Blogosphere

The St. Olaf Board of Regents convened

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 12:46pm

The St. Olaf Board of Regents convened over Zoom for their second tri-annual meeting of the school year on Feb. 4. The meeting focused on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at St. Olaf as well as the school’s response to COVID-19.  

The Regents and the President’s Leadership Team discussed former music librarian Ellen Ogihara’s recent resignation, and passed a resolution in honor of Bruce King maintaining their purported commitment to DEI. King will vacate his position of Vice President for Equity and Inclusion on Feb. 28 as he announced in his resignation from the college.

Professor of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science, Matthew Richey, serves as the faculty representative to the Board of Regents. Richey gave a presentation to the Board focused on recent resignations of faculty and staff of color who have cited harassment, discrimintion and racism as motivations for leaving the College. 

Echoing Richey, the Community Life subcommittee session focused exclusively on DEI. During the session, the directors of the Lutheran Center, Piper Center, Taylor Center and Institute for Freedom and Community were all prompted to speak on their commitments to DEI in a conversation that King moderated. 

In the general board meeting, leaders of DEI initiatives expressed their commitment to transparency about their current initiatives and data, as well as creating and implementing metrics by which DEI can be measured and quantified. 

BORSC has criticized the emphasis on quantifying DEI in previous presentations.

“Once you shift away from individuals and turn it into numbers, lots of things get lost,” BORSC Coordinator Fricka Lindemann ’22 said. “And it turns into this mathematical exercise rather than an effort to take care of individuals. At least that’s what we fear.” 

During every Board of Regents meeting, BORSC is allotted time to give a presentation on an issue impacting students. The presentation at the meeting focused on mental health, specifically the need for better preventative mental health resources. 

“There’s currently only one person in the entire school that is employed who is partially working on that,” Lindemann said. 

That person is Jenny Ortiz ’15, the assistant director of wellness and health promotions in the Wellness Center. While Lindemann acknowledged that Boe House Counceling Center had stepped in to provide some preventative mental health resources during Interim, she cited a recent CDC report showing that one in four Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 reported having seriously considered suicide during the pandemic. This demonstrates the urgent need for increased mental health care and the importance of putting resources toward preventative mental health services. Lindemann said that BORSC’s presentation was overall well received. 

However, Lindemann also expressed frustration at a response from a College employee who said that preventative mental health care should be a Student Government Association (SGA) initiative. SGA currently has the Greater Than initiative aimed at promoting mental health awareness.

“Almost every presentation we hold gets some type of ‘But what about the students, why don’t they do it?’” Lindemann said. “Which is not the purpose nor audience of BORSC’s presentations.” 

Beyond hearing from students and faculty representatives at the meeting, the Board of Regents also approved multiple changes to the College’s operations. For the entirety of spring semester the College will randomly test 525 students weekly, nearly double the number who were tested each week in the fall. Additionally, the Board certified the renaming of the Department of Exercise Science to the Department of Kinesiology, a change made to more accurately reflect the broad focus of the department. 

In addition to changes regarding the College, the Board also unanimously passed changes to their own governing bylaws on how new members are selected for the Board. 

Previously, according to the bylaws, the Chair of the Board alone could select a new person and have them become a Regent. While previously the rest of the Board could give feedback, the feedback process was not required for the selection of a new member.

The change to the bylaws requires that several board members must confirm and review a new board member before being appointed. 

At the meeting, the Board also appointed one new regent, Marvin Benton `75. While at St. Olaf Benton was a member of CUBE. He is the current president of Harvard Kennedy School’s Black Alumni Association as well as a member of the Kennedy School’s Alumni Board. 

The Board members shared that they will place greater emphasis on gender, racial and occupational diversity in the future selection of new Regents. 

The Regents also discussed future decisions, including a proposal submitted by the student organization Climate Justice Collective urging the school to divest from the fossil fuel industry. The Investment Committee will vote on the proposal at their final meeting of the school year in May. 

mulher2@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Webinar reviews bias reporting process

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 12:44pm

St. Olaf’s Bias Response Team held a Zoom webinar explaining the bias reporting process on Friday, Feb. 19. The webinar, hosted by Team members Kari Hohn, María Pabón, Rosalyn Eaton and Corliss Swain, addressed recently updated reporting guidelines that meet newly released national standards.

Interim Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Director of the Taylor Center, María Pabón, explained, during the live question-and-answer session, that the Bias Response Team was created in 2017, making it relatively young. For this reason students may be less aware that they are able to report an incident, or they may not be fully aware of the reporting process. Pabón emphasized that fears of not being believed, retaliation or not having enough evidence should not keep one from choosing to report.

“If anyone has any questions or would like to know more about how our bias reporting process works, they shouldn’t hesitate to reach out or file a report,” Hohn wrote in an email to community members. “We really want our community to know about and understand this process so that folks feel comfortable reporting and our Bias Response Team is better able to know about and address discrimination that occurs within our community.”

During the current academic year, the Bias Response Team has received 24 bias incident reports. Of these 24, 11 were classified as “intakes,” in which the reporting party chose to pursue a follow-up conversation with the Bias Response Team. From those 11, there has been one instance of a restorative justice process and three investigations. 

Hohn explained that after a report is submitted to the Bias Response Team’s website, the reporter will get an automated email from the Team acknowledging that the report was received. After this step, Hohn will send a personal email offering to meet with the reporter and further discuss the incident. The decision to meet rests on the individual who submitted the report, the training explained. 

Continuing the webinar Hohn emphasized that the Bias Response Team cannot disclose information to the general public that it receives from reports, whether they are anonymous or not. However, the Team may involve supervisors, class deans, law enforcement or medical assistance, if necessary. 

The panelists explained that the most important thing to know is that any investigations or conversations between parties can only move forward with the consent of the person who submitted the report. The reporter can choose to move forward with a restorative justice process, which includes an optional moderated conversation between the reporting party and the responding party. 

The reporting party can also choose to pursue an internal investigation, in which anyone involved would be St. Olaf affiliated — an external investigation would utilize resources and people that are not affiliated with the College. An internal investigation would allow members of the Bias Response Team to conduct an investigation into the reported incident, which could include interviewing both parties and reviewing other evidence such as screenshots of an online incident. The webinar presented less thorough details about an external investigation during the webinar, but details would be disclosed by the Bias Response Team upon the reporting party’s decision to pursue this method of investigation. 

If one chooses to speak to a non-confidential St. Olaf employee while they are working, the employee is required to refer the reporter in the direction of confidential resources. Confidential resources are available on campus that are not required to disclose information.Confidential resources include Boe House Counseling Center, College pastors and chaplains, St. Olaf Assault Resource Network (SARN) advocates, health services and the campus conduct hotline. Proper safety precautions will follow if there is a clear and present threat to the reporting party. 

The webinar was open to all St. Olaf students and faculty, and 184 people in total attended the live session. The webinar was also recorded by the Bias Response Team and has been made available for those who could not attend.

lindah2@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Frustration accumulates as College fails to address pattern of racism on campus

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 12:42pm

On June 22, 2020, the Messenger published an article detailing the resignations of Michelle Gibbs and Lisa Moore from St. Olaf. Their resignations, during the same semester, came alongside a national reckoning around race. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others outraged many Americans, leading to protests against police brutality and systemic racism.

Frustrations came to St. Olaf during the fall semester. Members of the Cultural Union for Black Expression (CUBE) called attention to the administration’s poor treatment of BIPOC faculty, students and staff during a community march planned by Oles Against Inequality (OAI), a group led by members of the St. Olaf football team that spawned in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake. 

CUBE’s accusations during the march —  in part planned by the College’s administration — led to discontent across campus, with posters and chalk displays denouncing President David Anderson ’74, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Bruce King and “Ole Culture” — a term used in Gibbs’ resignation letter — appearing in public spaces around campus and outside the President’s former home on St. Olaf Avenue.

While Anderson and King attempted to offer words of solidarity and verbally committed to change, the truth of St. Olaf’s treatment of its BIPOC faculty reappeared five months later when Ellen Ogihara, a former research and instruction librarian, resigned from the College on Jan. 29. In a letter to colleagues that accompanied her resignation, Ogihara cited several instances of bias and discrimination she experienced at the College.

Three days later, Anderson announced King’s forthcoming departure via an email to students. King sent his own email hours later, explaining that his leaving is due to purely personal reasons.

Read more from this week’s news section for more about King’s resignation and St. Olaf’s continued work on issues of systemic racism, bias and discrimination. 

marand1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Bruce King says: “Everything, In Time” – community members say change is long overdue

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 12:39pm

Bruce King says: “Everything, In Time” – community members say change is long overdue
King’s departure follows year of turmoil

Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, Bruce King, will leave his position on Feb. 28, drawing to a close his career at the College which spanned over a decade and which saw King assume a leadership role in St. Olaf’s efforts toward diversity, equity and inclusion over the last year.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the killing of George Floyd offered stark reminders to King that “nothing is promised,” reminders that encouraged him to reflect on what was most important. This reflection led to his resignation at St. Olaf sooner rather than later.

“It was important to me to take agency for myself,” King said. “I have lived my entire life on an academic calendar, it was my call to make and I made it.”

He plans to move back to his hometown of Chicago in an effort to connect with his family and partner while fostering a more sustainable life. Having spent the majority of his career following an academic calendar, King decided to leave halfway through the year to better serve these important areas.

King has worked in the world of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) his entire professional life. These vocational efforts toward DEI reflect the value he places on higher education, King said.

However, DEI is an area of work that can be difficult for BIPOC people, as these efforts are intersectional in both personal and professional environments. Battling burnout, King hopes to reconnect with what made him so passionate about higher education and DEI work in the first place.
“I want to be more connected to the reason why I went into higher education,” King said.“ If it’s not changing the lives of people who need education the most, then I’ve lost my focus.”

Over the last 13 years at St. Olaf, King has overseen the recruitment of BIPOC students and faculty, citing a 15 percent increase of faculty of color and an 18 percent increase of BIPOC students.

While King is proud to have seen the increase of BIPOC individuals at St. Olaf, he grieves for the students and faculty who have been disappointed and hurt by their experience at the College.

“I wish that every person of color that I helped recruit to the College would have found the life that they would’ve wanted at the College,” King said. “I do grieve for the people I told and who I encouraged to bring their lives to the College and it didn’t work out.”

The search for a new Vice President of Equity and Inclusion will continue over the next semester, a transition for which King is excited and believes is necessary for the College’s continued work towards equity, inclusion and antiracism.

“I think St. Olaf needs new leadership in diversity, equity and inclusion and it’s time for someone to come in with a fresh set of eyes, energy and a new viewpoint,” King said.

During the transition and hiring process, Director of the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion, María Pabón Gautier, will serve as interim Vice President for Equity and Inclusion while maintaining her position at the Taylor Center.

Pabón accepted the interim position after collaborating with her team at the Taylor Center to ensure that her team members feel confident about her next step. Pabón will continue to oversee the Taylor Center while focusing on the duties of her new role. The addition of Guadalupe Romero ’20 as an administrative intern will help with day to day activities.

Pabón hopes to strengthen communication and create visible action and change over her interim period.

“There is so much that has been going on that we have had to react to in this work, so how do we plan so that rather than reacting so often we can prevent and start building that community and that work Bruce started around equity and inclusion?” Pabón said. “My hope for this semester is that our community can see action.”

Following the resignation of several BIPOC faculty and staff members who cited racism and discrimination as motivations for leaving, Pabón wants to stay informed of the
needs of BIPOC faculty, staff and
students.

Pabón will stay in her Taylor Center office rather than moving to Tomson Hall, a promise she made to students.

“Staying in the Taylor Center will help her remain connected and accessible to the community,” Pabón said. “As a staff member myself, I want to stay very connected to the experi-ences of our staff from marginalized identities and underrepresented backgrounds,” said Pabón. “So, for me, I want to focus this year on understanding the experiences of
underrepresented staff, staff of color and staff in different areas.”
bermel1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

New COVID testing procedures draws confusion from students

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 12:30pm

As students returned to campus after a long winter break, the enforcement of COVID-19 community standards largely mimicked those in place during the fall. One noticeable difference was the transition to saliva based COVID-19 testing for all students, faculty and staff.

The turnaround times for test results were also different, with some students receiving their results less than 24 hours after their test. This new testing procedure prompted some students to speculate that

St. Olaf had transitioned to rapid saliva testing, which the CDC recognizes as less accurate.

However,  an email sent to the St. Olaf community on Monday, Feb. 15, addressed the change in testing and attributed it to St. Olaf’s new partnership with Infectolabs America. Although a different procedure than the nasal swab, the Infectolab saliva test is a PCR test, meaning it detects the viral RNA of the COVID virus in a sample. Different from PCR, an antigen, or rapid test, detects viral proteins that fluctuate in the incubation period based on when the test is administered. Additionally, the ability to self-administer the test reduces the risk of St. Olaf community members contaminating outside volunteers, who previously administered nasal swab tests.

Enoch Blazis, head of the Coronavirus Task Force, explained that the switch to Infectolabs originated after COVID-19 cases spiked in Minnesota, placing more stress on the Mayo Clinic laboratory with which St. Olaf was previously partnered.

“The turnaround times for testing began to stretch longer and longer, and when we have students who need to be isolated and contact traced, it is important to get results back as soon as possible to protect our campus community,” Blazis said.

Infectolabs America is a German-based company that previously specialized in tick-borne disease testing, but the FDA granted Emergency Use Authorization and certification to Infectolabs to test for COVID-19. Its lab location in Minneapolis and the ability to prioritize St. Olaf testing samples made it so the change “just made sense” to Blazis and the Coronavirus Task Force.

For those worried about the prevalence of false positives, “the Minnesota Department of Health dictates that a positive is a positive, regardless of any subsequent negative tests. Although the consequences of a false positive are unfortunate, we will continue to follow the direction of health officials to keep our community safe,” Blazis said.

boldt3@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

School board votes on new name for Sibley; Vaccine efforts continue to improve; City and Chamber encourage small business PPP applications

KYMN Radio - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 12:02pm
By Rich Larson, News Director On Monday night, the Northfield Public School Board voted to rename Sibley Elementary School to Spring Creek Elementary School. With the reputations of many historical figures suffering through the long lens of history, last fall the board adopted a policy prohibiting the district from naming buildings after people. The shift

Why you should definitely apply for the Oregon Extension

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 10:00am
Illustration by Anna Weimholt

If you are interested in a semester full of petting dogs, hiking, not wearing masks and living in a really cool community of humans who care about the world, the Oregon Extension is almost definitely for you.

The Oregon Extension was one of the only off-campus programs offered last semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program, offered each fall, is an opportunity for students to step out of the traditional, fast-paced college culture and opt for something more intentional. Located in the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument, the Oregon Extension offers students the opportunity to connect deeply with the natural world, themselves and their area of study. The program creates a uniquely valuable experience for any college student who wants to take time to invest in their own well-being and learning experience.

Students take only one course at a time, four in total, allowing them to dive deeply into the material that they are learning. Each segment attempts to find answers to large questions including, “what does it mean to be human?” and “what is a sustainable world?” Students spend most of their learning time in small group discussions in professor’s houses or in group lectures. Students are given the freedom to research two topics of their choosing throughout the semester, working individually with one of the professors.

After each segment, students take a trip off-campus. These trips can range from backpacking and camping, to visitng the coast and city. This educational format fosters mental wellbeing and academic engagement in a way I have never experienced before.

Community is a cornerstone of life on the mountain, and students are responsible for a variety of different farm posts that keep the community strong. These farm posts range from working in the garden or milking goats to food preservation and growing mushrooms. These jobs not only help build a strong, functioning community, they also offer wonderful learning opportunities.

Students are asked to give up their phones during the week and unplug from the internet, creating a stronger, more genuine community. Students make themselves busy by going on hikes, reading, playing games, doing yoga, going on bike rides or just about anything they can think up. After the semester, students often leave with relationships that will last their entire lifetime. The community aspect of the program was the most meaningful part of my experience, and giving up technology proved to be a crucial aspect for fostering that community. It is not a cult, I swear.

The Oregon Extension offers a unique experience any time, but especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last semester, students were able to quarantine as a large community of 32 on the mountain and engage in a normal, COVID-free semester. (No to wearing masks, yes to partner acrobatics and sharing hammocks).

This program offers students a unique opportunity to fall in love with what they are learning and see life from an entirely new perspective. Not to mention, financial aid often makes the program more affordable than a semester on campus and you can meet up to six General Education requirements.

If you are looking for an escape from the stress of college and want to see what living life more intentionally can feel like, I can’t recommend anything more. It was the most valuable semester for figuring out how I want to live my life, not to mention the happiest, and I bet any Oregon Extension alum you find will say the same thing.

leikvo1@stolaf.edu

Anna Leikvold ’21 is from Apple Valley, MN.

Her major is English.

Categories: Colleges

New COVID testing procedure draws confusion from students

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 10:00am

As students returned to campus after a long winter break, the enforcement of COVID-19 community standards largely mimicked those in place during the fall. One noticeable difference was the transition to saliva based COVID-19 testing for all students, faculty and staff.

The turnaround times for test results were also different, with some students receiving their results less than 24 hours after their test. This new testing procedure prompted some students to speculate that

   St. Olaf had transitioned to rapid saliva testing, which the CDC recognizes as less accurate.

However,  an email sent to the St. Olaf community on Monday, Feb. 15, addressed the change in testing and attributed it to St. Olaf’s new partnership with Infectolabs America. Although a different procedure than the nasal swab, the Infectolab saliva test is a PCR test, meaning it detects the viral RNA of the COVID virus in a sample. Different from PCR, an antigen, or rapid test, detects viral proteins that fluctuate in the incubation period based on when the test is administered. Additionally, the ability to self-administer the test reduces the risk of St. Olaf community members contaminating outside volunteers, who previously administered nasal swab tests.

Enoch Blazis, head of the Coronavirus Task Force, explained that the switch to Infectolabs originated after COVID-19 cases spiked in Minnesota, placing more stress on the Mayo Clinic laboratory with which St. Olaf was previously partnered.

“The turnaround times for testing began to stretch longer and longer, and when we have students who need to be isolated and contact traced, it is important to get results back as soon as possible to protect our campus community,” Blazis said.

Infectolabs America is a German-based company that previously specialized in tick-borne disease testing, but the FDA granted Emergency Use Authorization and certification to Infectolabs to test for COVID-19. Its lab location in Minneapolis and the ability to prioritize St. Olaf testing samples made it so the change “just made sense” to Blazis and the Coronavirus Task Force.

For those worried about the prevalence of false positives, “the Minnesota Department of Health dictates that a positive is a positive, regardless of any subsequent negative tests. Although the consequences of a false positive are unfortunate, we will continue to follow the direction of health officials to keep our community safe,” Blazis said.

boldt3@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

UMI leads quarantined campus through meditation, healing and acoustic joy

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 10:00am
Illustration by Aimi Dickel ’22

The prospect of a Zoom concert certainly turned some heads. The live music experience, which has been essentially dead for the last year, is something that seems particularly ill-suited to digitization. If you want to listen to artists online, why not pull up Spotify? The Music Entertainment Committee’s Quarantine Cup concert with neo-soul R&B artist UMI anticipated these objections, and UMI proved that an excellent live music experience over Zoom is possible.

UMI did not open with a hit single to get the crowd excited, nor did she include anything you may expect from a typical concert. Instead, she began with a short guided meditation session. After a week of strict quarantine and bitterly cold weather, UMI’s mission to create connection and relieve anxiety was deeply welcome. Her Zoom setup placed her in an amazingly sunny room — UMI lives in Los Angeles. — directly in front of an array of plants. When her set did begin, it was all relaxed, acoustic versions of her songs, along with some great covers. UMI made sure to engage with the Zoom chat during the set in order to take song suggestions.

The event had the energy of jamming with a friend late at night in your dorm more than it did a concert — the audience just happened to be lucky enough to have an immensely talented and lauded musician as a friend. The Q&A portion of the event maintained this light and friendly atmosphere, as UMI gave advice for making music and talked about her next project — a live reimagining of her EP Introspection featuring sound bowls —  interspersed with reflections on how her identity influences her musicianship.

This whole enterprise would have been a disaster without UMI’s charisma. The awkwardness of the digital stage faded away with UMI’s confidence and calm assurances. Only someone who was both deeply authentic and self-aware could have pulled off this concert and created such an engaging and relaxing atmosphere over Zoom. Perhaps it was because UMI herself, at 21, could tune in with the emotional state of us quarantined college students, and knew that we needed her healing energy.

graham10@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

StoReads: “Why We Drive” is a perfect quarantine tangent

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 10:00am

COVID-19 has created a reliance on the remote, the technological, the automated. I went for three months without getting behind the wheel of a car during the 2020 fall semester and found myself rooted more and more in place, fed through the umbilical cords of Moodle, Google Drive and  Stav Hall. As a student locked on campus, I almost never have to cook for myself. Transportation largely involves a few steps down the sidewalk, and Google Calendar feeds my thoughts to me industrially. It’s been a long time since I’ve wandered down a solid tangent.

“Why We Drive” by Matthew Crawford is just that: a delicious tangent, a refreshing reminder to look to the analog, to understand the importance of simplicity and return to old habits and their forgotten values. Crawford’s book made me miss driving aimlessly, gradually slipping into unconsciousness as my brain oozes into autopilot, relishing in the flow of the open road. “Why We Drive” brings into perspective the many things we have stopped doing and what we might have lost in simplifying our lives. The book represents Crawford embracing the art of the ramble, as his book winds down trains of thought into a web of side stories.

Above all, “Why We Drive” is a book for gearheads, as motor culture is the heart and soul of this book. Much of it uses oily hot-rodder jargon as Crawford attempts to explain the modifications to his classic Volkswagen and the community and solace one can find in dirtying their hands in an engine bay. He explores the lunacy of soap-box downhill racing, the community fostered around desert offroading and the late-night encounters beside a broken-down Jeep, each of which represent the many ways that driving culture is a defining part of a life well lived.

There’s danger behind the wheel, even more so when racing, yet Crawford questions just how much safety should matter to us. While inventions such as airbags are invaluable, he makes the point that autonomous driving systems, automatic transmissions and vast SUVs dull our senses and swaddle our mortality in bubble wrap. The idea of danger as a healthy additive to the good life is a concept that Crawford turns over and over.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that the flashy, new, techy solutions to our everyday problems are taking more from us than they are giving. While the Elon Musks of the world want to solve problems that don’t exist, the art of driving and creating a community on the road — as mundane as it might seem — is one of the things that makes us human. Crawford takes great care in making that clear. As much as this book radiates “boomer energy,” it contains valuable ideas, especially for those who feel their autonomy slipping away as the future draws nigh. Applicable to more than just driving, “Why We Drive” is Crawford’s perspective on modern life, and it is an essential quarantine read for anyone growing jaded with the menagerie of technology swaddling us today.

vorndr1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Frustration accumulates as College fails to address pattern of racism on campus

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 10:00am

On June 22, 2020, the Messenger published an article detailing the resignations of Michelle Gibbs and Lisa Moore from St. Olaf. Their resignations, during the same semester, came alongside a national reckoning around race. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others outraged many Americans, leading to protests against police brutality and systemic racism.

Frustrations came to St. Olaf during the fall semester. Members of the Cultural Union for Black Expression (CUBE) called attention to the administration’s poor treatment of BIPOC faculty, students and staff during a community march planned by Oles Against Inequality (OAI), a group led by members of the St. Olaf football team that spawned in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake.

CUBE’s accusations during the march —  in part planned by the College’s administration — led to discontent across campus, with posters and chalk displays denouncing President David Anderson ’74, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Bruce King and “Ole Culture” — a term used in Gibbs’ resignation letter — appearing in public spaces around campus and outside the President’s former home on St. Olaf Avenue.

While Anderson and King attempted to offer words of solidarity and verbally committed to change, the truth of St. Olaf’s treatment of its BIPOC faculty reappeared five months later when Ellen Ogihara, a former research and instruction librarian, resigned from the College on Jan. 29. In a letter to colleagues that accompanied her resignation, Ogihara cited several instances of bias and discrimination she experienced at the College.

Three days later, Anderson announced King’s forthcoming departure via an email to students. King sent his own email hours later, explaining that his leaving is due to purely personal reasons.

Continue reading for more about King’s resignation and St. Olaf’s continued work on issues of systemic racism, bias and discrimination. 

Marand1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

We won’t get sent home this semester, and that should worry you

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 10:00am
Illustration by Aimi Dickel

Last semester went well. The only moment at which St. Olaf seemed near a genuine outbreak was a week towards the end of the semester. After adopting a more thorough testing scheme I advocated for in October, the College kept cases low.

There was a particular refrain that became popular to convince people to take COVID-19 guidelines seriously — it went more or less like this: “you don’t want to get sent home again, do you?” While getting sent home being the predominant worry about spreading a deadly respiratory virus is, I think, a pretty apt anecdote to describe the privilege of the St. Olaf campus, there was a useful immediacy to it. It was hard to fight with the logic. We were sent home before, it could happen again. For better or worse, there is nearly no chance we get sent home this semester.

For one thing, the vaccine is imminent. St. Olaf is likely going to be able to distribute the vaccine to students later in the semester but more importantly, the assisted living communities in Northfield have been vaccinated. The administration’s largest worry last semester was St. Olaf students being responsible for introducing or spreading COVID-19 to the assisted living communities, some of the highest risk people in the country. Now that the worry of students causing carnage in Northfield has been significantly diminished by the vaccine, the administration has little reason to expel students from Northfield in the case of an outbreak.

When the campus opened last semester, it was one of the first in the country. The way President David Anderson ‘74 responded to the off-campus party the day before the start of the year got nationwide news coverage. Whether or not colleges should open was a matter of public disagreement, and there was no model for public opinion if an outbreak were to occur.

Through the semester, however, many schools fielded massive outbreaks with nearly no consequences. The University of Notre Dame had 1,434 positive cases among undergraduates last semester. Nearly one in six Notre Dame undergraduates got COVID-19 that semester alone. Surely, the lack of public outcry at Notre Dame and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which had very early and large outbreaks, set the tone for colleges around the country. The administration knows no number of COVID-19 cases would seriously damage St. Olaf’s reputation.

Likely being forced to remain on campus no matter how bad it gets is not the only indication we need to rely on each other. The administration’s data last semester indicated the vast majority of cases were spread via maskless social interactions and not in public areas like Stav or in classes. The administration, with this data and last semester’s relative success, has largely decided to rest on their laurels this semester. Despite having the capacity to conduct wastewater testing, the College elected not to. Our quarantine period this semester, while ultimately successful, was much shorter and less extreme.

The likely (and hopeful) situation is that this article will induce eye-rolls by the end of the semester. If people retain their diligence to prevent the spread of COVID-19 they had before, even with less attention and the new United Kingdom strain, we should be able to weather the storm.

graham10@stolaf.edu

Logan Graham ’22 is from Warrenville,  Ill.

His major is philosophy.

Categories: Colleges

Q&A with María Pabón

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 10:00am

María Pabón Gautier has been appointed to the serve in the role of Vice President for Equity and Inclusion in an interim capacity. Pabón currently serves as the Director of the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion, and will continue to do so.

The Messenger interviewed Pabón about the transition and her goals for the role. The interview appears below and has been edited for length and clarity.

When did the administration approach you about taking the interim position as Vice President for Equity and Inclusion?

María Pabón Gautier: [President] David [Anderson] approached me last Monday, Feb. 1. [He] asked me if this was something that I would be interested in doing, so I discussed it with my team, because the position impacts my team.

Do you know how long you plan to be in the position?

PG: No. This is interim, so we will start working this semester trying to put a search together to get someone in, but I am not sure. I am guessing at least until the end of the semester.

What will it look like splitting your time between the Taylor Center and the Vice President (VP) position?

PG: The first thing I want to say is that this was a decision I made in collaboration with my team. For me, what this will look like is that I will focus more on the VP role; however, I will continue to oversee the big picture of the Taylor Center.

What support have you been provided in making this transition and in having both areas covered?

PG: I was given the option to pick whatever type of support I wanted and needed. Having Bruce still be in the position while I transition is something that not everyone gets. Being able to figure out what is the current work that he has going on and what are some pieces that we want to continue and some pieces that we want to change or strengthen, etc, has been really good. The piece that has been heartwarming and humbling have been the messages that I have gotten from the community, from students, faculty and staff saying, ‘I know this is going to be a lot, how can we help?’

Are there things you plan on changing in the way the position works and aspects you plan on keeping the same?

PG: One of the pieces that I know that I want to strengthen is our communication. I want our communication around this work to be more transparent, more clear and more regular. As a staff myself, I want to stay very connected to the experiences of our staff from marginalized identities and underrepresented backgrounds. I also do not want to lose the pulse on our faculty.

Are there any more specific hopes for this upcoming semester that you would like to implement or work toward?

PG: My first hope for the semester is that we finish the semester, for all of you and all of us. I think right now my hope, in this position and also as the director of the Taylor Center, is that we have spent a lot of time listening, and our students, our community staff and faculty have spent a lot of time telling us what needs to change and what needs to grow and what needs to improve, so my hope for this semester is that our community can see action.

Do you have comment on the anti-racism training that just occurred? What did you think of that decision? Did that move the needle, and how are we going to follow that up?

PG: The anti-racism training is good in order to have common language, it’s a good starting point. Everyone, staff, faculty, and students, got that language, got that opportunity to get a taste of this work. We all know that just one training is not enough, but how do we use that to build that common language and then use that for the next step of how we co-create an Ole community.

Do you have comment on the resignation of Ellen Ogihara and what that means setting the tone for this semester, especially in your roles? 

PG: My comments are going to be on my feelings about what happened. As a woman of color, as a staff, reading Ellen’s letter was really painful and really hard. So, my raw feelings on that is pain, it is empathy because I have been there myself in other positions. But, also the way I was able to heal was through support. I don’t know if that’s in place right now, especially for our staff. My task-oriented mentality goes into what can we do? What can we learn from this and continue to get stronger and be better?

Starting the semester with both King and Ogihara’s resignation, how do you think these events will set the tone for the semester?

PG: I don’t know. I think there are feelings about that. I think there’s so much going on, and I don’t want the feeling to be hopelessness, or the feeling of here we go again and nothing is going to happen. So, I am really hoping that we can shift that feeling that regardless of all this that we have going on, we have some power and some control in creating change in our community right here.

How involved will King be in shaping the way that this transition moves? What will February look like for the two of you in navigating that transition?

PG: Bruce and I have a good relationship which then helps us in this transition. He will show me what he’s been doing and some of the plans that he has, but also understanding then that I take it and I move it and change it how I want.

What are some of those specific initiatives that [King] is in the middle of working on that you will be picking up?

PG: One on-going initiative is the Bias Response Team. The other piece that Bruce is engaged in is faculty searches, so then I will step into that role to help with the faculty search. Same with the Council for Equity and Inclusion, he chairs the council, so then I will be stepping into chairing that council. The co-creating of an inclusive ole community — he’s been working on that with our VP for Mission, Jo Beld, and two of our consultants, so I will be stepping in to look at what has been done, and how we can continue to move that work forward.

Is there anything that makes you nervous about balancing the two roles?

PG: The thing that makes me the most nervous, to be honest, is that I want to make our students proud, and our staff and our faculty. I do this work to make sure that it is very student centered, to make sure that everything we change in our community is only going to impact students. The other piece that makes me nervous, which I keep regularly in communication about with my team, is to make sure that they are not burdened or overwhelmed with the additional responsibilities. I think we have created a good transition plan already about things that we may have to put on pause, and what are things that we’ll continue.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

PG: As we do this work, I think it is so important to recognize those that came before us. Myself, doing this work even before I was acting as the interim, but as the Taylor Center director, I am able to do it because of people like Bruce that came here 12 years ago and started pretty much from zero. He left his piece and his puzzle that allows me to stand on his shoulders and allows me to really do this work, and for me it is very important to recognize that.

peacor1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Fighting for $15: we should raise the minimum wage

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 10:00am
Illustration by Kenzie Todd

There once was a farmer who owned a herd of dairy cows. He had the financially savvy idea that he could simply feed his cows less and sell the more profitable skimmed milk. His cows grew thin, his wallet fattened and the farmer grew accustomed to feeding his cows very little — so accustomed, in fact, that he sold his land and reduced his fields until he only had the wheat left over to feed the cows his newly defined “minimum.” Naturally, the cows became malnourished, and the local inspector demanded that he feed his cows fairly. It might hurt his business, but it is simply the right thing to do.

Our farmer has built his business upon the suffering of the cows, and his short-sightedness means he can no longer operate it. Sound familiar? The farmer is at fault for his own situation, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the American way is not to dig in and work to fix the problem. Rather, it is much more efficient to blame the cattle, spend the money for the hay on lobbying politicians and continue exploiting the cows until they drop dead to the floor of the barn.

President Joe Biden’s administration proposing to increase the minimum wage is going to hurt the economy, and those who will be hurt most by it, the workers already in a toxic relationship with capitalism, are being blamed for it. It is not the fault of the farmer’s cows that they have a right to life. It is not the fault of America’s workers that they have a human right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

This prevailing argument, that a wage increase this drastic will hurt the economy, depends on your definition of pain. To the ruling class, the largest corporations, this hurt appears like a grievous wound, the capitalist machine hemorrhaging the facade of greatness. In reality, the hurt we will feel is the strain on the muscles of our workforce. Our understanding of human value will tighten, stretch and regrow anew, stronger and more sustainable because it is more fair to those who have built it: the workers.

Addressing income inequality is an eventuality of our time. We should start now — key word being start — with an increased minimum wage, but the fight for well-compensated workers will be an ongoing one. Biden’s COVID-19 relief proposal is slated to be chewed apart by the polarized meat grinder of the legislative branch, and it is more than likely that our farmer from the beginning will be allowed to continue underfeeding his cattle. The claim that wholesale wage growth will hurt the economy is a manufactured consequence of putting off the minimum wage, to the benefit of the ruling class, and it is essential to understand that this argument is not in the long-term interest of American workers.

America is already nursing wounds from a global pandemic and climate disasters. We must intend to emerge from this pandemic with an economy that compensates workers fairly and reigns in the largest corporations. It will be a brutal gauntlet but one that starts with a fair minimum wage.

vorndr1@stolaf.edu

Justin Vorndran ’23 is from

Osceola, WI.

His major is English.

Categories: Colleges

New TRIO program aims to support students with disabilities

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 10:00am

St. Olaf College has launched a new program, TRIO Student Support Services for Students with Disabilities (SSSD), which aims to assist students with a documented disability navigate college. In Jan. 2021, Chang Dao Vang became the program director and with the recent growth of the program, two new SSSD advisors were added to the team.

The SSSD program is designed to serve 100 students, 34% of whom come from a low-income background. Each student is assigned a primary academic advisor who will help them with course registration, stay informed about their grades and assist with their adjustment to life on campus. The advisor will also refer the student as needed to other academic services, such as tutoring and the Center for Advising and Academic Support (CAAS).

“The SSSD program will be collaborating hand-in-hand with other campus offices such as Admissions, other SSSD programs and the Financial Aid Office,” Dao Vang said.

The SSSD academic advisor will remain with the student until their sophomore year, when they declare a major and receive a new advisor in their declared field. However, the advisor from the SSSD program will continue to meet with the student monthly. Along with the advisor, the program also hires upper-class student workers to mentor and connect with the first-year students enrolled in the program.

The program is focused on assisting first-year students with their transition to college by emphasizing the development of self-advocacy and leadership skills. The TRIO SSSD program takes a holistic approach to student assistance as they aim to help students from all perspectives and encourage growth academically and personally.

The new SSSD program comes at a time when the college has seen an increased demand for services for students with disabilities, Dao Vang said.

“It has been shown that students with disabilities have a lower graduation and College retention rate. To address this rising issue, TRIO SSSD provides support to students with documented physical, mental and emotional disabilities,” Dao Vang said.

With the program still in its first stages, the application for the TRIO SSSD program is open, and students can access it on St. Olaf’s website. Positions in leadership continue to evolve and be filled.

esterl1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Microfiction Corner: The Dummy

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 10:00am
The dummy

By Zoë Miller ’23

“Mom mom look!!!” cried my six-year-old. She barreled into the kitchen with her younger brother in tow. Between the two of them they carried a lopsided dummy, pieced together with duct tape and stuffed with pillows. “It’s Dad!” she said, pointing to the dummy’s clothes. They’d squeezed Raggedy Andy into the neckline of the t-shirt to serve as a head. “Now he’s home again!” my daughter said proudly, hugging the figure around its middle. That night I hurled the dummy down the stairs. It lay crumpled on the landing, Raggedy Andy looked up to me, neck bent.

Categories: Colleges

New financial relief available for small businesses, sole proprietors, independent contractors and non-citizen owned businesses

NDDC's Downtown Northfield - Wed, 02/24/2021 - 7:09pm

In order to reach the smallest businesses, Small Business Administration (SBA) will offer Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to businesses with fewer than 20 employees and sole proprietors only from Wednesday, February 24 through Wednesday, March 10, 2021. President Biden has also announced additional program changes to make access to PPP loans more equitable.

Specifically, on Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 9 a.m. ET, the SBA will establish a 14-day, exclusive PPP loan application period for businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 20 employees. This will give lenders and community partners more time to work with the smallest businesses to submit their applications, while also ensuring that larger PPP-eligible businesses will still have plenty of time to apply for and receive support before the program expires on March 31, 2021.

Small business guidance and loan resources: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources

Small business guidance and loan resources in Spanish: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-recovery-information-other-languages#section-header-2

Questions? Contact:

Mitzi Baker
Community Development Director, City of Northfield
507-645-3005
mitzi.baker@ci.northfield.mn.us

The post New financial relief available for small businesses, sole proprietors, independent contractors and non-citizen owned businesses appeared first on Northfield Downtown Development Corporation.

Categories: Organizations

Norwegian-American Historical Society has its home in Northfield

Northfield News - Wed, 02/24/2021 - 7:00pm
Scott Richardson was searching for his past.
Categories: Local News

HRA moves ahead with financing housing project

Northfield News - Wed, 02/24/2021 - 6:15pm
The Northfield Housing and Redevelopment Authority is moving forward with financing the construction of a third emergency shelter on the site of a proposed $4.7 million housing project on the north side of Hwy. 3.
Categories: Local News

Pharmacists push anti-opioids as epidemic rages on

Northfield News - Wed, 02/24/2021 - 6:00pm
Some could say it begins and ends at the pharmacy.
Categories: Local News
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