Adventures in the New Humanities: It’s a noir semester

St. Olaf College - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 10:23pm
In this "Adventures in the New Humanities" blog post, Professor of History Judy Kutulas shares a meditation on our pandemic state of mind — and why she's calling this a noir semester.
Categories: Colleges

Will the NFL beat COVID-19?

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:41pm

When the pandemic hit, along with other leagues across the world, the NFL was forced into new protocols for a sport and economy very heavily based on in-person interaction.

Unsurprisingly, the NFL has sordidly failed at approaching the pandemic, reducing risk and promoting sound morals.

In comparison to the NBA and the NHL, who have created bubbles, the NFL has had significantly more positive COVID-19 cases— and more delays, cancellations and uncertainty because of them.

This summer there was much conversation and confusion about whether or not professional football would start back up for the season. It became clear through NFL announcements that the season would occur no matter what, with a small delay at the beginning. The first protocols seemed fairly standard, with players getting tested and being asked to physically distance.

Within a few weeks, several games had to be cancelled due to positive COVID-19 tests. There were significant outbreaks on the New England Patriots — shocker — and the Tennessee Titans. Fans were worried about postponed games affecting their team’s ability to compete when other teams were still playing. Players were worried about their personal safety and the safety of their families. Others in the organization were only worried about economic downsides that would inevitably come from the cancellations. But a focus on profit over people is not a new theme for the NFL.

This COVID-19 response plan, or lack thereof, put athletes at higher risk of contracting the virus, feeling long term effects and hurting their bodies because of it. In short, within the scramble to keep football open, the NFL has proven that they care much more about making money than they do about the safety of their players, coaches and other team members.

Let’s not forget about the players who in protection of their health and the health of their loved ones decided to opt out. If opting out for a medical condition, players received a stipend of $350,000 for the season, those who opted out voluntarily received a $150,000 salary advance and undrafted rookies who opted out voluntarily were not able to receive any money. It seems to me that players who are trying to protect themselves and promote health are being punished.

Because of the unclear and unprepared nature of this fall season, the NFL was pushed into new protocols in early October. The new restrictions include the enforcement of masks or gaiters for coaches and personnel on the sidelines, testing to occur on game day and increased protocol compliance checks. How irresponsible is it that the first time the NFL officially requires masks and gameday testing is in October? The carelessness is evident.

The pandemic has reinforced long-held issues of integrity within professional football. As more time passes, it becomes ever clearer that the NFL is deeply problematic, harmful and corrupt. When we combine the response to COVID-19, continued covering up of domestic violence, controversy surrounding racism and political protest, the amount of life-damaging injuries and more, how could we still be championing this enterprise? The list of red flags goes on and on.

Football was even a topic of discussion at the presidential debate. Why are we continuing to put  a heinous amount of money and energy into football when this pandemic is affecting so many more important and crucial elements of life?

I cannot deny the community and connections that flourish through football. I have always loved claiming my cities and laughing with people about games and rivalry. I love that professional football is a way for people to create a valuable and important path in life, and I cannot forget the importance of sports for society. However, something has to and will give out if the NFL doesn’t step up to support people’s lives.

Despite all of this, I do not think that this pandemic will beat the NFL. Fans should be gearing up for an upcoming Super Bowl. Football is valued too much in our country for the pandemic to destroy it. Of course, the NFL will be and already has been significantly weakened economically. I don’t think this is a wholly bad thing.

I hope this pandemic and its effects on the NFL will push change and movement, not only in regards to the health of players, coaches and fans, but in regards to racism and misogyny as well. If the NFL is going to stay, the adverse aspects of it need to go.

Categories: Colleges

A case for Lamelo Ball: The Timberwolves’ should-be #1 draft pick

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:39pm

The Minnesota Timberwolves are a joke. Ever since losing legendary center Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics in 2007, despite sporting names like Kevin Love, Jimmy Butler and Karl Anthony Towns, all bonafide superstars in their own rights, Minnesota has struggled with relevancy. Over those 13 years, the T-Wolves have notched only one playoff berth, falling 4-1 to the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 2017-2018 playoffs. The Timberwolves are the team that no one remembers, the one that is always forgotten in attempts to list off all 30 NBA teams.

Minnesota General Manager Scott Layden has a chance to change all that. Blessed by the ever malevolent and mischievous basketball gods, the Timberwolves had their ping pong ball combination pulled before anyone else’s, despite there only being a 14% chance of that happening, giving Layden control over the first overall pick in the upcoming 2020 NBA draft.

Unlike previous years, this upcoming draft class is not significantly top heavy. While there is certainly a top three, the skill dropoff between them and the rest of the available players is much less significant. While it can be said that this lack of an obvious top player is a detriment to the Timberwolves, the more optimistic way of looking at the situation is that Minnesota has much more flexibility with their premium pick.

Reports have emerged that Minnesota has narrowed its options down to two. Either they plan on selecting 6-foot-5 shooting guard out of University of Georgia Anthony Edwards, or they plan on trading the pick away. However, Layden should, in my humble opinion, consider a third option. He should consider drafting Lamelo Ball.

While the 6-foot-6 point guard did not play a minute of American college basketball, the former Chino Hills High School standout put up big numbers both overseas with the Latvian team Prenai as well as the Junior Basketball Association – a league run by his father LaVar Ball.

From a purely basketball point of view, this move would make sense. Lamelo has the potential to be an elite point guard in this league, which would allow him to not only dish the ball effectively inside to Karl Anthony Towns, but also would create a more than serviceable shooting tandem with recently acquired D’Angelo Russell.

However, even more than the on-court productivity that would come with Lamelo, the publicity would be huge. Despite a dip in recent months with brother Lonzo Ball having a down season with the New Orleans Pelicans, the Ball family over the past year has been outspoken within the NBA world. Sports media loves having patriarch LaVar talk as much as possible, and considering the sometimes absurd things he says, one can be sure that he would be hard to silence if his son was selected first overall in the NBA draft.

If the Timberwolves were to greenlight this pick, for the first time in a long time, people would treat the team as less of a punchline. For the first time in a long time, in a league full of historic organizations, the T-Wolves would not be overlooked. For the first time in a long time, people would actually talk about Minnesota’s basketball team.

Categories: Colleges

From Northfield to the NBA: The Freddie Gillespie Story

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:34pm

Five years ago Freddy Gillespie sat in his freshman dorm room at Carleton College, preparing to face Bethany Lutheran in what would be his collegiate basketball debut the next night. Gillespie would come off the bench to log 15 minutes for the Knights in their season opener, finishing with six points, five rebounds and three assists. On paper, an unremarkable performance. 

But for the lengthy big-man from East Ridge High School, his career would go on to be anything but unremarkable. Standing at 6-foot-9, with arms like wings and an eye catching vertical leap, Gillespie was a physical force unimaginable on a Division III basketball court. And while a Division III court may have been the starting point for Gillespie’s college career, it would not be his final destination.

Gillespie began playing the game of basketball later than most, not starting until the 8th grade. His high school years were plagued with injuries, tearing his ACL and twice breaking his ankle, limiting his exposure as a prep hoops prospect. Without much playing experience or skill, the then senior Gillespie set his sights on an academically focused school to attend after graduation, with the only schools recruiting him being local Division III institutions. Gillespie decided to play for Carleton College, looking to salvage a career that had barely begun in a rural Minnesotan town known more for its cereal than its basketball.

Despite his size, strength and obvious potential to be the best basketball player to ever step foot in Carleton’s West Gym, Gillespie would ride the bench for most of his freshman year. He broke his way into the starting lineup in his sophomore campaign, with stats good enough to earn him Second-Team All Conference. His sophomore highlights are jaw dropping, pinning his opponents shots off the glass with ease and throwing down put back dunks like you’d see in a video game.

After his sophomore season, the story goes that Gillespie was with his roommate watching the University of North Carolina Tarheels play in the NCAA tournament when he had an epiphany — that he himself was capable of playing at the Division I level like the players he was watching on TV. I’m sure that for the next few days, Gillespie would lie awake at night, his legs hanging off the end of his twin bed, unable to escape the thought of leaving Northfield to pursue playing college basketball at a school like UNC.

Six months later, that’s exactly what Gillespie did, transferring to Baylor University as a walk-on after connecting with their assistant coach, a Minnesota native. Gillespie would redshirt his first year in Waco, working to develop his skills for a chance to compete at a level even his own Baylor teammates and coaches first thought he may never reach. But like Gillespie had done his entire career, he surprised everyone but himself, becoming the team’s starting center the following season.

This Baylor team was no average squad either, earning the No. 1 rank in the country for much of the 2018-2019 season. In just under two years, Gillespie had gone from playing in front of a few dozen Carls after poli-sci class to catching alley-oops in sold out Big-12 arenas. 

Gillespie never stopped improving, earning the Big-12’s Most Improved Player award the following year, while also nabbing a spot on conference’s all-defensive team.

Today, Gillespie is preparing for the NBA Draft, hoping to be one of the 60 most talented amateur basketball players in the world to be selected. Gillespie, who just only a few years ago was trying to find a way off Carleton’s bench, now has a chance to play against some of the greatest players the game has ever seen. It’s a story as heartwarming as it is unlikely, and it’s not over yet.

The draft takes place on Oct. 22, and even if Gillespie isn’t taken in the second round, he will likely be given the chance to sign with a team as an undrafted free agent for a team in the G-League, the NBA’s developmental system. He will look to follow in the footsteps of players like Duncan Robinson and Alex Caruso, both young talents who began their careers in the G-League and most recently competed against each other in the NBA Finals, each in the starting lineup of their respective franchise. Robinson is a fellow DIII alum like Gillespie, transferring from Williams College to the University of Michigan, drafted with the 55th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Beyond all else, Gillespie’s story is emblematic of what it means to chase a dream. For most of us, our talents don’t stand out like the wingspan of a 7-footer in a brightly lit basketball gym. Our potential isn’t measured in rebounds on a stat sheet, or shot blocking presence in the paint. But nonetheless, we all have ambitions. And I’m willing to bet that almost every person has had their Freddie Gillespie moment, seeing someone else living their dream, with the same thought: “That could be me.”

At Carleton, Gillespie met his basketball ceiling fairly quickly. Understandably, the rigorous academic schedule of a prestigious liberal arts school paired with the coaching staff of a Division III athletic program isn’t known to produce NBA skill sets. If Gillespie had stayed at Carleton, who knows where he would have ended up.

We like to think that success is dependent on internal drive, and the intrinsic motivation to be great. When in reality, it’s more about surrounding yourself with the right environment, and finding some luck along the way. The lesson we should take away from Gillespie’s career is not that ceilings don’t exist, but that they are impermanent. Sometimes the hardest part of reaching your destination is finding the right path, and we often have more to lose by staying put than chasing the impossible.

Categories: Colleges

“Braiding Sweetgrass” author and professor Robin Kimmerer delivers virtual lecture for Carleton

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:30pm

Is land a source of belongings? Or a source of belonging?

This and other questions about how we relate to nature were considered by Robin Wall Kimmerer in a virtual lecture Friday, Oct. 9 as part of the Frank G. and Jean M. Chesley Lecture series hosted by the Carleton College Environmental Studies department.

Kimmerer is a distinguished teaching professor of environmental biology at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and director and founder of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.  She is also an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and author of two books.

Dr. Kimmerer’s lecture focused on how we as a society need to reincorporate Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) into the way we interact with and understand our relationship with nature, today largely determined by just western Scientific Ecological Knowledge (SEK).  She reminded her audience that “while science is a very powerful way of knowing, it is certainly not the only one.”

She began her lecture on Friday with Martha the passenger pigeon, the last of that species which went extinct 100 years ago this year.  Weaving together the stories of the passenger pigeons and the forced migration of the Patowatomi people marched on the “trail of death” from their homeland in northern Illinois to Kansas, she explained to her audience how the dismissal of the ecological knowledge held by Native peoples in addition to their physical removal has exacerbated many ecological disasters.  Kimmerer explained how indigenous languages are repositories of ecological knowledge, and so the extinction of languages is tied to the extinction of species and misuse of natural lands.

Choosing the “honourable harvest” as just one aspect of TEK to share with the group as a valuable resource for conservation, she explained how this practice leads us to view the land as something other than just a resource we can take from however and whenever we want to.  In this practice, one follows the steps.

1. Never take the first of the harvest

2. Ask permission, and remember that taking without permission is stealing

3. Listen for the answer

4. Take only what you need

5. Minimize harm

6. Use everything that you take

7. Practice gratitude

8. Share what you have taken

9. Reciprocate nature’s gift

10. Take only what is given.

For Kimmerer, restoration and veneration of TEK in societal practice is an invaluable way we can combat climate change and work towards conservation, “If we are to devote our energies to de-extinction, what we need is the de-extinction of a worldview,” Kimmerer said.

Categories: Colleges

Local Activism: Northfield against Line 3

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:30pm

Community members formed Northfield Against Line 3 (NAL3) to protest the construction of a tar sands pipeline running from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. NAL3 formed in the summer of 2018 in response to Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) decision to move forward with Enbridge’s Line 3 expansion project. With environmental impacts and opposition from Indigenous communities in mind, NAL3 wants to prevent construction by protesting, coordinating with Indigenous groups, and educating people on how to take nonviolent action. NAL3 is also working with environmental nonprofits and tribal governments that are at the forefront of leading legal battles against the construction of this pipeline.

NAL3’s goal is to protest and delay construction to make the construction of the pipeline no longer profitable. This particular line is extremely influential in the tar sands industry, with several tar sands mines being cancelled after watching Line 3 delays. Losing Enbridge’s Line 3 would be a victory for environmental preservation and therefore a large blow to the entire tar sands industry.

If you would like to become involved, NAL3 has an upcoming event on Oct. 17 for nonviolent direct action training in Central Park from 1-5pm.

St. Olaf’s own Climate Justice Committee (CJC) is partnering with Northfield residents in taking action against the construction of the pipeline. The CJC’s goal, along with protesting the pipeline, is to create awareness of the environmental challenges that the community faces regarding clean water, climate change, sexual violence against Indigenous women and Idigenous sovereignty. With the Enbridge project only one state permit away from construction, the CJC aims to travel north to physically stop it. The CJC also focuses on educating and involving the student body to advocate for non-violent action toward divesting St. Olaf’s endowment from fossil fuels.

St. Olaf students can get involved by joining the CJC or signing up for their email alias. They can also follow the CJC Instagram and attend Fridays for Future events that the club holds outside of Buntrock Commons during Chapel Time.

Categories: Colleges

Mindfulness in times of crisis

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:30pm

The day starts with an obligatory social media check. Wake up, scroll through the phone.

Next, it’s video calls. Open the laptop lid, put on my prettiest 8-o’clock-in-the-morning face and try my best not to make any perceptible movements, lest I am asked to speak.

Emails steadily trickle into my inbox. Each one adds something to my internal schedule. My sanity looks like a game of Jenga, and each COVID-19 student survey email pulls out a block. Hopefully things don’t come crashing down.

When my days are like this, I feel my brain cells disappearing, fading into a sheep-like complicity. I feel like I have lost something. The excessive amounts of screen time demanded by the pandemic lifestyle eats away at my imagination, enthusiasm and mental sharpness. I need to make a change.

That change is fairly simple. Creating time without screens is essential to regaining mindfulness. Schedules are easily packed, Google calendars fill up rapidly. The only way to keep time to yourself is to demand that time: turn off the phone, close the laptop and find a way to focus your brain.

My favorite way to regain mindfulness has far and away been the creation of a daily sketchbook. That isn’t to say that every drawing is a masterpiece, or that every day I’m bursting with ideas and enthusiasm, but everyday I draw something, anything. It feels good to unplug my brain from LED panels and reconnect it with my left hand. After sketching every day, I feel my mind gradually sharpening again, I feel as though I can confidently wrap my hands around the reins of my life again.

Mindfulness exercises aren’t limited to art; it can be reading a physical book, meditating, crafting, sculpting, exercising, anything that centers you. The only requirement is that you demand time to do it, every single day. Habits can become an anchor in times of stress, and freeing your brain from the digital world can make you infinitely more present for the physical world.

Justin Vorndran ’23 is from Osceola, WI.

His major is English.

Categories: Colleges

Gully Boys rock out with a successful fall concert

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:30pm

The COVID-19-necessitated limited audience of this year’s fall Music Entertainment Committee (MEC) concert was fitting for the chosen band. Gully Boys, a Minneapolis-based up-and-coming grunge band with a distinctly riot grrrl vibe, was accustomed to energizing an otherwise timid crowd. Like many grunge bands, they formed by picking up instruments and figuring it out together. In a remarkably short two years after starting out,  the group ruled the First Avenue Best New Bands showcase in 2018 and were slated for numerous high-profile gigs that were all cancelled due to COVID-19.

“You don’t need to know how to play, just start a band!” called out drummer and vocalist Nadirah McGill. The amateur-garage-band-of-friends-turned-massive-success  lingered over a staggeringly powerful and textured performance. Standing in the Pause, caught in the technicolor lights and heartfelt lyrical fire of guitarist and singer Kaytee Callahan, it was impossible not to feel that I was witnessing a group on the verge of something huge.

That sense of anticipation was also present with the opener, campus band Gnome Garden. Composed of Alexander Bales ’21 and Aidan Schoff ’21, and joined by Devin Cuneen ’21, the band played mostly music from their forthcoming EP, which they will release on Oct.  30. Their light, jazzy and romantic drums, keyboard and wah-pedal’d-guitar combo created a relaxed atmosphere perfectly suited to the imminent cataclysm of Gully Boys.

Gully Boys’ intense, almost earthquake-like sound of McGill’s drums and Natalie Klemmond’s bass performance provided a fantastic foundation for Callahan’s explosive guitar and vocals. Any band that could motivate a socially-distanced crowd in what felt like a nearly empty venue—again due to COVID-19 restrictions—to unabashedly dance and bang their heads deserves heaps of praise. Considering the concert was the band’s first real live performance since pandemic began in March, their polish and emotional intensity were even more impressive.

Over the past few years, music critics have wondered whether or not alternative youth culture was going to inspire a resurgence in punk and gritty alternative rock, but rocketing popularity of electronic music has thwarted the resurgence. It is no question that Gully Boys has their hand on the pulse of youth culture, with charismatic asides about idiots not wearing masks and the trials and tribulations of Zoom University. Furthermore, the band’s composition of two women and one non-binary individual allows them to escape the cliched songwriting of “sad-white-boy-grunge.” Gully Boys made a proclamation on no uncertain terms: “We are here, we are fantastic and we are growing.” 

It is not difficult to imagine the crowd that Gully Boys might have drawn if weather had permitted MEC to continue their original plan of hosting the concert outside as the music was magnetic. The performance inspired just the feeling good grunge and punk aims to: I felt the world fade away, my inhibitions, worries and academic concerns melting beneath me. I think we all could use a bit of that right now.

Categories: Colleges

CoviDictionary: The Olaf Edition

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:30pm

isolation-induced inelegance


Lost social ambition or ability presumably caused by the lack of social interaction due to covid-19 quarantine. Observed in the speechlessness left by the past seven months of imaginary conversations, the stun of previously infrequent physical contact or even the peculiar comfort found in the lack of social hierarchy.

Categories: Colleges

Microfiction corner: Quarters for Flowers

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:30pm

The only sound in the cemetery came from the clink, clink of the jar of coins that I grasped tightly in my hands. I stopped at the first grave, and shuddered as my eyes fell on his name. Shaking, I reached into the jar for a quarter and slipped it into the slot on the headstone. His favorite song broke through the silence. It wasn’t enough. I put a quarter in each headstone. It was suddenly so loud as the songs clashed, but at least it matched the overwhelm in my head. I sobbed. Welcome to the jukebox cemetery.

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf must divest

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:30pm

Climate change is here. Millions of people have already died and been displaced due to climate change. Countless species have gone extinct. Many individuals are looking for lifestyle changes they can make to alleviate the burden on our planet. Yet just 100 corporations are responsible for 71 percent of global carbon emissions.

While you diligently turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth, fracking companies are pumping up to 16 million gallons of water into a single well.

While you bike to your job instead of driving, tar sands companies pump toxic chemicals into the Earth and build pipelines through indigenous land that spill thousands of barrels of crude oil into the environment.

While individual actions to decrease emissions are important and necessary, we must confront the fossil fuel industry to have a chance at stopping climate change.

The focus placed on the individual’s responsibility for mitigating climate change is not an accident. Fossil fuel companies purposefully obscure the role that they play in the devastation of our planet to attempt to absolve themselves of their guilt.

We must stop supporting the corporations that are destroying our planet just so that a few individuals can make unimaginable amounts of money. We must move towards investing in renewable, ethical energy sources that support our communities and our futures.

It is up to us to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable. It is time for St. Olaf to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

Currently, roughly 6.3 percent of St. Olaf’s endowment is invested in fossil fuels. That is about 34 million dollars that our college puts towards furthering climate change and climate injustice.

At colleges across the country, including Macalester, Lewis & Clark and Middlebury, students have fought for divestment from fossil fuels and won. We must do the same.

It is true that the fossil fuel industry will not collapse when St. Olaf divests. However, that does not mean that the cause is unimportant or that our voices are inaudible. Rather, we must see how the actions we take as a college can play a key role in building a divestment movement that will bring us closer to a just, livable future

We can understand the power of divestment movements by looking to the movement across college campuses to end apartheid in the 1980s. Students pushed their colleges to divest from companies doing business and making profit off of injustice in South Africa. The divestment movement against apartheid was powerful for two reasons: corporations profiting off of segregation and injustice lost investors, and, perhaps more importantly, the movement propped up broad investment for companies supporting apartheid.

While St. Olaf joined in the divestment movement to end apartheid when the college divested in 1985, it took years of students and faculty calling for divestment for it to happen.

Today, 35 years later, we must once again join together to call for divestment with a voice so loud we cannot be ignored. Student groups have been calling for divestment from fossil fuels for years and it is time for all of us to raise our voices together to make change happen.

If the multitude of moral and scientific arguments for divestment from fossil fuels are not enough, fossil fuels are no longer a profitable investment. This spring the University of California school system divested over 1 billion dollars from the fossil fuel industry and invested the money in clean energy projects, citing the unprofitability of fossil fuels as one reason for divestment.

Ultimately, there is no good reason for St. Olaf to not divest from fossil fuels.

In the words of anti-apartheid activist, human rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Desmond Tutu, “People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.”

And when St. Olaf divests from those corporations, we must also remember that climate injustice is inextricable from other forms of injustice. When St. Olaf divests from fossil fuels, we must also divest from entities supporting oppression and invest in entities that support opportunity and justice.

Without racial justice there is not climate justice.

Without international justice there is no climate justice.

And without climate justice there is no future.

If you are interested in joining us to make divestment happen, Climate Justice Collective meets from 7-8 pm on Wednesdays. Email Anna to get on the alias.

Anna Mulhern ’22 is from Minneapolis, MN.

Her majors are biology and chemistry.

Categories: Colleges

Dance classes, Senior Dance Concert goes on despite COVID-19 restrictions

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:30pm

Squares of masking-tape delineate dance spaces. Taped lines mark six-foot distances on the ballet barre. Hand sanitizer and buckets of sanitizing wipes fill the studio. On Tuesdays, I attend Beginning Ballet in The Center for Art and Dance (CAD), six-feet apart from my classmates, sanitized and masked. Thursdays mean ballet over Zoom — I stand in my room, my computer propped on top of my dresser, a drawer pulled out to act as a barre.

As I am taking ballet partly for my Studies in Physical Movement requirement and partly just for fun, I don’t mind the disconnect on those Thursdays when I dance in my room, trying to decipher fairly complicated moves through a tiny screen. However, what dance during a pandemic like for those people for whom it really matters — St. Olaf’s senior dance majors?

This year’s senior dance majors are Joshua Wyatt ’21, Ellie Kiihne ’21, Mehek Jahan ’21 and Allison Peterson ’21. The seniors discussed with the Messenger what it is like to be a dance major during the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has impacted their upcomping final dance project: the Senior Dance Concert.

The pandemic has forced dance — including both the final concert and classes — online.

“Being online — especially with dance — it changes dynamics so much,” Wyatt said.  “It changes how you embody movement.”

Describing the challenges of dancing in a space that is not meant for dancing, Wyatt said, “Generally my living room is smaller than a dance studio. And then there’s furniture everywhere,  so I can’t do certain movements where I might kick the couch or hit a fan.”

Jahan described the difficulties of technology in learning dance techniques. “In one of my classes, the computer was too far away, so I couldn’t see [the professor] very clearly so I didn’t know what she was doing,” Jahan said.

Kiihne, however, noted some welcome changes in the studio setting. For example, in studio classes, the taped boxes provide a sense of personal space and belonging.  “There’s no issue of having your own personal space, and you always have your own home,” Kiihne said.

However, the safety restrictions that guarantee personal space also prohibit movement around the studio and contact between dancers. Kiihne explained that while the restrictions aren’t a problem during class, they narrow the relationships between dancers in performance pieces.

“In making dance pieces, you have to take that element out, which limits a lot of how you can build relationships in the movement with other dancers,” Kiihne said.

Each year, the senior dance majors put on a senior dance concert for the St. Olaf community. In past years, dancers performed their projects live in Kelsey Theater to an in-person audience. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire concert has been moved online, and each senior is creating a dance video to share with the St. Olaf community through Zoom.

The majors have four options for their final dance project. The first is a choreography project, in which the senior choreographs a dance and directs other students in performing the piece. The second is a solo option, in which the dancers commission a professional choreographer who choreographs a solo piece for them to perform. The third is a research paper on a topic of their choosing, and the fourth is a blended and integrated form option, which encompasses any ideas that don’t fit into the other three choices.

Jahan chose the final blended option for her senior dance project. She will perform a solo dance to an original piece of music that she is writing with a student composer. She is also creating a website to accompany her creation.

Jahan is combining her majors of dance and biology in her final project:

“My project is kind of looking at the intersection between the natural world, like the environment, and technology and industry,” Jahan said.

Half of Jahan’s performance will be filmed outside, and half in the studio.

Peterson will perform a solo based on the dance audition process that a professional has choreographed.

“My solo is focused on resilience and tenacity, specifically in the dance world and in auditioning,” Peterson said.

Peterson’s solo will depict a series of auditions in which her character  performs and is then cut from the auditions.

“What do you do in those situations to bounce back?” Peterson asked. “What’s the mental process versus what it looks like when you’re at the audition, the internal versus external view of the audition process?”

Wyatt, choosing to choreograph a piece, is choreographing a duet dance centered on self-love within Blackness realized by reclaiming movement in the dance world. 

“My piece aims to reclaim movement that isn’t viewed as academic,” Wyatt said. Wyatt’s piece reclaims genres like hip-hop and bove fused with modern, jazz, house dance and West African contemporary dance, aiming for an African diasporic view of dance.

“The piece aims to take those unconventional movements such as twerking and lots of movement in the hips and repurpose them for ideas of self-love,” Wyatt said.

“I have one male and one female presenting and identifying dancers, but they won’t be loved interests to each other in this duet piece, they’ll be love interests to themselves because this is a piece about self love,” Wyatt said. “They’ll be helping each other as spiritual guidance on a spiritual journey to finding their own sense of self love for themselves. I intentionally did that to break a heteronormative space that we have in dance — especially when you see duets around love, they’re usually about a man and  a woman who fall in love or meet each other things like that. I really wanted to break that mold. I’m aiming to redefine what self love looks like through dance for black people.” 

Kiihne is also choreographing a piece, a murder mystery based off of the game of clue. The dance includes the six main clue characters: Miss Scarlett, Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, Professor Plum, and a seventh, the murder victim. 

“The first thing you see is the night after the murder where everybody finds out that their friend is murdered,” Kiihne said. “You see their initial reactions, how they cope with it all; and then we see the night before where they’re at a party and things start to escalate.” 

This performance encourages audience interaction: “Within all that, the audience gets time to try and figure out who did it,” Kiihne said. 

While the pandemic demands a movement to recorded videos rather than live performances, the changes have not required the majors to learn a whole new set of skills. 

Stephen Schroder, technical director for the dance department, is in charge of setting the lighting for, filming and editing the performances. The dancers have the option to share their design ideas with Schroder, or do the work themselves themselves with Schroder’s guidance. 

When considering the limiting effects of COVID-19, the dancers had different perspectives. The initial guidelines intimidated many of the dancers. “I thought I was gonna have to change ideas and do something else completely,” Kiihne said. “But now with using a camera, there are other options that I didn’t even think about before… It is limiting but also it’s just a challenge to overcome with a new creative solution.” 

“When we first got the new guidelines for what we had to do I was like, ‘no, I’m just gonna do a blended option, or I’m going to write a paper, I cannot do this,’” Wyatt said. “It just seemed like it was going to be impossible. But the more you get to sit and think about it, and I think definitely for me, seeing a lot of ways that dancers and just creatives in general were using technology to reimagine art and performing arts specifically, I was able to find something more creative to do.”

The restrictions allowed Peterson more creative choice in her piece. Dancers typically choose a choreographer from the Minneapolis area so that they can work with them in-person, but due to restrictions, she has been able to work over Zoom with a choreographer from New York. 

“The new guidelines and everything for me allowed me to do what I’m doing with this choreographer specifically,” Peterson said. “It kind of worked out for me because I really wanted to use her as a choreographer, and the situation, while really unfortunate, allowed me to.” 

Each of the dancers hopes to pursue dance in some capacity after they graduate. 

Wyatt intends to incorporate his dance and race majors to pursue using dance as an outlet for activism through arts management. 

“One of my callings is to help other people fulfill their written dreams through visuals: through arts and things like that, while also incorporating activism,” Wyatt said. 

Peterson intends to pursue commercial dancing. She plans to audition for the Vikings cheerleaders and hopes to one day become a Radio City Rockette.

 “My big dream ever since I was younger was to be a Radio City Rockette,” Peterson said. “That’s always been something I loved, and that’s actually how I connected with the choreographer that I have right now — she’s a Rockette.” 

Rahan intends to pursue the biology world, but hopes to continue to dance in some capacity. 

Kiihne hopes to combine her passions for dance and helping people through physical therapy.  

“I do enjoy working with the elderly, and I’ve done quite a few projects on how dance is beneficial for them,” Kiihne said. “I also really like working with kids. Kids dance all the time. Kids love to not do work. So if I can make their treatments into a dance, that’s a lot more effective than just having them do their little workout things.” 

The senior dance majors each have hope for the future of the dance world and anticipation for a pandemic free-future in which they can again experience physical connection in dance. 

 “I hope that we can shift back into that because that’s what really I love about dance, that physical connection that you get with people,” Peterson said. 

However, Wyatt noted that some aspects of dancing during COVID-19, including hybrid dance classes and virtual choreography sessions, are here to stay. 

 “There’s certain aspects about being virtual that I just don’t see going away… out of convenience and out of endless possibility,” Wyatt said. 

Moving some parts of dance online allows artists around the world to work together, allowing for that endless possibility. 

While the pandemic has limited in-person performances, contact between dancers and classes in the studio, the dance department, and the senior dance majors, have found ways to make their senior year, and final performances meaningful. Check out the senior dance concert over Zoom on Nov. 13.

Categories: Colleges

Tattoos of St. Olaf

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:00pm

Categories: Colleges

Institute hosts conversation with Columbia professor on ‘Shakespeare in a Divided America’

St. Olaf College - Wed, 10/21/2020 - 4:43pm
As part of its fall lecture series, the Institute for Freedom and Community hosted a conversation with Columbia University Professor of English and Comparative Literature James Shapiro titled "Shakespeare in a Divided America."
Categories: Colleges

Student View: Mobilizing St. Olaf voters in 2020

St. Olaf College - Tue, 10/20/2020 - 2:05pm
In this Student View column, Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) fellows Hannah Liu '21 and Linnea Cheek '21 share the resources they've developed to educate Oles on how to vote — and why casting a ballot is so important.
Categories: Colleges

To Include is To Excel: Supporting Diverse Writers

St. Olaf College - Tue, 10/20/2020 - 12:40pm
As part of our series highlighting To Include is To Excel projects, Writing Program faculty members share how they enhanced their understanding of how writing curriculum and support serve underrepresented students.
Categories: Colleges

Crossword key: October 8th edition

Manitou Messenger - Tue, 10/20/2020 - 11:39am

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf’s production of ‘Mamma Mia!’ reveals the importance of theater in an age of separation

St. Olaf College - Mon, 10/19/2020 - 8:56am
St. Olaf's fall production of the musical "Mamma Mia!" provided students with the opportunity to attend a live theater performance in the midst of the pandemic.
Categories: Colleges

CAMS professor’s newest project sheds light on the movement for racial justice in Northfield

Carletonian - Sat, 10/17/2020 - 9:24pm

As an experimental documentary filmmaker and Cinema and Media Studies professor at Carleton, Cecilia Cornejo is no stranger to making noise. In fact, her film of the same name played a key role in getting the Northfield youth a skate park. Now, she has moved on to a new project calling attention to Northfield’s ambivalent response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Born and brought up in Chile, she was upset about not being able to go to the protests in that country last year. “It’s always something,” she said. “I was dealing with citizenship paperwork at the time and so not being able to go to Chile was a blow.” When the BLM protests started in the Twin Cities, however, she knew she had to do something. 

Cornejo described how people sometimes make many excuses for their lack of involvement in the protests. “Sometimes it’s ‘oh but you don’t live in the cities’, or ‘oh your health is not great’—there’s always something.” She also started donating to BLM-supporting organizations and fundraisers. “My daughter even went to protest on my behalf for my birthday but it just wasn’t enough.” 

Fed up with the excuses, she decided to do what she loves—make noise. “I didn’t want to be in your face, but I knew I had to do something to attract attention at how unbothered and untethered people in Northfield are to what’s happening around us. I wanted to interrupt that pristine image.” 

She started sending out emails and posting on social media to reach out to Northfield residents. “I would just say, ‘Is someone else also aggravated by Northfield’s response to the protests? If so, would you be willing to do something about it?’ and there was so much demand.” 

Having gauged the public’s interest, she started working toward a way to really attract the focus of the community. Her mind went to colored chalk. “I wanted it to be an ephemeral action. Something to emphasize how things enter our vision and then pass away. Something fleeting that catches your eye and then is erased by time or people or passage.”

Photo provided by Cecilia Cornejo

Having done her research, she knew chalking to be legal in Northfield, as long as it is washable. The decision to use chalk was accompanied by a plan to write the names of unarmed Black people killed by the police. Armed with determination and passion, her initial group of twelve marched on to Bridge Square with a list of unarmed Black victims of police brutality. 

“It was chaos that first day. We were just so confused on how to start so we just yelled out a ‘welcome’ and then everyone just took a little spot and started writing the names.” The colorful, even playful, writings were juxtaposed with the grim reminder of the experience of racism that is intertwined with the fabric of being a person of color in America. 

“It was almost beautiful. We knew what and why were doing this but we needed to refine the how.” To relinquish the chaos, Cornejo shifted the methodology of the project. By the second meeting, the gatherings were honored by a welcome, followed by a land acknowledgement. 

“I always knew just the names weren’t enough, we needed to know these names, so I read George Floyd’s biography. His memory couldn’t be just of a victim but we needed to know his life other than that,” Cornejo said. Her quest to celebrate Floyd’s life more than his death led to an epiphany; more than a mourning, these gatherings could not just be a celebration of death, they had to be a celebration of life. 

This led the project to evolve. For subsequent gatherings, Cornejo said, “We started with a welcome, followed by a land acknowledgement and then we read two biographies—the first one about a victim of police brutality and another one about a Black leader or artist.” From James Baldwin to Toni Morrison, these biographies reflected resilience. 

“Once we made these additions, the project became a living, dynamic, breathing sentiment.” Just names became designs and drawings that were able to take forms that were meaningful to the volunteers,” noted Cornejo.

COVID-19 of course posed a very real problem for these gatherings, so the volunteers divided the tasks. People unable to attend the gatherings contributed by doing research for the names and the biographies. “These two old ladies couldn’t come to the gatherings so they undertook the research, and Carleton students started volunteering to edit the videos that we shot.” 

Since documentation is an important part of Cornejo’s work and life, she meticulously captured the gatherings and the process. This documentation, in fact, led another group in Seattle to start a similar initiative. “These people so far away were able to take something away from what we were doing, and I think that was important to our project here.”

The project took place every week for sixteen weeks following Floyd’s death. “We named it ‘Say Their Names Northfield’ and now we’re moving to once a month. I think we’re all burned out.” Despite the burnout, Cornejo continues to think of ways to advance the initiative even when winter hits, as this is certainly not the end. “We will continue, but now we need to think of ways other than chalk.”

Cornejo continues to attend meetings with the Northfield City Council to push for policy changes. One woman writing names of Black victims in chalk on the pavement outside her house transformed into a town-wide movement. A call to action that was meant to rattle the perfect image of this Midwestern college town has become an inspiration for people to realize ignorance stems from privilege and results in injustice. 

The post CAMS professor’s newest project sheds light on the movement for racial justice in Northfield appeared first on The Carletonian.

Categories: Colleges

Carleton adopts land acknowledgement drafted by the City of Northfield

Carletonian - Sat, 10/17/2020 - 9:08pm

“Northfield was founded in 1855 —  8 years before Minnesota exiled Dakota people from the state and during a period when coercive and sometimes deceitful treaties dispossessed Dakota people of nearly all of their homelands. Carleton was founded 3 years after Dakota people were exiled; St. Olaf was founded 11 years after.” — Professor Meredith McCoy, from a slide in her presentation for the Human Rights Commission  

On September 14, at Carleton’s virtual Opening Convocation, President Steven Poskanzer welcomed back the campus community and kicked off the academic year with a brief speech.

“I’d like to begin with an acknowledgement of the land on which Carleton stands,” Poskanzer said. “Over the course of the past year and a half, a task force in Northfield, led by the City’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) and with active participation from both Carleton and St. Olaf, has been working to create a land acknowledgement statement for the city and its major institutions and community groups. Carleton endorses this effort as well as the proposed statement that we now intend to use on public occasions such as this, which reads as follows.”

Poskanzer then launched into the statement itself: “We stand on the homelands of the Wahpekute band of the Dakota Nation. We honor with gratitude the people who’ve stewarded the land through the generations and their ongoing contributions to this region. We acknowledge the ongoing injustices that we have committed to the Dakota Nation, and we wish to interrupt this legacy, beginning with acts of healing and honest storytelling about this place.” 

Poskanzer continued to read the long version of a statement developed by the HRC, the same group behind Northfield City Council’s approval of a resolution designating October 8 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Recently, the commission asked Professor Meredith McCoy to present on the key aspects of land acknowledgements for the City of Northfield.

McCoy started off with a slide defining what a land acknowledgement is: “A formal statement from a city, province, state, institution of higher education, or other cultural institution that affirms and recognizes the Indigenous peoples of a particular place and their historic, ongoing, and future relationships with those lands and waters.” 

She mentioned that land acknowledgements have become an increasingly common practice in higher education—especially in Canada, which she suggests can serve as a guide. “One of the critiques that used to come up over and over again in Canada is that these become sort of performative statements, where people feel that by standing up and saying their land acknowledgement they’ve now checked all the boxes,” she said.

McCoy highlighted the benefits of land acknowledgements done well: they allow us to ground ourselves in a sense of respect at the beginning of a meeting or gathering, give us a common language around a shared history, underscore that colonialism is not confined to the past and prompt us to begin doing the work of repairing relationships with the Indigenous nations whose lands we are occupying. 

When The Carletonian spoke with her a week after her presentation, she added, “I think there is a fear that somehow building relationships with Indigenous people is different, is unknowable. But I would just ask people to reflect on how you become a good friend or a good neighbor to anyone.”

McCoy continued, “You support that person in their priorities, you show up when they need you to show up, you find ways to amplify their voice when they need their voice amplified, you take a backseat when they need you to take a backseat.” 

She emphasized that “strong land acknowledgements need to think about this process of strengthening and sustaining relationships with native nations” and “should push us to tangible action.”

On campus, Alle Brown-Law ’21, a Fellow with Carleton’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement (CCCE), had begun thinking about the possibility of a Carleton land acknowledgement last fall. After hearing Karen Diver, the keynote speaker for the 2019 Upper Midwest Association for Campus Sustainability (UMACS) conference, start her presentation with a land acknowledgement, Brown-Law  began working on an acknowledgement for the CCCE. 

 “At first I had these big, big plans. I was like, ‘I’m going to make a land acknowledgement for the whole school, and as an institution we’re going to make a land acknowledgement.’ And I quickly realized that was a very big thing to say, because if Carleton does anything as an institution, it has to go through so many layers of authority,” Brown-Law said.

 Drafting a land acknowledgement for the CCCE “felt a little bit more tangible and reachable,” Brown-Law said. “And I thought, okay, if our office has a land acknowledgement, then maybe we can use this as motivation with which to go forward to the Deans of the College and [President Poskanzer] and all these people and say ‘hey, we think this is an important thing.’”

 Around the same time the CCCE was drafting their acknowledgement, the HRC was also working on a land acknowledgement of their own, that they then presented to the Northfield City Council.

Brown-Law went to the hearing and remembers it being a pretty even split between whether the City Council liked it or not. She recounted, “They kind of tabled it and said, ‘we’re going to send it back to the HRC and ask them to work on it a little bit more and address some of these issues that we have with it.’”

The key issue was the statement of ongoing harm. “There were a few council members who were very adamant that that shouldn’t be part of the statement,” Brown-Law said.  She added, “It feels like an attack, right? For some people it’s like, ‘that’s not my fault.’” McCoy also noted that people generally bristled at the idea of ongoing injustices.  

When COVID-19 hit Northfield in mid-March and students were sent home, the Northfield City Council still had yet to approve the statement. However, over the summer, the Tuesday Group—the senior leadership team under the Office of the President at Carleton—decided to endorse the acknowledgement in order to have it available to begin using this fall, when President Poskanzer was to deliver it at Opening Convocation.   

For Brown-Law, the land acknowledgement was an unexpected start to convocation. “You could ask my housemates; I was in a pure state of shock. I was so, so, so surprised because he also said the full statement. He said ‘ongoing injustices.’ So, it wasn’t just a land acknowledgement, he read the whole city-drafted statement.” 

Andrew Farias ’21, CSA president, included the land acknowledgement in his presidential platform last year. He too was surprised by the announcement. Farias recently sent out an email to connect many of the people who have been involved in discussing the land acknowledgement on campus. 

“With President Poskanzer beginning Fall Term Opening Convocation with a land acknowledgement, I really saw this as an opportunity to reignite some of the conversations people across the campus have been having over the past several years,” Farias said.

The text of the acknowledgement has not yet been formally publicized by Carleton, but it has already been added to the St. Olaf website, on their “History and Heritage” page. The St. Olaf Student Government Association formally adopted the statement on April 28.

Joe Hargis, the associate vice president for External Relations and director of College Communications at Carleton, noted that the acknowledgement “will be the official statement we will use at events such as Opening Convocation and Commencement,” and that the campus community is free to use it as well. He added that they are “in the process of creating a webpage that will include the statement and additional information about land acknowledgements.”

In the coming months, events in Northfield and on campus will parallel this progress. On November 10, the HRC will present the updated statement to the City Council for approval. Additionally, the “Why Treaties Matter” exhibit on the 1851 Dakota Land Cession Treaties will open at the Perlman Teaching Museum next fall. 

The opening of this exhibit was originally slated to coincide with this year’s Opening Convocation, but was pushed due to COVID-19. Professor Michael McNally, who helped review the land acknowledgement this past summer, said “we made the decision that we would do a better job if we waited until it was all in person next year, to have a bigger celebration.” 

As he finished reading the land acknowledgement at Opening Convocation, Poskanzer said, “We look forward to the [“Why Treaties Matter”] exhibit, and to fostering greater understanding of and stronger ties with the Dakota people on the land we currently call Northfield. As the land acknowledgement statement decrees, it is both necessary and right to recognize and attempt to rectify legacies of ongoing injustice.”

The post Carleton adopts land acknowledgement drafted by the City of Northfield appeared first on The Carletonian.

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