired facial hair variations.

There are many different motivations for facial hair growth within the Movember movement. Ian Sutherland ’18, a potential mustache aficionado, said that in addiion to growing facial hair for the Movember cause,

“I want to see just how far my beard-slash-moustache can get. I am looking to perfect the mountain man beard-slash-moustache. When not unkempt, I’m looking for a neater ‘Iron and Wine’ kind of thing. I like the way full beards look, and I want to have it on my face.”

While raising money for the movement is certainly a motivation, many men see Movember as a challenge and as a point of personal pride. Zach Greimann ’15 has been an enthusiastic participant in Movember.

“I’m mostly growing out a mustache for Movember because I really like mustaches. Movember is a good chance to see where my own mustache-growing abilities are at, appreciate the progress I’ve made from last year, and have a mustache for a while,” he said.

Movember has evolved to become a competition among those who consider themselves capable of sporting a mustache. Although the growing is fun, the event has become similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge in that some participants ignore the movement’s true purpose. Greimann expressed some concern about Movember’s newfound popularity.

“Unfortunately, while I support the ideal behind Movember, I don’t think I can really talk about why it’s important for people to participate because for me it’s kind of like Christmas – it’s not really about the principle. I think that’s sad, but for me and for some other people that I know, Movember is the most socially acceptable opportunity to try our best and grow facial hair,” he said. No matter the motivation, the popularity of the Movember movement is undeniable.

The sheer number of mustaches seen on campus is outstanding, and would be enough to make the Movember Foundation proud. Facial hair is a constant in human society, and has brought men – and women intrigued by facial hair – together to celebrate the wonders and joys brought to the world by mustaches. Whether they are grown for the sake of the foundation or simply for the look, mustaches are clearly a blessing to this campus, and not only look good, but also makes the Hill that much more cozy and inviting.


Categories: Colleges

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