Colleges

Equity and Inclusion Update

St. Olaf College - Fri, 05/14/2021 - 11:58am
A message from Interim Vice President for Equity and Inclusion María Pabón Gautier that is part of a new series of regular updates she sends to the campus community.
Categories: Colleges

Vaccines may be required for on-campus students next year

Manitou Messenger - Fri, 05/14/2021 - 11:53am

St. Olaf College plans to announce in July if it will require all students without a legally valid medical or religious exemption to be vaccinated before coming back to campus in the fall of 2021. The question of whether or not to require students on college campuses to be vaccinated has become a national debate, with the advice of public health professionals pitted against political positioning. Within the vaccination debate, St. Olaf plans to wait for more colleges to make their decisions and then respond accordingly. 

The American College Health Association has recommended that colleges require returning students for the 2021 — 2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. However, for St. Olaf College President David Anderson ’74 and the College’s COVID-19 response team there remain questions to be answered before they make a decision. 

“We’ve never really been the college that acted first,” Anderson said. “And we’ve never been the college that acted last. We have a sort of lurking in the tall grass strategy, where we want to have as much information as we can get and then make what we think is the best decision.”

Some of the information Anderson is waiting on includes what other colleges are doing, how many people will be vaccinated and the legal status of the vaccines. 

“Is it even possible to require vaccination?,” Anderson said. COVID-19 vaccinations are currently emergency use authorized, and as such cannot currently be required by institutions. Schools including Carleton and Macalester have released statements of intent to require vaccinations, pending FDA approval. However, even if COVID-19 vaccines gain FDA approval, Anderson and the COVID-19 response team are not sure if the work required to mandate vaccination is worth it. 

The hassle of requiring vaccination, according to Anderson, includes determining what proof of vaccination would be required as well as “what’s gonna happen when we have a bunch of international students coming when there is maybe limited availability in their home country,” Anderson said. 

Carleton College and Macalester College both have a higher percentage of international students than St. Olaf. 

Furthermore, Anderson said “Do we really want to get into a bunch of fights with people who, for reasons good or bad, just don’t want to have the vaccine.” 

“It’s not 100% clear what the benefit is in having 95% of your population vaccinated and a 100% [vaccinated],” Anderson said. “You could say, well it’s 5%. But in practical terms are you that much safer? If you could get to 95% of people voluntarily vaccinating and reporting, then you want to ask the question, is it really worth all of the hassle of requiring it of everybody?”

In a report emailed to students on Thursday, May 13, Campus Reopening Lead Enoch Blazis wrote that “73% of St. Olaf faculty and staff and 70% of students have reported that they are fully vaccinated or in the process of being vaccinated.” 

The St. Olaf community has had the opportunity to be vaccinated through a variety of community based vaccine clinics, as well as multiple on-campus clinics. The most recent on-campus clinic had 468 shots that no one signed up for, which were returned to the Northfield Urgent Care clinic. 

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic Minnesota college presidents have met frequently, and “obviously [vaccination] has been a topic that’s had a lot of conversation,” Anderson said. 

Currently Carleton and Macalester are the only colleges or universities in Minnesota that have announced that they intend to require vaccinations for the 2021-2022 school year. St. Catherine University and Minnesota State University – Mankato have announced that they do not intend to require COVID vaccinations in the fall at this time.

As for St. Olaf, “We don’t need to make a decision right now,” Anderson said. “We’re waiting to see what other institutions do, we’re waiting to see what the landscape looks like in terms of total vaccination, we’re waiting to see what percentage of our students and other community members have been vaccinated, and we’ll make a decision in time for whatever we decide to do to be carried out.”

 

mulher2@stolaf.edu

 

Categories: Colleges

Adventures in the New Humanities: “And in the end …”

St. Olaf College - Fri, 05/14/2021 - 11:22am
In her final "Adventures in the New Humanities" blog post, Professor of History Judy Kutulas reflects on her career and the lessons she's learned.
Categories: Colleges

First Year Entrepreneurs: Jessenia Prado ’24 celebrates Mexican identity, culture with concha earrings

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm

Despite the challenges of a pandemic, many first years are using their creative talents to earn extra cash. Jessenia Prado ’24, the founder of Los Dulce Sueños, celebrates Mexican culture and art with polymer clay jewelry. Her aesthetic is inspired by Mexican pottery and based on Mexican foods (like conchas, empanadas and tacos) found at small street vendors and businesses in Chicago.

Growing up, Prado felt like she did not belong in or fit the expectations of the Mexican community. “I don’t know Spanish, and I’m lighter-skinned. But I want to reclaim a connection to my culture through art,” Prado said.

Food is a great way to connect with others, according to Prado. Her mom would often surprise her with a concha, a traditional Mexican sweetbread roll, after school or a rough day.

Prado also remembers how strangers on the subway would point out her concha earrings and say, “Are those conchas? I love conchas!” Her earrings have helped create community ever since. “If you know what a concha is, then I’m automatically your friend,” Prado said.

Los Dulces Sueños began in Prado’s junior year of high school, when she applied for a paid internship program to pursue her joy for drawing and making cartoons. Funded by the Art Institute of Chicago, the program provided low-income high school students with the materials and spaces needed to create art that are normally difficult to access.

After a while, Prado began exploring the history of Mexican clay and studying pottery on display. With the help of her internship mentor — who was also Hispanic and had a great appreciation for Mexican culture — they launched Prado’s mini-project: concha earrings.

Prado only decided to sell them after her mom encouraged her to think bigger, saying that the earrings “would be a hit in the Mexican community.”

“Then I started on that challenge,” Prado said. “It’s fun to compare my earrings now to then.”

Although she wanted to focus on schoolwork for her first semester of college, Prado realized how “depressed she was without art.” She spoke with her advisor about her business in February and chose to expand it on campus.

After Prado made a quick flier, new jewelry and a few Instagram posts, several students reached out to her. “I wasn’t expecting that at all. I sold out on the first day,” she said.

Prado said that reaching the Mexican audience was a struggle back in Chicago. Due to the difficulty of reserving space in pop-up shops, she was unable to reach a majority of the Mexican community and endured the challenge of trying to sell her jewelry while simultaneously explaining its cultural context. However, she hopes to sell more in the summer due to the recent increase of pop-up shops in Mexican neighborhoods.

Prado has faced difficulty in getting to know other Latinx and Hispanic students on campus due to St. Olaf’s predominantly white demographic.

“It’s difficult doing the whole business thing by myself,” Prado said.

She has faced other challenges as well but continues to work at her art. In between finding the right materials and understanding color theory, she said that the learning process has been frustrating, but “finding the desired color is all worth it.”

Prado’s success on campus is thanks in part to her mentor and student Hall Coordinator Lori Tran ’21, who lets Prado bake jewelry in her oven. 

Tran admires how Prado uses her artistic talents to showcase Mexican culture. “It’s important to support small businesses like Prado’s because the materials she needs aren’t very accessible in Northfield, yet she continues to make it happen,” Tran said. “Prado is demonstrating the hard work and dedication that many BIPOC women put into showing their cultural pride and making it accessible for people beyond their own culture. That deserves support and recognition,” she said.

“Just the community around me inspires me to keep working. I don’t think I could be making art if it wasn’t for their support,” Prado said. She also thanked her family for reminding her to embrace her culture.

Prado’s work process begins with googling staple Mexican foods or food vendors to brainstorm ideas. Then, she buys the necessary materials, meticulously shapes the clay with her hands, inserts metal wire and bakes it in the oven. Several of her batches even come out smelling like fresh pastries.

To personalize each pair of concha earrings, Prado varies its designs by thickness of sugar, plumpness, size, colors and more.

Prado is currently brainstorming the release of a spring-themed batch, centered around succulents and other plants. She is open to all suggestions and custom requests because she wants to explore her skills.

For purchases and inquiries, Prado can be reached at:

Instagram shop: losdulcesuenos

Email: prado3@stolaf.edu

vue11@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

AAPI visibility week highlights healing, culture within the community

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm

Multiple student organizations teamed up in order to celebrate the College’s first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Visibility Week.

The Asian American Student Union (ASU), Chinese Culture Club, DVINE Entertainment, Korean Culture Association, Political Awareness Committee (PAC), Team Tibet! and the Wellness Center, organized the week spanning from May 3 to May 9.

Organizers for the event were influenced by the increase of anti-Asian sentiment that has occurred throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent violence against the  AAPI community such as the March 16 Atlanta shooting, in which eight people were shot, six of them being Asian women was also a catalyst for the week’s conception.

“[This week] was created over recent acts of violence, especially the Atlanta shooting,” said organizer Amos Shiau ’21 during an AAPI event on May 4. “We organized this week as a solidarity week, to be heard and seen.”

Organizers Nina Vang ’21, Shiau Helen Vu ’21, Clare Wongwai ’22, Christina Zen ’22, Nina Vo ’22, Kana Araya-Kjeseth ’23, Anna Brown ’23, Anja Dulin ’23 and Kathleen Hoiriis ’24 created a series of events that focused on healing, education, cultural pride, accountability and dismantling white supremacy.

The first event, hosted by Drs. Melissa Brzycki from Monmouth University and Stephanie Montgomery, assistant professor of history and Asian studies at St. Olaf hosted the event, titled “Confronting Anti-Asian Racism.” The event, which took place on May 4 focused on discussing an episode of their podcast, “East Asia For All,” which directly responded to the Atlanta shooting. After introductions, the group discussed how white people confront anti-Asian racism in all its forms, including reflecting, reframing and educating themselves on AAPI history in the United States.

“For this episode specifically, our audience is white people,” Brzycki said.

Assistant Professor of Music Rehanna Kheshgi,  and Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion Kelly Figueroa-Ray, hosted “From Statement to Steps.” An event that catered to a white audience. The hosts put those in attendance into breakout rooms in order to discuss accountability and the practical steps that the audience could take in order to dismantle anti-Asian racism in their own communities.

Carlos Gallego, associate professor of English, spoke on May 6 in a segment called “The Violence of White Nationalist Ideologies.” In this talk, Gallego spoke about the intellectual ideologies of white supremacy and neo-Nazism that influence active terrorists to commit violent atrocities, all of which stem from racist rhetoric.

Tenzin Dorjee ’21 hosted Tibetan Trivia Night on May 7, where four participants won Tibetan-themed prizes.

The AAPI Cultural Showcase took place on May 8 in front of Boe Chapel. The showcase celebrated  AAPI culture, including fashion, songs and dances.

“With the AAPI community, there is a lot of shame growing up that comes with wanting to express your culture to your peers, especially your white peers,” Brown said. “So the showcase is a way for people to be proud of their culture and their heritage and for people to share their story with other students on campus.”

The event also allowed students to address the dangerous situation in India, where many people are dying of COVID-19.

“The COVID crisis that India is facing right now is grim and devastating in every way possible,” Joash Daneil ’23 said to the crowd. “While things start to open up and more people get vaccinated here in Minnesota — in the USA — India is past its breaking point with a debilitated healthcare system and a government that has not taken any measures in response to the second wave.”

A statement was also made by participants regarding anti-Asian sentiment at St. Olaf.

AAPI Visibility Week concluded on May 9 with an event titled “Radical Healing for the AAPI Community,” which highlighted coping strategies and interactive practice. ww

cajiao1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Spotify Playlist: finally finals

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm

We made it Oles: we’re in the endgame now. As a celebration for the grueling year we’ve had, take a listen to this carefully crafted playlist of fire tunes while you’re packing, hanging with your pals for the last time or taking one last stroll through downtown Northfield. Happy listening!

 

Categories: Colleges

Quitting time

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm
Illustration by Sadie Favour

 

At small schools like St. Olaf, student athletes don’t play in front of sold out crowds chanting their names or dream of making it to the professional level. There are no scholarships on the line. They have to go to class like everyone else because they are everyone else. And yet, day after day, they practice, brought together by a seemingly illogical force – their love for the game.

But what happens when that love begins to fade? The enjoyment of a lifelong sport starts consuming time that feels like it should be spent elsewhere. The sacrifices of early morning lifts and late night practices get in the way of new opportunities, turning the game into a burden that feels as stressful as it does optional. So people quit.

Our culture does not celebrate the quitters. We memorialize the athletes that overcome injury, tragedy or were counted out – we are inspired by their inability to give up. Quitting is often said to be the easy way out, but that could not be further from the truth.

Quitting comes with baggage. From the earliest point in an athlete’s career, they are told not to be a quitter. Sports are said to be the greatest teachers in life not only because they teach failure, but perseverance. Losing is bad, but quitting is worse. Quitting is a reflection of character.

Like a breakup from a long time relationship, quitting a sport in college is a deeply personal matter, realized months or years before its finality. It’s an abrupt change in identity during a period of life in between childhood and adulthood, where growth can feel as intimidating as it does exciting.

“It was definitely a hard decision, sophomore year it ate away at me. I could hardly focus on my classes because I was thinking about it so much,” said Rohan Silbaugh ’22.

Rohan left the baseball team after his sophomore year, a decision he said was “difficult, but rational,” and not one he regrets in the least bit.

“I always tell myself I moved on from baseball, and I didn’t quit. That feels more accurate. I know if I hadn’t given everything I had, I’d feel defeated. But I know I worked my hardest and could walk away knowing I made the right decision.”

Rohan added that quitting probably isn’t for everyone. Some careers, he said, are worth pushing through, and people shouldn’t be deterred by the wrong reasons. But if they know it’s the logical choice to pursue other interests, they should “absolutely do it.”

After all, every athletic career, no matter how decorated, comes to an end. And while it’s convenient when that end happens to line up with other milestones – like the end of highschool or college – it’s just as natural for it to not.

Marissa Ruppe ’21, a senior from Northfield who quit the hockey team right before her sophomore season, recalled quitting as “the best decision of her life.” After coming to college, she described feeling a similar pain felt from the sport she had grown up identifying with.

“I’d been playing sports since I was three years old, so it was definitely a large part of my identity,” Marissa said. “Sophomore year, I would wake up dreading hockey practice everyday, in the same arena it had become my first love.”

Like others who had contemplated quitting, Marissa reached out to her family to ask them if they’d be okay with it. She remembers her dad being overwhelmingly supportive, citing how she would have more time to focus on her dream of being a doctor. While liberating to hear, for a moment, she felt the stress of possibly quitting on that dream, too.

“I remember not wanting to be seen as someone who quit things. I didn’t want to quit hockey and then quit pre-med and have people see me as a quitter,” Marissa said.

Two years later, her pre-med dream is still alive, with hockey in the distant past. The decision to quit is looked back on fondly.

“It was the first decision I had ever made for myself. If I could do it all over, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Ruppe said.

Every time I watch a team’s senior day celebration, I’m always surprised by how few students are represented. Freshman classes for sports like football or soccer can range anywhere from ten to twenty athletes, but only a handful typically make it through their fourth year in the program. While it’s an accomplishment worth recognizing, I can’t help but think about all the athletes who didn’t make it, choosing to lead lives away from the sport that are just as worthy of celebrating as the ones who stayed.

In a lot of ways, quitters are inspirational. While it’s sad to see someone lose their love for the sport that helped raise them, it’s equally empowering to see them take back agency over their own life. Perseverance is important, but so is knowing when to step away from unhappiness in spite of external pressure. As I conducted these interviews, I was moved by the feeling of liberation that quitting brought. And that while we can construct pressures around us that say “keep going,” whether it’s from family, teammates, or coaches, more often than not, what they are rooting for is not an athlete – but a person. Whether it’s on the field, in the classroom, or even in a doctor’s office, that support will remain genuine.

tan2@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Think locally, act globally: Combating climate change from China’s BRI to MN Line 3

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm
Illustration by Sadie Favour

 

In an increasingly interconnected world, vicious problems such as climate change appear to be much too monumental to overcome on an international scale. We have been taught to think globally, and act locally — a process where we focus global issues into the scope of our present day community. But what if we expanded our definition of community to include the whole world? What if we started to think locally and act globally?

The issue of climate change has been prevalent on an international scale for decades. However, it is easy to focus on developmental causes of climate change close to home rather than abroad. Earlier this semester students at St. Olaf protested the implementation of the Line 3 pipeline — a project set to produce as much carbon dioxide as 50 new coal power plants. But what if we expanded our world view to include considerations about how pollution from Line 3 will affect other parts of the world? Additionally, what if we in turn looked at how development projects within other countries will affect us? What if we considered the power of sharing our ideas on divestment internationally?

Right now, one of the world’s largest development projects is occurring internationally — China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is a comprehensive project, spanning Eurasia with the aim of creating an interconnected road, rail and trade network. This project was announced in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping to further international development and boost economic growth across Europe, Asia and Africa. While infrastructure investment is a crucial catalyst to accelerate the achievement of gender equality and increase countries’ GDPs, thus boosting the economies of participating states, China’s BRI projects will destroy the environment if they are not constructed sustainably.

As of 2019, China has pledged to create a “green” BRI, with commitments to making its investments in infrastructure sustainable. Despite the pledge, the BRI overwhelmingly utilizes fossil fuels. According to the United Kingdom think tank Knowledge, Evidence and Learning for Development, BRI countries are set to produce “more than 60 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, and the per capita emissions that are 6.1 tons, which is higher than the world average of 4.5 tons.” Additionally, research from the Council of Foreign Relations shows that 91% of energy-sector loans made by six major Chinese banks to BRI countries were for fossil fuel projects. The pollution that will result from these projects will not remain stagnant and will affect the whole world.

While these numbers seem daunting, the BRI may be an effective platform for mobilizing and integrating green development on an international scale given the correct response. In our interconnected world, local experience (such as petitioning for divestment in fossil fuels at St. Olaf) can be related across geographical, political and cultural space to become raw materials for struggle elsewhere.

Across Asia, Africa and Europe, protests have emerged due to the perceived notion of BRI corruption and that countries’ inability to pay back debt will give China an excuse to gain control of vital transportation links, such as ports and railways. Rather than support the anti-Chinese protests that have erupted internationally as a result of the BRI’s debt-trap diplomacy, this is a call to action to relate the experiences of climate action at St. Olaf to the struggles that other states are facing internationally and provide a unified and unrelenting response to the continuation of fossil fuel investment worldwide. Development has been key to creating a green world, however, and as St. Olaf students, we can push our ideas on divestment in fossil fuels to an international scale of reinvestment in green, clean and sustainable energy.

International development projects matter because, just as Minnesota’s Line 3 pipeline will contribute to the increasing carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, pushing us ever closer to the two degrees celsius mark, so too will the Belt and Road Initiative create global turmoil if green infrastructure is not achieved.

Education on international infrastructure projects is important because it expands our sense of locality. In a time where climate change has become a frightening reality, we can no longer afford to just look at problems within our local communities. The world is our new local.

wyland1@stolaf.edu

Lucia Wyland ’23 is from

Madison, WI.

Her majors are political science and Spanish.

Categories: Colleges

We need to talk…

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm

 

 

Illustration by Sadie Favour

 

My knee-jerk reaction when someone asks me how I’m doing is “the best I’ve ever been.” Spoiler alert: it is never true.

It’s a bit that in theory is the epitome of the disingenuousness that I find to be the problem with some approaches to small talk — it’s an insincere answer to what might have been a sincere question.

It’s so sarcastic and overly-enthusiastic that it’s obviously not true — so after my eccentric default answer, I make a point to engage with follow ups in an intentional way. These conversations are a break from what might otherwise drive us into the dreaded “Hi, how are you?” “Good.” “That’s good.” loop.

Small talk is unavoidable, so I say we ought to embrace it beyond the circular pleasantries.

The fact of the matter is all relationships begin with small talk. The first conversations we have with the majority of people in our lives don’t go beyond what the caf is serving on a given day or how we’re formatting an impending essay.

The key to enjoying small talk, as I experience it, is to treat it as important, even if it’s surface level at best. Be present in the moment with whoever it is. The content doesn’t matter as much as the intent — someone is taking the time out of their day to engage with you. Honor that and show up for two minutes.

I read a book last semester about what to do when life is unfair to the people we love and there’s really nothing we can do to help. Basically the conclusion is that it’s better to say something, even an insubstantial comment on good ol’ Minnesota weather, than to be too paralyzed to talk to someone at all. It doesn’t have to be anything life-altering, but bringing some sincerity and humanity is reassuring no matter the words being said.

And I think that’s at the crux of what I feel about small talk; oftentimes, if I’m upset or in a bad mood, I’d rather make small talk with someone with whom I’m only tangentially acquainted with than dive into my life’s problems with my best friend.

That’s because small talk is an escape of sorts — when we’re at our worst, it can be comforting to know that the whole universe isn’t crashing down. Things and people and entire worlds outside of ourselves exist, and we’re still invited into them — a sense of normalcy outside of our own tragedy.

Even if an interaction is stuck in the “Good, and you?” loop, there’s a comfort in the script there — everyone knows their lines in the world’s most boring play. It can be mindless if it must be (though ideally it’s not).

Alternatively, when we’re at our best, it’s fun to be able to crack a few jokes or just bask in a shared humanity alongside someone you’re lucky enough to exist in the same space as.

  My push for sincerity isn’t an urge to bear your soul in the post office line, but rather a plea to be intentional about showing up for those around you, even in the tiniest of ways. So truly engage in small talk, it might just make you the best you’ve ever been.

stroth2@stolaf.edu

Claire Strother ’22 is from

Arlington Heights, IL.

Her majors are American studies and women’s & gender studies.

Categories: Colleges

Campus moves to green alert level as case numbers drop

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced a plan to end COVID-19 restrictions by July 1, 2021. Almost all COVID-19 restrictions will be loosened by the State on May 28 with the mask mandate being lifted on July 1 or if 70% of the Minnesota population is vaccinated, whichever comes first. Following the Governor’s announcement, the College moved into the green alert level. In an email to the student body, Campus Reopening Lead and Vice President for Advancement, Enoch Blazis, announced that due to low cases of COVID-19 on campus and the percentage of students vaccinated, campus will move to the green alert level for the first time this semester.

The green alert level permits inter-campus travel, social gatherings limited to 50 people indoors, as well as travel within Northfield. The Community Standards  are still in place and randomized COVID-19 surveillance testing will occur through the end of the school year. Vaccinated individuals will not be apart of the random COVID-19 surveillance testing.

The state’s lifting of COVID-19 restrictions will allow guests to be present at this year’s commencement ceremony. Prior to the announcement, no guests were permitted; now, the Class of 2021 will be allowed an unlimited number of guests providing the ceremony takes place outdoors. If moved to the rain location of Tostrud Center, graduates will be allowed a maximum of three guests each. All those in attendance will be required by the College to wear masks.

As of May 7, 69% of faculty and staff and 68% of students have reported that they are either fully vaccinated or in the process of receiving the vaccine. The College is currently completing the second dose of its campus wide vaccine clinic.

Blazis urged everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible and for students to report their vaccination status online through a reporting form or the student health portal.

Students who are fully vaccinated — that is, two weeks have passed since their final dose — do not need to quarantine after exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Nor will they be selected for weekly randomized testing. However, fully vaccinated students are still asked to follow the Community Standards and wear masks in public spaces.

“An increasing number of summer jobs, internships, and programs require staff and participants to be vaccinated. Getting the vaccine now is a good way to be prepared for your post-college experience. For returning students, getting vaccinated will also help ensure a smoother, more robust return to campus in the fall,” Blazis wrote in an email to St Olaf students and faculty.

As of May 11, the College has no new COVID-19 cases while the Northfield area is seeing a decrease in the Rice County infection rate.

bermel1@stolaf.edu

leikvo1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Board of Regents hosts final meeting of the year

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm

By Anna Mulhern & Claire Strother

Senior Reporter and Executive

The St. Olaf Board of Regents convened over Zoom for their final meeting of the academic year on Thursday, May 6 and Friday, May 7.

The Regents discussed and voted on issues including the College’s continued response to COVID-19, equity and inclusion work, criteria for hiring a new President, the creation of a new department, divestment from fossil fuels and updates to campus housing.

Continued COVID response:

The Board of Regents is considering 95% of the community being vaccinated as full campus vaccination as the College looks toward the fall semester. Holding a normal fall semester is predicated on factors including vaccine efficacy and rate across campus, adequately ventilated spaces, physical distancing and mask usage. President David Anderson ’74 and the COVID-19 Response Team plan to announce in July whether they will require students to be vaccinated before they come back to campus.

Divestment:

In response to a proposal submitted by Climate Justice Collective, The Investment Committee voted to not commit to new private investments in fossil fuels. At the same time, the Regents voted to not actively take out their public investments related to fossil fuels — which account for less than 5% of such holdings — and rather wait for the contracts to lapse on their original timeline, ending at the latest in 2028.

The push for divestment at the College has been largely student-led and present for more than a decade. In recent history, the College has decreased the percentage of the endowment invested in fossil fuels from 12% to 6.1%, which still works out to a $38,827,939 investment.

Hiring PDA replacement:

Anderson will be leaving the College following the expiration of his contract in June of 2023. Current Board bylaws dictate that the Board of Regents is responsible for hiring a new College president.

However, the Board voted to amend their bylaws so that the president can be from any denomination that the ECLA has established full communion with, opening the door for a more diverse pool of applicants.

New department:

The Regents granted approval to the Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality Studies — the department will house the pre-existing Race and Ethnic Studies (RACE) and Women’s and Gender Studies (WMGST) programs.

Both disciplines will remain as separate entities despite their umbrella department, and qualifications for majors or concentrations in either arena will stay the same.

Campus housing:

The Board discussed the on-track status of the Ole Avenue housing project. It was also discussed that after the completion of the project in 2022, all campus dorms are set to be renovated sequentially; Mohn, Mellby and the combined building of Hillboe/Kittlesby being the highest priority.

Contributing reporting by Caroline Peacore, Staff Reporter

Categories: Colleges

‘Senior Show’ in Flaten offers interactivity, impact

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm
Click to view slideshow.

 

At first glance the Senior Show in Flaten looks more like one of those fun science museums for kids than a traditional art gallery. Bulbous knit tubes hang from the ceiling, a rack of colorful scarves flutter in the air conditioning and an animated neon maze flashes in the window. The spirit of play and exploration continues once inside the museum. The kitchen table in the back corner is set for dinner, and the replica clay processing station feels like someone has just stepped away from an archeological site. The back wall has accumulated a collage of coloring pages. To be clear, I intend these comparisons to be entirely complimentary. Throughout the exhibit, the student artists accomplish something that few galleries make an effort to achieve. They welcome the viewer to touch and to participate. They masterfully use texture and color and space to invite the viewer to directly engage with the intimate and the important and the beautiful.

The Senior Show is an annual exhibition of senior studio art majors’ capstone projects. This year’s gallery features the work of 28 students. Most of the artists started planning their projects during interim and worked on their pieces for the duration of spring semester.

Sarah Swan-Kloos ’21 created the aforementioned coloring page for her exhibit.

“My work aims to break down the hierarchy between the museum space, artist, and viewer in order to establish a communal sense of creativity,” wrote Swan-Kloos in her artist’s statement. “Art should be for and by the people: it is the shared experience of the artist’s creative process combined with the wisdom in the viewers.” Swan-Kloos invited museum-goers to color in a print using the provided colored pencils and tack it up in the gallery. By the time I walked through the exhibit, a sizable cohort of Swan-Kloos’ pensive swimmers had collected on the wall.

Devin Cuneen ’21’s sculptural knit installations welcome similarly radical involvement from the viewer. In a statement to the Messenger, Cuneen wrote, “I invite all to interact with these pieces however they see fit, with the hope that they can guide an encounter that strengthens or affirms connection. Push, pull, hug, kick these works. Treat them like your best friend.”

This type of immersive, interactive experience was a common thread in many students’ work. Natalia Grantquist ’21’s semi-circular hanging canvas allows the viewer to physically step into her dreamscape, and Eammon Stanton ’21’s typographical ode to his father gives permission for viewers to take individual posters home and gradually change the scheme of his display.

Across the hall, GH Wood ’21’s collection of pottery is displayed on the sun soaked windowsill. Like many of the other artists, Wood welcomes tactile participation with some of his pieces. He asks viewers to “stop, take a seat, and spend some time with these cups – to live fully in this moment … Before you leave, please, help build a community of moments by writing a note with the provided pen and paper. Afterwards, crumple it up and toss it into the pitcher to add your voice to the moment.”

Despite explicit encouragement from the student artists, it is still difficult to cross the deeply ingrained and often staunchly enforced barrier between art and consumer. It still feels like alarms will start blaring if you get too close. However, this sort of humility and accessibility is precisely what makes the exhibit so compelling.

In the midst of this atmosphere of experimentation, students also used their gallery platform to explore issues of personal interest, social justice, family and identity.

In “Memento mori,” Simon Stouffer ’21 offers a resin coated cow skull mounted on a wire as commentary on sustainable agriculture and ethical food production. In his artist statement Stouffer writes, “The piece is a specific examination of the beef industry in the United States in which an average of 30-50 million cows are slaughtered each year. My interest is in the value and respect for life we as humans hold for the animals we raise to feed our families.” The slack in the wire lends an unsettling and effective life to the piece.

DeAnia Brown ’21’s series of bronze cast faces explores the experience of addiction within marginalized communities, while Marcel Hones ’21’s haunting and bleak audio-video work delves into familial trauma and loss.

The extension of the gallery across the hall is anchored by Melinde Madsen ’21’s hand-dyed curtains and Rida Ali ’21’s wooden mosaic.

“Islamic geometric architecture patterns and Islamic Calligraphy is part of my culture and religion,” Ali said in an email to the Messenger. “Nothing could be more fascinating for me to work on than these elements. The process was tiring, exhausting yet wholesome. After the completion of the piece and receiving such amazing feedback after the opening of the exhibition, it is quite rewarding, and all the late-night hours at the studio were worth it.”

The Senior Show runs in Flaten until May 29, and a virtual gallery is available on the website. I highly encourage taking a break from the ordeal of finals and finding time to engage with the joy, talent and vulnerability our art students have put on display.

summer1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Good or Bad?: Grading the Viking’s recent draft picks

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm

With the NFL draft in our rearview mirror, it’s about time we take a look at what players had the misfortune to be taken by the Minnesota Vikings. Which bright-eyed young man will have the privilege of suiting up for the purple and gold only to go 7-10 in the 2021 season? We should take a look at the first few of these poor bastards, and at least acknowledge them now before they inevitably fade into obscurity under the impeccable tutelage of Head Coach Mike Zimmer.

Round 1, Pick #23 – Christian Darrisaw, Offensive Tackle (Virginia Tech)

An excellent value pick at 23 overall, the Vikings managed to snag the third best offensive tackle and fourth best offensive lineman in the class.

While that doesn’t sound all that great in a normal year, this year’s class had an insane amount of depth at the position, with Oregon Tackle Penei Sewell going to the Detroit Lions at pick #7, Northwestern Tackle Rashawn Slater going to the Los Angeles Chargers at pick #13, and USC guard Elijah Vera-Tucker going to the New York Jets at pick #14. Darrisaw is likely a day one starter and will provide much needed insurance for a Vikings offensive line that has been suspect in recent years, allowing 39 sacks in this past season alone.

Round 3, Pick #66 – Kellen Mond, Quarterback (Texas A&M)

In an insanely deep quarterback class, Mond became the sixth QB off the board. A project player out of Texas A&M, Mond had a pretty decent college career, leading the Aggies to 9-1 record in an abridged 2020 college football season, ending as the fourth ranked team in the country in the AP poll, behind only the Ohio State Buckeyes, Clemson Tigers, and the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Despite going on to be named the senior bowl MVP, Mond has not shown enough potential to have any real chance of unseating Kirk Cousins for the starting job this coming fall. I expect Mond to spend much of his NFL career holding a clipboard.

Round 3, Pick #78 – Chazz Surratt, Linebacker (North Carolina)

Looking to shore up what was a historically bad defense this past season, the Vikings found a nice piece in the third round in Surratt. Despite being recruited to play quarterback, Surratt decided to make the switch to linebacker after struggling with both inconsistency and injury. The decision would pay off greatly, as over his last two seasons as a Tar Heel Surratt would be named First Team All-ACC. Surrat will provide the Vikings with nice depth at the linebacker position, offering much needed assistance to a struggling unit.

Also, I just want to take a moment to say goodbye. I’m going to be graduating in just a few weeks, so this will be my last article for the Mess. It’s been a great three years writing for this paper, and I want to thank my editors (particularly Eli Tan <3), and particularly you all for taking the time to read my incoherent ramblings. Love you all.

warren4@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

The TRIPS waiver is not enough to get manufacturers to vaccinate the world

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm
Illustration by Sadie Favour

 

Breaking against decades of foreign policy and the expectations of many geopolitics experts, the Biden administration has just stated support for a proposal in the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines in order to speed up production around the world.

The Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights waiver proposal, put forward by India and South Africa in October of 2020, would waive patent protections for many vaccines and pieces of medical equipment, allowing them to be produced by countries all over the world. The Biden administration has only agreed to pursue waiving the patent for vaccines, however. This agreement has gained increasing pertinence as breakouts in India have grown more dire, where there are currently 22 million active cases — a number growing by hundreds of thousands a day.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that the waiver will take months to pass in the best of cases, considering it requires unanimous consent of the 164 member nations of the WTO for talks to even get started in full. The United States was previously one of the holdouts preventing the deal, but there are now still others, most saliently the European Union and the United Kingdom.

Even if the waiver is to pass, it will be a drop in the bucket in comparison to what needs to be done to stave off vaccine inequity — only one percent of the population in low-income countries have as of writing been vaccinated, even as rich countries like the United States are rapidly approaching distributing more vaccines than can be used. Similarly, the medical technology and specialized knowledge required for the production of the vaccine would not be delivered simply by waiving the patent.

Furthermore, waiving patents does not prevent governments from engaging in inequitable distribution on their own. The most disgusting example of vaccine inequity is Israel, wherein the country has denied vaccines to Palestinian residents in the occupied regions of Gaza and the West Bank. The denial of vaccine doses to the Palestinian population is a moral atrocity, an attempt at ethnic cleansing and considered a war crime by the Geneva Convention, which requires occupying nations to provide healthcare to people in occupied territories.

Even if the plight of millions trying to survive the deadly virus is unconvincing, allowing the vaccine to spread in lower-income countries will aid in the construction of new variants of the virus. One such variant, first tracked in the sparsely-vaccinated South Africa, is so brutal as to render many current vaccines ineffectual. If rich nations do not ensure that the world is swiftly and equitably vaccinated, there could come a time in the very near future where all present vaccine progress will be rendered useless in the face of a devastating new COVID-19 variant.

So, what can be done? Firstly, the U.S. can utilize emergency powers to enforce vaccine manufacturers to share information, practices and equipment with manufacturers around the world. If negotiations in the WTO take too long, the U.S. can also exercise an emergency power never before used (it was once threatened during the early 2000’s anthrax scares) to seize patents from vaccine manufacturers unilaterally. This could allow the U.S. to bypass the WTO and spread manufacturing information around the world immediately, albeit with likely legal challenges. Regardless of whether or not the powers are exercised, threats to do so can cause vaccine manufacturers to produce extra vaccines to stem outbreaks around the world in order to reduce political pressure on them.

Vaccine manufacturers have reported billions and billions of dollars of profits during the COVID-19 pandemic, and even companies who funded failed attempts to produce vaccines have been able to recoup their investment by assisting companies who have created vaccines with increased manufacturing capacity. Any argument that patent waivers will reduce innovation is ridiculous when faced with any of the facts of the matter. The profit turned already has dramatically recouped all investment, and the return will surely grow as the companies continue to produce shots and boosters for years to come.

Furthermore, the political situation is so unique and dangerous as to provide no indication that any serious long term change in the United States’s intellectual property regulations would arrive. This is all to say that any and all ways that the U.S. can strongarm vaccine producers will be exclusively to the benefit of the world. Similarly, billions of dollars must be spent around the world for medical infrastructure in order to effectively get the world vaccinated. When millions are dying, marginal profit should not be a consideration.

graham10@stolaf.edu

Logan Graham ’22 is from

Warrenville, IL.

His major is philosophy.

Categories: Colleges

‘Nobody,’ a beautiful and grounded action movie

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm

What do you get when you cross the director of “Hardcore Henry” with the creative team behind the “John Wick” franchise? “Nobody” (2021), a beautifully executed action movie grounded in the brutal violence of reality.

“Nobody” is an exhilarating 92 minutes of cinema complete with one of the most intense hand to hand fight scenes ever conveyed in film. Bob Odenkirk of “Better Call Saul” shines in his role as Hutch Mansell. He’s a regular guy with a regular family working a regular job: a nobody. Of course, this normalcy doesn’t last long. It is soon revealed that Hutch has the sort of John Wick-esque reputation that makes criminals rethink their life choices. The stars align, and he’s thrust into a bloody war with the Russian mafia.

And bloody war is certainly the right description. The body count in this movie is around 75, more than the entire “Die Hard” franchise but slightly less than the first “John Wick” flick. However, it is the quality rather than the quantity of violence that truly elevates “Nobody” above all the other middle-aged-star-turned-badass movies. The violence feels real, and every hit taken by the titular character feels like it truly hurts. “Nobody” stands alongside “Oldboy” (2003) as having one of the single best choreographed, filmed and edited fight scenes I’ve seen. This attention to detail is evident in every part of the film. Its stylised look beautifully compliments the gritty action happening on screen.

It is impossible not to directly compare “Nobody” to the “John Wick” franchise. After all, the works were written by the same creative team. “John Wick” (2014) was praised for its slick action, set pieces and the fluidity of gunplay. “Nobody” is a slight departure from this formula, giving Emmy nominee Bob Odenkirk the opportunity to embody his character. His performance was characteristically excellent.

None of this is to say that the movie takes itself too seriously or isn’t any fun. The last act, in particular, borders on over the top excess. Clearly inspired by the classic Hong Kong movies of John Woo, director Ilya Naishuller made sure to end the movie in spectacular fashion.

“Nobody” is an action film for the discerning cinephile looking for something fun. To quote Hutch Mansell himself, “Give me the goddamn kitty-cat bracelet, motherfucker!”

jenner1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Admission rates remain steady through second year of enrollment amid pandemic

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm

The pandemic has affected many aspects of life on campus, but for high school seniors looking to find the right college, the stress may be even more prominent. The St. Olaf admissions office has attempted to offer as many services as possible to students to give them a glimpse into life at the College, including virtual tours, virtual high school visits, and virtual college fairs. As the COVID-19 cases on campus fluctuated, the admissions office offered in-person tours when it was deemed safe to do so.

“We gave students the opportunity to select virtual events that took place over the course of several weeks,” said Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Chris Goerge in an email to the Messenger. “We also expanded the hours of when our virtual programs took place to accommodate the schedules of prospective students from around the country and around the world.”

There was a potential that admissions rates would drastically change as the pandemic took its toll, but the College has seen steady application rates despite the unprecedented times.

The College made the decision to go test-optional and offer an Early Action decision role February of 2020. Though this decision was made prior to the pandemic, the College plans on keeping the policy for the foreseeable future.

“Our plan to go test-optional and offer an Early Action decision round played a significant role in increasing our applications 20% over last year,” George said. “As of today we have received more than 6,300 applications and our admit rate this year dropped by 2% to 48%.”

Currently, the college plans to enroll around 780 first-year students to the class of 2025, with some early decision applicants already committing as well. For comparison, the College welcomed 786 students for the class of 2021 and 813 for the class of 2022.

“Our research shows that a student’s high school GPA and academic rigor do the best job of predicting success at St. Olaf College, and I think being a test-optional school will provide more opportunities to students to consider applying to St. Olaf,” George said. 

The Admissions office plans to maintain the virtual programming options for the Fall of 2021, but will adjust as the pandemic allows. They plan to continue to support incoming students with tours, college fairs, and different events or activities, whether they be online or in person.

“While the pandemic and campus COVID procedures will dictate the timing of many of our in-person events and activities, we are looking forward to returning to this new normal,” George said. “We were excited to have increased interest and our plan is to maintain our admit rate around 50% as we look ahead.”

lindah1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

What is happening in Xinjiang: How could you help Uyghur people?

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm
Illustration by Kenzie Todd

 

Almost 1.5 million Uyghurs have been detained in vocational training centers in Xinjiang, a region in the northwest of China. China has started building camps that they call “vocational training and education centers” in Xinjiang where detainees are subjected to forced labor in Xinjiang’s cotton fields. Right now, you could be wearing clothes made on the abuse of Uygurs’ labor — and, if you stand with Uyghurs, that is not okay.

Uyghurs are the largest Muslim Turkic ethnic group living in China. In 2017 the Chinese government started to eliminate the Uyghur culture and their Muslim religion by putting them in “re-education camps.” This mass detention started in 2017, and since then the government has exploited the resulting free labor and has gained economic benefits from it. Human Rights Advocate Amed Khan reported for the Cable News Network that the people in these detention centers “have described being subjected to indoctrination, physical abuse, and sterilization.” Simply put, these people are being detained because of their religion, which shows that China considers Islam an extremist ideology.

China believes that Uyghurs hold extremist ideas and that their religion is a threat to China’s sovereignty. An official Chinese Communist Party audio recording was obtained and circulated by Radio Free Asia which shows China’s view of Uyghurs. “Members of the public who have been chosen for re-education have been infected by an ideological illness. They have been infected with religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology, and therefore they must seek treatment from a hospital as an inpatient.”

This is ethnic cleansing, and it has been going on since 2017. The Chinese government started to justify their action against Uyghur Muslims as part of Washington’s declaration of “war on terror.” The Chinese government banned men from growing long beards and women from wearing hijabs. A lot of people have been locked up because they learned Arabic or grew a beard. Practicing a religion is one of the basic human rights, and China is taking away Uyghurs’ rights to practice Islam. On top of that, Uyghur Muslim families are forced to welcome Chinese Communist officials into their homes in order to receive political education.

The United Kingdom imposed sanctions on Xinjiang cotton products, and this has caused China to retaliate and deny the allegations of abuse and forced labor. It seems that China does not want external actors such as humanitarian organizations or governments to interfere with the situation in Xinjiang.

So far, China has succeeded in hiding the real situation that is taking place in these concentration camps. They have prohibited social media within these concentration camps. They also have prohibited any international investigation, which makes it very difficult to see the genocide that is happening.“The term genocide should not be used casually,” wrote Khan in an aforementioned article. “But it’s correct to use it to describe China’s treatment of the Uyghurs.”

I believe in the power of voice, and there are several ways to help the Uyghur Muslims, as well as raise awareness. For instance, use your voice to sign petitions, and use your social media platforms to raise awareness. Some clothing companies such as H&M have boycotted China’s cotton. Therefore, boycotting brands that use cotton from Xinjiang could stop the forced labor. Please visit the website of the End Uyghur Forced Labour organization for more information about which brands are connected to the suppliers of Xinjiang cotton. This website will also allow you to call for action and sign a petition.

We as the St. Olaf community have the power to make a change by using our voices to sign petitions and supporting companies that have policies against the use of involuntary labor of any kind in our supply chain. Realizing that China is violating Uyghur’s human rights, we should all boycott Xinjiang cotton to help these people who are held against their will. Xinjiang is one of China’s biggest regions and produces about one fifth of the world’s cotton. By boycotting the cotton this region produces, we could help to reduce the forced labor.

siciid1@stolaf.edu

Najah Siciid ’23 is from

Hargeisa, Somalia.

Her major is quantitative economics.

Categories: Colleges

3 More Weeks Left

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm

If finals weren’t holding a gun to my head

I’d write a poem for every person with a Friday-flowerless mailbox

And stick the folded love letter in the empty cavity like a heart transplant.

I don’t even have the free time to think about all the things I would do if I had the free time

But if I did

I would write a poem

To all the people whose classes have been clawing at the insides of their skull.

To the people stuck boomeranging between

class,  dorm, bunt, class, dorm, bunt

As if your whole world has been reduced to the space inside those buildings.

To those who go all day with empty DMs, but overflowing Inboxes.

To those whose weekends are still water, uneventful, waiting games you’re tired of playing.

To those that hunker down in the library long enough to hear the COVID guidelines announcement more than once.

To those who linger around an empty Buntrock after hours, when it is occupied by no one except the ghosts and custodians.

To those who are mentally already back home where there is mom’s cooking and good barbers.

To those international students who will not see their families and have no one except Netflix and each other.

To the seniors who will soon be leaving St. Olaf with a degree, an adult life and a bitter resentment towards all that is on the Hill.

To those whose only consistent human interaction is with Elaine.

To those whose semester has been proof the “college experience” is a myth.

To those who were quarantining in isolation long before COVID ever was a thing.

I want you to know this campus would be nothing without you.

Please hang in there.

You got this.

We got this

And I wish you the best:

For peaceful weekdays and memorable weekends.

For successful finals and cheap plane tickets.

For tight goodbye hugs and darling photos for proof it all happened.

For an easy recovery after your vaccine shots and an even easier recovery after Friday night shots.

For fulfilling internships, high paying summer jobs, warm weather and 8 hours of sleep.

You deserve it. Call this a shoutout or an inspiration post or a St. Olaf flirt or whatever you need it to be to make the home stretch less stressed. You are more than capable. We are almost there.

                                                    Only 3   

                                                                 More

                                                                                             weeks

              left.

Categories: Colleges

The increasing bureaucracy of St. Olaf

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm
Illustration by Kenzie Todd

 

As Logan Graham ’22 argued last week in opinions, St. Olaf’s “finely curated” aesthetic creates a stifling environment for students. However, the College’s intentional manicuring of its spaces is only the outward-facing form of a more entrenched system; to compete as an institution of higher education, St. Olaf must not only look like a corporation — it must act like one too.

St. Olaf’s corporate image is in direct response to its relentless need to vie for students. In the U.S., the number of higher education institutions in the country hasn’t fallen below 4,000 since the year 2000. Compare this to the number of similar institutions across Europe, which currently sits at 2,725. The U.S.’s free-market higher education system inundates the country with private institutions which need to maximize value as they compete for a share of eligible students.

Colleges and universities achieve value-maximization through a number of different avenues — targeting specific types of consumers (prospective students), differentiating their product through tags like “school of music” or “technical institute,” or highlighting their geographical distinctiveness. St. Olaf uses these approaches, branding itself as “intensely residential” and playing into the distinctiveness of “the Hill” — not to mention its fascination with music, displayed most notably through the annual, highly marketed Christmas Festival.

Common to all value-maximization, however, is a push to bureaucratize. This is seen across the board through the extension of existing administrative offices or the creation of new auxiliary bodies that streamline types of non-essential college functionings. “Critics complain these offices often duplicate work already being done on the campuses they oversee and employ scores of bureaucrats who have no direct role in teaching or research,” Jon Marcus, higher education editor at The Hechinger Report, wrote in The Atlantic in 2016. Marcus further notes how the number of staff in higher education institutions has seen a continued rise despite “steep budget cuts, flat enrollment, and heightened scrutiny of administrative bloat.”

Examples of this type of bureaucratization abound at St. Olaf. The creation of distinct “centers” — the Lutheran Center for Faith and Values, the Piper Center for Vocation and Career, the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion, the Institute for Freedom and Community — evidence the bureaucratic push. Plus the College added to the President’s leadership team in 2020. All of these extensions fit the St. Olaf brand — the same two or three colors, minimalist logos and two-word taglines.

One of the major questions that arises when considering the growth of bureaucracy is its general effectiveness. Is the work of the Lutheran Center, the Taylor Center or the Institute best left in the hands of student organizations, or is bringing these functions in-house a better approach? In the end there is no correct answer. While students may feel put-off by St. Olaf’s corporatization, they must accept it as the consequence of the College’s position as an entrepreneurial enterprise fighting to stay afloat in a sea of competitors.

But while creating new centers, hiring new staff and rebranding toward a polished type of corporate minimalism may be effective in terms of marketing, it is not effective in meeting the purpose of a liberal arts education. At its core the liberal arts ethos is dynamic and challenging — not in the sense of necessary academic or professional rigor, but in the sense of pure freedom. A liberal arts education promises the freedom to bend this way and that, to explore and to critique openly, to create but also to deconstruct. St. Olaf stunts these ideals when immovable and implacable bureaucratic structures bracket students and make them pursue a specific way to engage with subjects like political dialogue, religion or social diversity.

St. Olaf needs a push away from bureaucratization. It needs a shift from aesthetics to an earnest encouragement of student voices, no matter how chaotic they might be. It needs to close its eyes and open its ears — only then can the institution truly feel free.

marand1@stolaf.edu

Jacob Maranda ’22 is from

Rock Island, IL.

His majors are

economics and philosophy.

Categories: Colleges

WMGST, RACE to receive departmental status

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 12:00pm

The proposed Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department was granted approval by the Board of Regents at their May meeting. The department will house the pre-existing Race and Ethnic Studies (RACE) and Women’s and Gender Studies (WMGST) programs.

The women’s and gender studies major and concentration will be renamed gender and sexuality studies effective in the fall of 2021.

Associate Professor of English and Director of Race and Ethnic Studies, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, described the formation of the department as “a watershed moment in both programs’ histories signalling their enduring significance at St. Olaf College” in an email sent to students in affected programs on May 11.

WMGST and RACE will remain as separate entities despite their umbrella department, and qualifications for majors or concentrations in either arena will stay the same. The departmental status for the programs brings a number of benefits: greater funding and resources, a dedicated office on campus and, perhaps most notably, the ability to hire and promote faculty.

While designated as programs, any faculty who taught WMGST and RACE courses must have been hired by a department and thus also teach courses in another subject. Now, the Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department can hire and promote dedicated faculty to instruct within the discipline.

The status as a department will also inherently grant the disciplines a more secure place in the College going forward — while the school has clear steps they must take to terminate a department, there is not a clear procedure that must be followed to terminate a program. This makes programs more vulnerable to being defunded more easily.

There will be an informational and celebratory event for the new department on Buntrock Plaza on Thursday, May 13 at 4 p.m. featuring an open mic for students.

stroth2@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges
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