Blogosphere

Despite grumbling, Rice Co. property taxes are among state's lowest

Northfield News - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 1:30pm
At a Truth in Taxation hearing Thursday evening, Rice County Administrator Sara Folsted presented a semi-final version of the 2020 budget. If approved later this month, it would include a levy slightly smaller than the preliminary figure approved in September.
Categories: Local News

Minnesota National Guard to release names of helicopter crash victims on Saturday

Northfield News - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 12:33pm
ST. PAUL — The names of the three Minnesota National Guard service members who died Thursday, Dec. 5 in a helicopter crash outside of St. Cloud are expected to be released on Saturday.
Categories: Local News

Jazz I presents intriguing, offbeat performance

Manitou Messenger - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 12:26pm

The nationally-renowned St. Olaf Jazz I ensemble presented its fall concert on Friday, Nov. 22, featuring an intriguing mix of ballad, funk, Cuban and other styles along with a unique take on a jazz classic.

The two-hour long performance began with the short and punchy Benny Golson tune “Stablemates,” which featured trumpet Eric Holdhusen ’22 playing Dizzy Gillespie’s solo over the entire track.

The concise first tune gave way to “Meditation in D,” a piece so complex in its lengthy composition that conductor Dave Hagedorn had to restart during the ponderous introduction. Upon restart, pianist Branden Ma ’21 played a wonderful opening solo which led to strange cascading harmonies from the large brass section. The saxophones mimicked these harmonies at the end of the piece, with a disjointed guitar solo by Soren Schwendeman ’20 in between. “Meditation in D” was easily the strangest piece of the evening.

A Charles Mingus tribute to fellow bassist Oscar Pettiford, “O.P.” was the third song of the concert. Arich Fruehling ’23 and Zach McCarty ’21 kicked off the piece with a bebop tenor saxophone duet, and Schwendeman returned for a tight guitar solo midway through.
Intricate piano playing by Ma throughout “Count Me In” drove the first ballad of the evening. Ben Van Wienen ’20 offered an excellent muted trumpet solo towards the end of the piece.

If you were to mix the Pink Panther theme with a traditional Cuban groove, you would get “Cubauza,” the moody yet energetic end to the first half of the concert. The piece featured several tempo switches throughout, guided by some spot-on drumming with cues from Hagedorn. Holdhusen and Sean Nolan ’22 featured on trumpet and trombone respectively, each highlighting the various tempo swings. Aaron Linde ’20 played an eccentric alto saxophone solo, and Jack Wolf ’20 finished out the soloing with a more laid-back baritone saxophone feature.

Post-intermission, the concert returned with the boisterous “The Razor’s Edge,” the sixth song of the performance. The entire trumpet section was featured in a round-robin of solos at the opening of the piece. Colby Andersen ’23 offered one of the weirdest, most rambunctious alto saxophone solos I have ever heard, and Wolf and Chris Cannon ’23 collaborated for an exquisite bari sax and trombone duet towards the end of the piece.
For the seventh song, the band reworked the Ornette Coleman classic “Lonely Woman” through a unique arrangement by modern Indian composer Talvin Singh. A syncopated triplet drum pattern drove the piece, which included another brief trumpet round-robin and a rock feel during the solo by Nolan on trombone. Extended horn harmonies, which both introduced and completed the tune, melted down into nothingness at the end.

A unique take on a jazz classic, “St. Louis Blues” featured guests Jackson Brown ’20 on clarinet and Venus Su ’21 and Lauren Flaten ’21 on flute as substitutes for the usual alto and tenor sax parts. Similar to other pieces throughout the evening, this strange arrangement included a “mélange” of tempos throughout, switching from an energetic opening to a more laid-back middle. Solos featured Linde, Nolan and Van Wienen on alto sax, trombone and trumpet, respectively.

The concert culminated with the up-tempo, tremendously energetic “Some Skunk Funk.” The piece highlighted the phenomenal saxophone section playing extended high-energy runs throughout. Fruehling and Schwendeman combined for a tenor sax and guitar duet, and a set of bongo drums entered the picture towards the very end of the tune.

While the entire concert was a hodge-podge of sorts, with unique song arrangements and conductor Hagedorn’s mic cutting out between each piece, it all came together for a wonderful, albeit strange evening of music. With a final standing ovation, it was clear the entire crowd – which filled the Pause to near burst – thoroughly enjoyed the mixed-bag performance.

marand1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Heart Beat

Manitou Messenger - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 12:22pm

In my high school AP Literature class, we took a personality test that we called the “color test.” The main colors were green (logical nerds), blue (emos), gold (moms) and orange (party people). After the class got our results, the teacher read us poetry about romantic couples where the two people had conflicting colors: a green and blue couple, a gold and orange couple and so on.

Later that year, I scandalously started dating a girl in the grade below me. Our flirty back-and-forths during our second semester journalism class surprised everyone, mostly because I was the loud English geek while she was the busy doctor-wannabe. We had nothing in common when we started talking, and we still struggle to find similarities between us, yet our differences are precisely what brings us closer together.

I am a crybaby blue who cries when I hurt a friend, and I spend most of my time working on relationships. My purpose in life is to understand my emotions and express them to literally anyone who will listen. My girlfriend is a detached green who cares mostly about academics and family. She hates being told what to do and prefers managing her own time. However, now that we have learned to trust each other, I cling to her for stability, and she confides in me her emotions and struggles.

Especially in college, when a long distance relationship depends on trust and communication, dating someone who is your opposite can actually prove to be the best match ever.

I am not the most organized or studious person, but my girlfriend is, and she will lay down the law and force me to study for an hour while she is finishing an essay for class. On the flip side, I will make her take an hour long break after hours of studying, and we will FaceTime to catch up and talk about life.

We do not have the same taste in fashion, food or music, so we are always broadening our artistic palettes, even if her taste in food sucks. Our differences are best experienced by others, too. Imagine a blue fashion-oriented e-girl standing next to a green leggings-and-cardigans girl. And do not even get me started on the fact that she still listens to the band and singer Panic! At The Disco.

Most importantly, when we fight about the future or how we are gonna keep this long-distance relationship going, we always have opposite points of view to draw from. If she is feeling like seeing each other every two weeks is too distant, I remind her that the challenges make us stronger and more secure in each other. Then, she tells me that she does not care and wants to see me sooner. Ah, what a green!

I am not saying that couples who are basically twins are bad. In fact, common ground and similarity can be assets when deciding where to go for dinner, but with my green girlfriend, I do not have to sweat the big ideas, like the future. We just argue a bit until we compromise and figure out the best solution. After all, if you date someone with the same goals and plans, there is no room for growth and trying new things.

My blue and her green match perfectly together, and I would not want us any other way. Although our relationship may be confusing and unlikely, we work together to keep a strong, healthy relationship even when I am 45 minutes away.

Here’s the link to the color test https://profile.keirsey.com/#/b2c/assessment/start
Note: blue and green have switched now since I took the test.

larion1@stolaf.edu

Having trouble navigating the St. Olaf dating scene? E-mail your questions to mess-ae@stolaf.edu and maybe one of our love columnists will answer them in next week’s issue. All submitted questions will remain anonymous.

Categories: Colleges

Student journalists and the pursuit of objectivity

Manitou Messenger - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 12:19pm

The Daily Northwestern, the student newspaper of Northwestern University in Chicago, received a great deal of national media attention last month, and not for the right reasons. Outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post documented the backlash from professional journalists over the paper’s needless apology for using the most basic of journalistic practices after protestors complained about them. The Times’ headline nicely sums up the regretful mea culpa: “The Daily Northwestern Apologizes to Student Protesters for Reporting.”

The protestors were criticizing the Daily’s coverage of a Nov. 5 speech by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the student demonstrations that took place outside the lecture hall. Some protestors tried to break into the event space and shut down the speech, leading to a confrontation with University police.

The chaos was documented by Daily photographer Colin Boyle, who then did what so many journalists do when covering breaking news: he posted the photos on Twitter. Meanwhile, Daily reporters frantically worked to finish their articles, using the University’s directory to obtain the phone numbers of protestors they wanted to interview. The reporters texted these individuals first, asking if they were willing to be interviewed. The Daily published several articles the following day covering both the speech and the surrounding protests.

Boyle and the Daily’s editors soon faced a wave of criticism for these three innocuous examples of basic journalistic practices. The criticism was fairly vicious, so vicious that the dean of Northwestern’s esteemed Medill School of Journalism, one of the top journalism schools in the country, characterized it as “vitriol and relentless public shaming.”

The Daily reversed course mere hours later, granting anonymity to a previously-named student protestor quoted in one of the articles and apologizing for using the University directory to contact potential sources. Boyle deleted some of the photos he posted on Twitter – specifically, those in which protestors could be easily identified.

Then came the editorial. It shocks me that one of the best student newspapers in the country published something so filled with motivated reasoning, shoddy arguments and pandering. My shock ultimately stems from the fact that some of the brightest journalists of my generation were either ignorant of basic journalistic practices, cowed by the opprobrium cast their way by angry protestors, or so biased by ideology that they abandoned several basic reporting techniques to appease activists’ demands.

The editorial justified Boyle’s decision to delete some of his photos from Twitter by arguing that, while they are the paper of record at the University and wanted to convey the significance of the event to its readership, “covering traumatic events requires a different response than many other stories.” Because some protestors found the photos retraumatizing, the newspaper stood behind their deletion, arguing that “nothing is more important than ensuring that our fellow students feel safe.”

This is absurd. A newsroom that prized the emotional comfort of its readers and sources above all else would not be able to report on a number of pressing topics. Reporting on terrorism or violent crime? Retraumatizing to witnesses and survivors. Reporting on white supremacist rallies? Retraumatizing to bystanders and counter-protestors, as well as certain historically marginalized groups that might be triggered by Nazi imagery in some of the photos.

This is not hypothetical – I’m sure there was considerable discussion in many newsrooms over which photos of the August 2017 white supremacist and neonazi “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. they should publish. Despite the fact that some of these images were surely difficult for readers to see, such as those displaying Nazi and white supremacist symbols brandished by rally participants, the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe and other outlets published them nonetheless. If these news organizations can publish images of such a traumatizing event with so many hateful symbols brandished by some of the worst bigots in society, the Daily can surely publish pictures of what amounted to a fairly small, peaceful protest.

The editorial also mentions that some students found the photos “invasive.” The problem with this critique is that the protestors, who were demonstrating in a very public space at a prominent campus event, had no reasonable expectation of privacy. Furthermore, as the Los Angeles Times’ Robin Abcarian astutely points out, protests are often newsworthy by design, meant to loudly denounce, disrupt and raise awareness.

Regarding concerns about Daily reporters’ use of a University directory to find and contact potential sources, the editorial responded by admitting maximal guilt and characterizing these reporters’ actions as an “invasion of privacy.” Again, it’s bewildering to see such a celebrated newspaper condemn the use of a phone book. And again, the Daily puts forward a warped, overly cautious version of journalistic ethics in response to student criticism. Prohibiting the use of publicly-available contact information to find and reach out to potential sources would make reporting far more difficult to little or no benefit.

Finally, there was the paper’s decision to retroactively grant anonymity to a protestor quoted in one of the articles. As stated in the editorial, the paper was responding to worries that the University might see that individual’s name and discipline them for protesting.

I have never heard of a publication retroactively granting anonymity like this. The status of an interview and whether the source can be quoted should be determined before the interview begins. The quoted protestor chose to speak with the Daily reporter and face whatever risks accompany that decision – their words were not gathered surreptitiously and are fair game to use and attribute by name.

If you don’t find my arguments convincing, consider the fact that countless high-profile journalists have lambasted the Daily’s apology. Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman expressed her concerns on Twitter, writing that “a student newspaper saying normal process is somehow a bad thing is incredibly troubling.” Legions of journalists expressed similar views on Twitter, including Washington Post reporter Amy Brittain, Los Angeles Times correspondent Matt Pearce, and Chicago Tribune reporter Gregory Pratt.

I want to emphasize that I’m not trying to attack the Daily or impute any nefarious intent. After all, the Daily’s apology appears to come from a sincere, commendable desire to better examine the impact of the paper’s coverage, especially its impact on marginalized groups that have long faced mistreatment from the media.

However, the Daily seems to have forgotten the numerous benefits of journalistic objectivity and let their political convictions cloud their judgement. Consider: would the Daily have been nearly as responsive to protestors’ concerns if they came from a group protesting China’s oppression of the Uigurs, for example? I doubt it, given that this is a much less salient issue for the many left-leaning reporters and editors that make up the lion’s share of most student newsrooms.

A media organization’s reach diminishes sharply when it abandons impartial reporting. Readers with different political beliefs reflexively distrust biased media organizations, which in turn limits the impact of even high-quality investigative reporting from these outlets. The pursuit of objectivity also improves accuracy by forcing reporters to examine their own biases and cover the many different sides of a story.

The Daily Northwestern’s misguided editorial and the ensuing controversy illustrate the need for journalists and public intellectuals to educate the public on reporting practices and journalistic ethics. Young reporters likewise need to recommit themselves to impartiality, as difficult as that may be, and realize that journalistic objectivity is often a better tool for rectifying injustice than advocacy journalism and other biased forms of media. Finally, editors at student newspapers need to stand up for long-held tenets of ethical journalism, even in the face of biting criticism from their peers.

carlen1@stolaf.edu
Sam Carlen ’20 is from St. Paul, Minnesota. His majors are economics and mathematics.

Categories: Colleges

Hastings man pleads guilty in death of two; Dunn discusses new warden and jail study; Estrem benefit; McCarthy goes out with a party

KYMN Radio - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 12:02pm

By Teri Knight, News Director The driver accused of killing two people pled guilty in Dakota County Court yesterday. 34-year-old Joseph Paul Czeck of Hastings pled guilty to two counts of Criminal Vehicular Homicide in connection with a fatal crash on July 9 of last year. A 1,100 pound boulder fell off the back of

The post Hastings man pleads guilty in death of two; Dunn discusses new warden and jail study; Estrem benefit; McCarthy goes out with a party appeared first on KYMN Radio · Northfield, MN · AM 1080 & FM 95.1.

CANCELLED City Council Meeting/Work Session

City of Northfield Calendar - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 10:32am
Event date: December 10, 2019
Event Time: 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM
Location:
801 Washington Street
Northfield, MN 55057

Gare running again for Minnesota House 20B seat

Northfield News - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 10:00am
A Montgomery trailer-tractor driver is taking a second run at a Minnesota House seat after losing last year to Rep. Todd Lippert, DFL-Northfield.
Categories: Local News

Craig Swenson

KYMN Radio - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 9:41am

Craig Swenson from FiftyNorth talks about events coming up at the center.

The post Craig Swenson appeared first on KYMN Radio · Northfield, MN · AM 1080 & FM 95.1.

ArtZany: Hvistendahl and Sauve – Milestones and Memories of the St. Olaf Band

KYMN Radio - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 11:20pm

Today in the ArtZany Radio studio Paula Granquist welcomes writer, researcher, and editor Susan Hvistendahl and St. Olaf archivist Jeffrey Sauve. They will share the stories from their new book Milestones and Memories of the St. Olaf Band 1891-2018. Author Signing Susan Hvistendahl and Jeff Sauve Milestones and Memories of the St. Olaf Band 1891-2018

The post ArtZany: Hvistendahl and Sauve – Milestones and Memories of the St. Olaf Band appeared first on KYMN Radio · Northfield, MN · AM 1080 & FM 95.1.

Evolution of the SPM requirement

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 7:21pm

Over the last decade, the physical activity general education (GE) requirement, currently known as Studies in Physical Movement (SPM), has evolved to become both more inclusive and more accessible to the student body.

From the start, St. Olaf has focused on and valued the inclusion of physical fitness in its curriculum. In January of 1897, one student wrote in the Manitou Messenger, “the descendants of the Vikings ought to take the lead in making bodily exercise compulsory. There ought to be a gymnasium at every Norwegian college.”
Physical education classes became a requirement in 1907 under the administration of President John Kildahl.

In 1923, the College offered activity courses similar to current courses offered in the exercise science department, but some of them were a little more unusual. At nearly 92 years of age, Rev. Arnold “Andy” Andersen ’23was interviewed by the Manitou Messenger in 1985 and recalled his experience on campus. In one required course, the men were required to take boxing, Andersen ’23 said.

“We had to learn how to box. You had to know how to defend yourself,” Andersen said in an interview with the Messenger in 1985.

Other required courses also sought to maintain St. Olaf’s Norwegian heritage. In the past, the College required students to take Norwegian classes if they were of Norwegian ancestry.

Over time, St. Olaf has built and rebuilt three gymnasiums, including the current Skoglund Athletic Center built in 1967. At its opening, Skoglund was only available for male students, as female students completed their gym courses in a separate gymnasium on campus.

In the 1990s, students had to fulfill the “Physical Activity” (PHA) GE, one of the predecessors of the SPM that carried a four-course requirement. Due to financial troubles at the time, St. Olaf faced budget cuts to faculty and programs, which resulted in the requirement being reduced to two courses and re-titled as Studies in Physical Movement in 1998 as part of larger GE reform.

The most recent draft of the new GE curriculum will reduce the requirement to a single course and change the name to the “Active Body” requirement, as the faculty continue to strive for a more equitable and accessible activity requirement.

The SPM requirement has been criticized in the past due to its lack of accessibility for students with differing mental and physical capabilities. The GE Task Force, which recently completed the OLE Core Curriculum that was approved by faculty at a recent meeting, initially chose not to include the SPM in the curriculum due to the ableist nature of the courses offered, said Task Force student representative Myrtó Neamonitaki ’20.
In a Messenger opinion article last fall, Kayla Carlson ’19 questioned the SPM’s lack of accessibility for students with disabilities.

“Students with disabilities have to jump through enough hoops regarding accessibility in everyday life — should a GE requirement at an educational institution be another one of those obstacles?” Carlson wrote.

The Task Force is looking to make the activity requirement more cross-disciplinary, with classes in departments such as theater, biology and music able to fulfill the requirement, as well as study abroad programs, said department chair of exercise science Cindy Book.
Moving forward, the exercise science department will offer an inclusive fitness course spring 2020 that is accessible for students with physical disabilities. Held in the Pause, the class will allow students to move and be involved as much as they can, Book said.

bermel1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Mental health resources fail to meet student demand at St. Olaf and beyond

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 7:17pm

With the recent departure of counselor Nina Mattson ’95, Boe House Counseling Center continues to struggle in meeting the mental health needs of St. Olaf students. Inadequate mental health resources at the College follow a national trend of institutions failing to meet growing student needs.

Mental health services struggle to meet student needs
“When I talk to my colleagues, other directors, whether it’s at Carleton or the cities or Chicago schools, we’re all facing the same problem where we’re under-resourced to meet the demand, much like what’s happening in the community,” said Director of Boe House Steve O’Neill.

Long wait times highlight this disparity between student need and support given. Boe House currently has up to a three week wait for a student to see a counselor and up to a four month wait to see a psychiatrist or nutritionist, according to the St. Olaf website.
Boe House employs three full-time counselors and is currently looking for a fourth to fill Mattson’s position. O’Neill is the only counselor present during the summer. Four interns also work 20 hours a week under supervision.

In recent years, counselors and interns have faced growing demand for their services, with 21 percent of the student population visiting Boe House last year, O’Neill said. The October departure of Mattson, one of only four fully-licensed counselors, highlights the understaffing problem.

“When I talk to my colleagues, other directors, whether it’s at Carleton or the cities or Chicago schools, we’re all facing the same problem where we’re under-resourced to meet the demand, much like what’s happening in the community.”
– Steve O’Neill

Abby Benusa ’20, a former patient of Mattson, said she waited two weeks for her third meeting with Mattson before receiving an unexpected email from O’Neill announcing Mattson’s departure. The email included an apology and resource alternatives two days prior to the appointment. Benusa then rescheduled to meet with an intern counselor three weeks later.

“This is just super not sustainable for me,” Benusa said. “I’m in a time in my life where I just need a lot of support right now.”

O’Neill offered sympathy for students whose mental health care was disrupted by Mattson’s exit.

“For those students, that was really unfortunate for them and it’s a disruption for them especially last minute, but that was the circumstance so we tried to do what we could to best meet their needs,” O’Neill said.

Mattson could not be reached for comment regarding her departure.

Nationwide trend

St. Olaf is not alone in facing strained mental health resources – far from it. Growth in the demand for mental health care has far outstrippestaffing increases at numerous institutions. Between 2009-2010 and 2014-2015, the number of students seeking counseling center services grew by an average of about 30 percent, while student enrollment increased by only five percent, according to a 2015 report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH) at Penn State University.

A subsequent 2017 analysis of the CCMH data published in the journal “Psychological Services” found that demand grew steadily over the five-year period. Colleges and universities across the country are struggling to meet this recent increase in need, an increase driven by rising prevalence of anxiety and depression among college students, greater awareness of mental health issues and reduced stigma associated with receiving mental health care, among other factors.

Moreover, Northfield as a community lacks enough resources for students who need a higher level of support than Boe House can offer. Allina Health’s Northfield clinic currently has a two to three week wait time to see one of its five psychologists and is not currently taking new patients for either of its two psychiatrists, according to Alexis, a scheduler for Allina Health that could not provide her full name for confidentiality reasons.
Grinnell College, a liberal arts institution in Iowa with an enrollment of around 1,700 students, faces a similar situation to that of St. Olaf.

Licensed Psychologist at Grinnell Student Health and Wellness (SHAW) Charles Bermingham explained that the college’s remote location limits its resources, much like St. Olaf in the Northfield area.

“We’re in a rural part of Iowa, so the resources just aren’t the same as if we were in a more populated town or a more populated city,” Bermingham said.
Bermingham is glad that the stigma behind reaching out for help has decreased, but noted that the volume of students seeking resources outstrips those provided by institutions and community providers.

“I think this is a key topic that’s on the minds of pretty much everyone on campus,” Bermingham said.

Due to the expanding need, innovation and creativity in utilizing existing resources is crucial, Bermingham said. To look towards more innovation, Grinnell offers drop-in appointments and has recently added group therapy as well as telepsychiatry to their list of resources.

Macalester College, another small, liberal arts institution with an enrollment of roughly 2,200 students, is also under resourced.

“We’re considered to have a good clinician to student ratio, which is about one clinician for every 300 students, but as you can imagine that’s still quite insufficient to the task,” said Liz Schneider-Bateman, Director of Counseling at Macalester’s Laurie Hamre Center for Health & Wellness.

In contrast to St. Olaf and Grinnell, Macalester has the benefit of being located in Saint Paul, a large metropolitan area with a higher number of mental health resources. Despite this geographical advantage, the demand for mental health services among students has continued to increase, Schneider-Bateman said.

Schneider-Bateman sees the challenge of meeting demand as a national problem, primarily due to the U.S. healthcare system which she said does not provide equitable access and is slow to bolster resources to keep up with increasing numbers of individuals seeking care.

As students look for increased support, colleges continue to struggle to find their place as institutions that can help provide mental health services to students.

“We’re in a historically unique or crucial time period in terms of college student mental health, and I don’t think anyone at any school has totally mastered what to do about it,” Schneider-Bateman said. “I think the questions of equity and access are central in that.”

drewes1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

New dorm, townhouses to replace honor houses, relocate PDA

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 7:13pm

The College has commenced the development process for a new dormitory and fourteen townhouses to replace nine honor houses on St. Olaf Avenue in an effort to expand options for on-campus student housing.

Current plans will see the College construct a single three-story dormitory on the south side of St. Olaf Avenue. Fourteen townhouses will occupy the north side, replacing Boe House and the nine honor houses. Due to the removal of Boe House, student health and counseling services will relocate to the first floor of the new dormitory.

St. Olaf hired Workshop Architects and Boldt Contractors this fall to form a project development team. The team will first confirm the proposed site of the dormitory and townhouses on St. Olaf Avenue and then create design schematics for the new buildings, Chief Financial Officer Jan Hanson said.

Pending approval by the Board of Regents in late January and development of a financing plan, Hanson said the project could break ground as early as fall 2020. The timeframe for completion depends upon whether the development team chooses to work on the project in one or two phases, Hanson said. Under current estimates, the project would be completed no later than fall 2022.

With his home set to be removed to make room for the new dorm, the College will have to find a new on-campus residence for President David Anderson ’74. While several parties are discussing the future of the president’s home, there is no definitive plan for relocation.

“The housing project has the potential to be truly transformative for the College, and especially for students, so that’s the most important thing,” Anderson wrote in an email to the Messenger. “I’m confident we’ll find the right place for a new house. I’ll be happy wherever it lands.”

The College is currently considering two plans for relocating students who reside in honor houses, said Associate Dean of Students Pamela McDowell. One plan would see the dormitory constructed before demolition of the houses to allow honor house residents to move there. The other option involves allowing more students to live off-campus to free up on-campus housing for the relocated honor house residents.

The development of new campus residences follows a comprehensive housing analysis completed by Workshop Architects earlier this year. The analysis identified a need for 440 more beds, primarily due to the ongoing process to “detriple and decompress existing residence facilities,” Hanson said. To that end, the College is converting some triple rooms into double rooms and restoring lounge and study spaces present in the original design of the residence halls, Hanson said.

Returning the dormitories to their original state will create a need for 300 new beds, which the new housing project is designed to fulfill. An additional 140 beds are included in the project to make up for the removal of honor houses, Hanson said.
The process for students residing in the townhouses could follow a similar system as honor housing, with students applying to live in a townhome in cohorts with a set purpose, McDowell said.

“I’m not necessarily wedded to the fact that it has to be a project or it has to be a language, but I do think that some intentionality of why you’re living in the townhome, there’s some positives to that,” McDowell said.

The College is considering integrating a living-learning component into the new dormitory in conjunction with the relocated health services and counseling center, McDowell said. The traditional room-draw process will fill the rest of the dormitory.

The dorm will have three wings, featuring a mix of four-person pods and single rooms, with kitchens on each floor. The dorm will include lounge areas similar to those in Rand and Ytterboe Halls, as well as study rooms and small study “nooks” along each hallway, Hanson said.

The single dormitory was initially designed to be split in two, with one wing occupying each side of the avenue. The College moved away from this design for practical reasons, as it is more cost-efficient to construct a single structure than to construct two, Hanson said.

As part of the housing development, the College will create a new formal entrance at the intersection of Lincoln Street and St. Olaf Avenue.

“We’ve referred to this as a transformative project,” Hanson said. “This is going to be the next transformative project on campus, just as Buntrock Commons was transformative 20 years ago and Regents Hall [of Natural Sciences] was transformative 10 years ago.”

marand1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Venice’s flooding: a sign of more to come with climate change

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 7:06pm

The situation in Venice is dire. Flooding in the middle of November has been deemed a harbinger of things to come for one of the cultural epicenters of Italy and coastal cities on the whole. The floods, caused by a storm from the southwest, are a sign of more floods to come more frequently for the rest of the century. Floods like this one used to happen once every hundred years or so. Now, it is every five. Scientists believe that by the end of the century it could be every five months. However, the worldwide media’s attention to the flooding in Venice is encouraging. With the increasing effects of climate change on the world’s coastal regions, it is imperative that there is awareness of the magnitude of the situation.

Venice is in no way an outlier. If anything, the city is one of the most privileged with respect to rising tides. The financial resources required to rebuild and prepare for further flooding are by no means insignificant – experts estimate hundreds of millions of euros will be needed – but Venice is a tourist hotspot, situated in a wealthy country in the European Union. There is no question that the funds necessary will be allocated. The Italian government has already released 20 million euros for Venice, in no way near the funding estimate but a real first step in Venice’s recovery.

With climate change, the real losers will be those cities and countries without the privileges that Venice enjoys. Island nations, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East will suffer due to wealthy nations’ criminal negligence in the face of climate change. In addition to dramatic sea-level rises and increased weather disasters, these regions will face food and water shortages with little to no respite as temperatures climb, fueling the positive feedback loop of climate change.

If these nations are to weather the storm, nations like the United States and the European Union must rise from their gross inaction and meaningfully assist in earnest the fight against climate change. The status quo is not enough. Fossil fuels are still being burned to an egregious degree and the Earth is feeling the heat.

If we are to pass this world to our children, there is no question that drastic action must be taken. As it is, the oceans will rise by at least three feet if we were to stop all combustion of fossil fuels today. The Earth would continue to warm for decades, temperatures finally stabilizing at a higher level than ever experienced in human existence. Coastal cities would face an enhanced might of the seas and the ocean would be more acidic, wiping out delicate marine ecosystems. Altered weather patterns would mean longer, more frequent droughts. Harvests would decline in abundance. Millions of lives would be lost. This all if we stopped using carbon today.

Corporations must be held responsible for the environmental degradation suffered at their hands. Governments must enact comprehensive climate change reform as soon as is possible. Global summits like the Paris Climate Accords (a good first step in a long line of good first steps) must be more stringent.

They must demand change from developed and developing nations alike, with any and all needs of developing nations met by developed nations to effectively retool their economies They must make up for lost harvests and prepare for further climate disaster.
The Earth has never faced an issue as far-reaching and threatening as this one. The very planet on which we all live, breathe, love and die is under siege by the very species it bore. If there is any chance for our continued existence on this rock – the only known life in the universe – it is absolutely critical that action is taken now, as the current condition of Venice heralds the world to come.

wood7@stolaf.edu

George Wood ’22 is from Glenview, Ill. His major is political science.

Categories: Colleges

Going Trayless

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 7:05pm

Food waste is a growing problem in America. Food waste is an issue that must be addressed in all food environments: home kitchens, restaurants, hotels and, yes, college cafeterias. It is disheartening that in one of the world’s most developed nations, the USDA estimated that over ten percent of households did not experience food security in 2018. It is also a pity that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that food waste composes between 30 to 40 percent of the food supply.

You are likely pondering: ‘what can I do as an Ole to decrease food waste?’ And yes, limiting or eliminating the use of cafeteria trays might seem like a reasonable idea. It is admirable that students have launched a campaign to limit food waste in the Caf by limiting Caf trays. I wholeheartedly agree with these students that Oles should be mindful of our food portions, especially since our eyes are often larger than our stomachs!

College is a transition into young adulthood. It is a time in life when adolescents who are in their final teen years should be working to build a higher standard for personal responsibility. Personal responsibility permeates all areas of life. It not only applies to being a punctual and hard-working student, but also the amount of food we choose to put on our plates.

If Oles are aiming to be responsible contributors to society, we must be considerate of the amount of food we take each time we enter the Caf. When I was a freshman, my level of personal responsibility was still underdeveloped and I would put way too much food on my tray. As a junior, I try to use my inner monologue (and still struggle sometimes) to alert myself when I could be putting too much food on my tray. I would advise my fellow Oles to use “self-talk” to take less food while still using trays. Discipline is paramount for self-control, which can be cultivated over time.

Coercive measures to limit Oles’s food intake is wrong on multiple fronts. Its well-intentioned supporters have failed to address that their policy to limit or eliminate trays is a hinderance on young adults who are working to develop discipline and personal responsibility. But the tray limiting policy has already had multiple negative results. How are Oles expected to become responsible adults if our school officials doubt our capacity to do so? Well … this policy unequivocally casts a doubt on personal responsibility and may create a nanny-state.

Limiting or eliminating Caf trays also hampers students’ freedom to take their lunch, dinner or breakfast to different areas of campus. Many student organizations meet during dinner hours, students often meet in groups to study in the Cage and many like taking their trays across campus for other convenient purposes. Carrying a plate, a drink and silverware down the stairs is not only a spill hazard, but it takes away valuable time for students who might eat more than just one plate and would need to go back into the caf for more food.

Limiting or eliminating trays will likely increase chaos in the already cramped caf. Since not having a tray limits students’ ability to carry an often-reasonable amount of food (i.e. a plate, a bowl, a drink and a dessert), too many students will be walking head-on between the dessert cases and that could increase the likelihood of physical collisions. This could increase spills, leading to more food waste. It also takes away from students’ valuable table-time, which for many is a time of relaxing and communing with beloved friends and community.

Limiting or eliminating trays is also an infringement on students’ financial liberty because we are paying for our meals whether we eat or not. While I fully support reducing food waste, it seems out of place that my fellow students are trying to mandate that we take less food even though we ourselves are paying for it. To be clear, this is not an endorsement of “take-all-the-food-you-want.” Other students should not have the power to determine how much food we take from the Caf.

Coercive policies are just quick fixes that never solve the root of the issues. Only personal responsibility and discipline allow for a fundamental change in habits. That will result in success.

rubin2@stolaf.edu
Maxwell Rubin ’21 is from Pacific Palisades, Calif. His majors are Chinese and political science.

Categories: Colleges

The Weekly List – Songs from the Bar

KYMN Radio - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 7:00pm

This week, as we celebrate the 86th anniversary of the end of Prohibition, Rich offers up a list of songs set in bars, about bars, or about the denizens of bars.

The post The Weekly List – Songs from the Bar appeared first on KYMN Radio · Northfield, MN · AM 1080 & FM 95.1.

How to handle parental pressure as an adult

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 6:51pm

Ever since middle school, my parents have expected me to have one goal in life: go to UW-Madison. Both of my parents went there, and they could not have a higher opinion of the school.

As a result, I adopted the mindset that if I was not going to go to Madison, I had to get into an Ivy League school. That was the only way my parents would be able to accept I wasn’t going to the school they believed was the most elite in the world. I dreaded having to live in a big city, lost in a crowd of over forty thousand students, having to walk half an hour to class in sub-zero temperatures.

I had to escape the future that my parents believed to be inevitable. I took as many AP classes as I could in high school, I piled on the extracurriculars that I believed would set me apart from other students, I attended elite summer camps at colleges … and then, senior year I had a nervous breakdown.

I could not do it, the pressure was too much.

As I haphazardly filled out college applications when I got out of the hospital, my father shoved the UW-Madison application at me, not giving me a choice in whether I would fill it out or not. I dreaded getting an acceptance letter, and then one day my worst nightmare came true. I got in.

My folks were so excited that I got in to Madison. I was not. Instantly my dad started talking about acceptance days and putting down a deposit. I was panicking as I hadn’t gotten into any of the Ivy League schools I believed would save me from going to Madison.

When I got into St. Olaf I was really excited, hoping I had found a way out. We came to St. Olaf for acceptance days, and the entire car ride I prayed that I would like it here and that my dad might be able to get over the fact that his son wanted to go to private school.

My first trip to St. Olaf was awesome, and I knew after a few minutes on campus that I wanted to put down my deposit as soon as possible. I told my dad that, too. Big mistake. For the full five-hour drive home, he yelled about what a good school Madison was and how stupid private colleges were while I silently cried in the back seat.

Ultimately though, I realized that I’m the one going to school, not him. I am the one taking on crippling student loan debt and staying up until one in the morning doing homework. I am the one that is going to reap the benefits and the rewards of these choices, and I am the one that is going to struggle and suffer as well.

How much of an impact will this have on him? How long the drive he makes twice a year will be and what the school name is on the sweater I will get him for Christmas? Screw that. I’m in the driver’s seat now, and these are my decisions, not his.

Parents can have high expectations and parents can have very valid concerns. Parents love us at the end of the day, but ultimately no one loves us more or understands us better than we do ourselves. Next time your mom calls you to complain that you are spending too much time on extracurriculars, or your dad asks why you did not get a better grade on a paper, remember that they are not the ones in college. You are in control. Act like it.

peters70@stolaf.edu
Teague Peterson-McGuire ’23 is from Oconomowoc, Wis. His major is Norwegian.

 

Categories: Colleges

Title IX data indicates reduced barriers to reporting

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 6:46pm

Title IX Coordinator Kari Hohn released data on intakes, investigations and investigation outcomes from the fall of 2016 to the summer of 2019 in an email to the student body on Nov. 5, fulfilling the final recommendation of the 2016 Title IX Working Group.
The data includes the number of intakes and reports, filed every time a student or mandatory reporter alerts Hohn to a potential Title IX policy violation, the number of reports that led to a formal investigation process, the number of responsible findings and information regarding sanctions, suspensions and expulsions for violations of the College’s Title IX policy.

The intent behind releasing Title IX data every three years is to increase transparency between the College and students while also protecting the privacy of those involved in the process, according to the Nov. 5 email.

There can be too much transparency with information regarding Title IX violations, said Sexual Assault Resource Network (SARN) Co-Chair Sydnie Peterson ’20. Hohn and SARN understood that “mail blasts,” or campus-wide email announcements every time a student came forward, were actually barriers to reporting and an example of “bad transparency.” The three year data release can protect any one individual from being identified through the data, Hohn said.

The data release shows that in the past three years, there have been 145 intakes and reports. Peterson and Hohn believe the high number is actually a reflection of reduced barriers to reporting, not an increase in the number of Title IX violations.

“I think the fact that our reporting numbers continue to go up demonstrates trust in that process and that students are comfortable coming forward,” Hohn said. “It’s the schools that are saying they only have one or two reports a year that I would be more concerned about.”

“We can’t help or respond to something that we don’t know about,” Hohn said.
According to the data released in the email, 77 percent of the 145 intakes and reports did not result in an investigation.

“When I meet with a student and do an intake, 99 percent of the time it’s up to them about how they want to proceed, and that includes whether or not they want to move forward with an investigation,” Hohn said.

Those who did not participate in a formal process may have participated in the informal process, obtained a non-contact directive or made connections to resources which Hohn facilitates.

Hohn said there are a variety of reasons why students may not want to move forward with a formal investigation and that it is different for every person. Students can also choose to pursue an investigation after the initial report. Not automatically investigating every report fits with Hohn’s philosophy that if you force people to move forward with processes they don’t want or aren’t ready for, they will stop coming forward.
“I want decisions to be at [the reporting student’s] pace,” Hohn said.

The informal process can involve not interacting, not having classes together and not living in the same residence hall, SARN Co-Chair Jamie Farley ’20 said.

The 77 percent of students who do not formally investigate incidents explains the gap in collected data, with many students choosing to utilize the informal resolution process, Peterson said.

Of the 23 percent of cases that do pursue a formal investigation, only 58 percent result in responsible findings.

“It’s a hard number to see, but we have to trust our process,” Peterson said.
An external investigator uses a “preponderance of evidence” standard to assess if it is more likely than not that the College’s Title IX policy was violated. If there is not enough evidence to reach that bar, the investigator uses a phrase such as “there is insufficient evidence to find this student responsible” when adjudicating, Hohn said.

“It’s not really an exoneration,” Hohn said. “It’s saying given all the information that was available, that I was able to collect, there’s not enough to reach that tipping point. That’s what I try to explain to reporting students who didn’t get that outcome they were looking for.”

The data release also reveals that only four students have been expelled for Title IX violations in the past three years. Additionally, nine students have been suspended and six have received a combination of sanctions including limited campus involvement, required counseling, required training and/or disciplinary probation.

“I think our school takes expulsion really, really seriously,” Peterson said. “I wouldn’t say I’m terribly surprised that the number is that low.”

A two person panel decides on the sanctions by using a three pronged approach of stopping the misconduct, preventing it from happening again and remedying the impact, Hohn said.

Sanctions, suspension and expulsion are decided based on several factors which may include severity, persistence and prior misconduct according to the data released in the email.

Hohn said that she hopes to continue to see an increase in the percentage of intakes because it indicates to her that people feel comfortable enough to seek assistance while at the same time bolstering Title IX’s education and prevention work.
Hohn, Peterson and Farley want to remind the St. Olaf Community that while it is important to review the statistics, ultimately the numbers represent real people in our community and that no instance of sexual or interpersonal violence is ever acceptable.

brinke1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Talking Turkey Turds

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 5:20pm

Hot off the press from David Morris – ILSR, a demolition of the Benson Burner celebratory historical podcast about burning turkey shit. The ILSR podcast gets into some of the origin of the “biomass mandate,” the history of Fibrominn, Fibrowatt from England, and in Maryland, where chicken shit was polluting land and water.

Turkey Talk: Energy Policy and Thanksgiving (Episode 86)

I so well recall the hours and hours of testimony about turkey turds back in 1998, when state Sen. Steve Novak, chair of Minnesota’s Senate Energy Committee (and on of the orchestrators of the 1994 Prairie Island bill that pushed biomass as part of the deal to keep Prairie Island nuclear plant open) refused to let “our” bill be heard that would delete the alternate site mandate to site nuclear waste “in Goodhue County.” Burning turkey shit was ahead of our bill on the agenda, and so hours and hours and hours of testimony. Of the many, many “environmental” groups in Minnesota, ILSR was the ONLY one opposing this turdful idea, and in that 1998 session, David Morris testified in excruciating detail about why burning turkey shit was a bad idea, more than I ever wanted to know about turkey shit.

So glad to see this go:

Benson biomass power plant thunders to ground in explosive demolition

Fibrowatt was run out of Delaware when they wanted to burn chicken shit there, thanks to Alan Muller and Green Delaware. That was when I’d first heard from Alan, way back in 2002, warning about Fibrowatt as they pushed into Minnesota!

When Xcel filed for permission to get out of the turkey shit Power Purchase Agreement (PUC Docket 17-530), Alan Muller and I filed comments:

20179-135237-01_Overland CommentDownload 20179-135238-01_Muller CommentDownload 20179-135581-01_Muller2Download

Note that not one of the many funded “environmental” groups weighed in on this!

The Commission gave Xcel what it wanted, including $20 million to the City of Benson…

20181-139242-02_Order Approving Petitions, Approving Cost Recovery Proposals, and Granting VariancesDownload

WHY would the PUC reward Xcel this way? Cancelling the Xcel PPAs and shutting down that Benson plant, and also the Laurentian Energy Authority, that was good, but the pay offs? Doesn’t seem reasonable to me.

And while you’re at it, check this out from ILSR on a “renewable” issue here in Minnesota and elsewhere:

Report: Waste Incineration: A Dirty Secret in How States Define Renewable Energy

Categories: Citizens

Academic freedom: words and their consequences

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 4:00pm

Associate Professor of Art History Matthew Rohn saw the artwork in a museum – a well-known reimagining of the American flag. He planned to lecture about the piece, and when class came April 23, its title left his lips:

“Die N*****.”

A black student left the room around 10 minutes after Rohn said the word and another left shortly after that. The next morning, Provost Marci Sortor informed Rohn that a bias incident report had been filed against him.

The backlash Rohn faced mirrors numerous high-profile incidents that have occurred at institutions across the country. Several of these cases contributed to a recent decision to re-examine St. Olaf’s own academic freedom policies, especially as they relate to speech in the classroom, said Chair of the Faculty Life Committee (FLC) Corliss Swain. The FLC is preparing to form an Academic Freedom Task Force to undertake this work and issue policy recommendations. 

 

Flag for the Moon

Rohn said the name of Faith Ringgold’s 1969 painting, “Flag for the Moon: Die N*****” in class. The painting features the word “DIE” behind the stars of the American flag and warps the stripes to spell the n-word. In contrast to the era’s common use of the flag to symbolize the American conquest of the moon, Ringgold’s flag symbolizes “America’s historical mistreatment of black people,” art historian Sharon Patton writes.

When Rohn finished lecturing on the work, a white student told him his use of the word was hurtful. Rohn apologized to the student, and realized he would need to apologize to the entire class.

The next morning, Rohn received an email from a black student in the class condemning his use of the n-word and saying they would not attend class again. Rohn swiftly apologized to the student in a response email.

That afternoon, Rohn learned from Sortor that a student had filed a bias incident report against him for his use of the n-word. Shortly after that, Sortor came to Rohn’s office and established a protocol for the next class meeting: Rohn was to apologize, allow students to speak their minds and a third party would facilitate a class discussion with Rohn out of the classroom.

After Rohn apologized to the class, a black student berated him for using the n-word and the rest of the class for their alleged complacency, and left. The remaining students decided it was best to conclude class for the day. After that, Rohn, Sortor and Chair of the Art Department Irve Dell began brainstorming how class should proceed.

Megan Hussey ’20, a student enrolled in the course, said the class’s morale was low at this point.

“[Class] wasn’t the same,” Hussey said. “I remember two students who used to sit next to each other who were friendly acquaintances sat across the room from one another after that happened.”

Associate Professor of Art Paul Briggs joined Rohn to lead an April 30 class session aimed at reconciliation. Only about a third of the students attended, Rohn said.

When class met again two days later, attendance remained low and a brief discussion indicated to Rohn that more changes would need to be made before class could move forward.

Briggs, Dell, Sortor and Rohn decided that the remaining classes would be taught by surrogate professors. Rohn would grade the final exam, but students’ names would be redacted.

Parties involved in the incident and its aftermath hold a variety of views on Rohn’s use of the n-word.

“I didn’t feel shocked,” said Harper Bischoff ’22, a black student enrolled in the course. “The class was African American art history, but I wasn’t really shocked that it wasn’t set up in a way that felt like I was being represented. I left the classroom not necessarily to cause a scene, but more because I felt as though I shouldn’t have to be subjected to something that made me uncomfortable because of my race.”

“I personally don’t think that it was wrong for me to say the title of a work, especially a work that was meant to be provocative in class,” Rohn said. “I am fully aware though that it did cause hurt and pain and for that I am apologetic.”

Professor of English Mary Titus, who served as a surrogate instructor, does not see a clear answer as to how Rohn should have approached the piece.

“The whole question becomes what as a teacher is your relationship to the author and the author’s intentions,” Titus said. “You know Ringgold named her work with that name as a part of its artistic being, as a part of its meaning, and so is speaking it following what she wants? Is not speaking it disrespectful to her? Is speaking it disrespectful to the present?”

Titus said professors should have a conversation with their students about the n-word and how it should be used throughout the course. The consensus reached on the matter would then determine if and how the word is used.

Dell took a firmer stance on the issue.

“We just don’t need to say that word out loud,” Dell said. “It’s not necessary because it causes way too much pain.” Sortor agreed.

“There really isn’t a place in the classroom for the use of racial epithets,” Sortor said. “I understand that can be a challenge if you’re teaching certain kinds of subjects where that language is part of what you’re interrogating. But there really isn’t a place at this point in the classroom.”

Two of the three black students enrolled in Rohn’s class declined to comment. Artist Faith Ringgold declined to comment on how her painting should be discussed in the classroom.

 

Brown Buffalo

Associate Professor of English Carlos Gallego used the n-word when lecturing about a passage from Oscar Zeta Acosta’s novel, “Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo” during the spring.

The passage highlights the circulation of the word within racially marginalized communities, epitomizing the bottom of racial hierarchy, Gallego said.

There was no visible reaction from the class following Gallego’s use of the word, he said. The next day, some of his students brought to his attention a thread on a student-run Facebook page in which students castigated him for using the n-word, with one alleging he used it casually, which Gallego denies.

Nancy Rutoh ’20, a black student in Gallego’s class, said the professor’s use of the word “was all in an academic context. He wasn’t just throwing out the n-word just to say it.”

Rutoh went further in defending Gallego’s character and intentions, citing Gallego’s support and advice during the spring 2017 protests against institutional racism at St. Olaf.

“He’s an amazing professor, he is the reason why I stayed on this campus even after the thing first year when people were writing the n-word all over campus,” Rutoh said. “So I’m just like, ‘you’re really trying to throw someone under the bus who’s really here for the POC students?’ Out of all the professors I had, he’s the one who actually made it seem like it was a problem and actually cared about how I was doing.”

The following day, Gallego told his class that using social media is not a fruitful way to address concerns about professors, and that they should instead talk to their professors directly.

Aside from students informing Gallego about the post, nobody confronted him about his use of the n-word, he said.

“For me, pretending that certain words don’t exist could be as dangerous as Orwell’s 1984 dictionaries, we’re erasing words,” Gallego said. “That’s not how knowledge works and that’s not how human memory works. So if it’s contextually relevant to a discussion, to a learning moment, then I believe that censoring the violence of a potential word almost makes that word more powerful because then it becomes the unnamable.”

“If that’s the case then I have to censor Ralph Ellison, I have to censor James Baldwin, I have to censor authors and activists who are actually fighting [racism] because they use a word that, in 2019, amidst the racial divide in this country, that one word, of all the words, that one is found to be problematic. There’s plenty of other words that are used against other types of people that circulate all the time and people use them without even thinking twice about it.”

The students who criticized Gallego on the Facebook page did not respond to requests for comment.

 

Fighting words

These incidents mirror others that have taken place at institutions across the country, with varying results for the professors involved. Some colleges and universities have stood firmly behind their faculty, while others have sought punitive measures, including dismissal.

Geoffrey Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, has said the n-word for years as part of an anecdote he tells to illustrate the fighting words doctrine, the U.S. Supreme Court’s exception to free speech for abusive language likely to incite violence. 

“The point of the anecdote was to demonstrate how powerful that word was, and how it could indeed trigger a response of anger of the sort that the fighting words doctrine was meant to capture,” Stone said.

After relaying the anecdote for years with no negative reactions, Stone faced backlash in March from students who found his use of the word offensive. One student wrote an op-ed in the Chicago Maroon alleging that “both his story and act of retelling it were racist.” On March 6, several black students had a conversation with Stone in which they described how his use of the word was distracting and painful. Stone did not face any disciplinary action and ultimately decided to not use the anecdote in the future. 

In contrast to the University of Chicago, Augsburg University suspended history professor Phillip Adamo in February for saying the n-word while quoting James Baldwin’s book, “The Fire Next Time,” according to an American Association of University Professors (AAUP) letter to President Paul Pribbenow. The University initially moved to dismiss him with cause – termination that occurs because of misconduct or poor performance.

Laurie Sheck, a creative writing professor at the New School, faced a similarly strong reaction from the university. This winter, the class was discussing James Baldwin’s essay, “The Creative Process,” when Sheck mentioned the 2016 biographical film on Baldwin’s life, “I Am Not Your Negro.” Sheck told the class that Baldwin’s original quote from his appearance on “The Dick Cavett Show” used the n-word rather than “negro.”

“I said what Baldwin had really said, and I asked them, ‘as people who need to think about language, is this the same thing? Is the title the same thing as what Baldwin said? And if it’s not, if one isn’t quoting it, what’s going on here?’” Sheck said.

A student in the class objected to Sheck’s use of the word, but the issue subsided shortly thereafter. The semester continued controversy-free, Sheck said.

The incident resurfaced when, on the last day of class, the same student who originally objected to Sheck’s use of the n-word gave an unexpected presentation on racism at the New School, the publishing industry and the classroom, according to a July letter from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) to New School President David E. Van Zandt. The student subsequently lodged a formal complaint against Sheck under the University’s discrimination policy.

On June 6, Sheck was called to a meeting with Director of Labor Relations Geycel Best and two deans regarding unspecified “student complaints.” Months went by after the meeting with no word from Best or the deans. During that time, Sheck noticed a university policy that states discrimination complaints must be filed within 60 days of the incident. She pointed this out to the deans and received no response. FIRE’s letter to the University received no response.

Things changed when Sheck reached out to the press. Inside Higher Ed, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal and the Atlantic all published articles recounting Sheck’s case. On August 14, she received a letter saying she had not violated the University’s policy on discrimination.

Emory University law professor Paul Zwier faced even harsher measures after saying the n-word in August 2018 while discussing a 1967 racial discrimination case in a first-year torts class, according to Inside Higher Ed. Zwier was suspended from teaching and barred from teaching mandatory courses for the next two years. Zwier expressed support for these measures and apologized for his use of the word. After returning to the classroom, he was suspended once more for allegedly using the epithet again in November 2018. The University’s Faculty Hearing Committee was slated to issue a decision regarding Zwier’s status at the University Nov. 5, but has not done so, Zwier wrote in an email.

 

Academic Freedom Task Force

Adamo’s case at Augsburg, among others, played a role in prompting St. Olaf faculty to consider how the College might prevent a similar incident from occurring closer to home, Swain said. The FLC is preparing to form an Academic Freedom Task Force charged with examining the College’s policies on academic freedom, especially academic freedom in the classroom, and issuing policy recommendations, Swain said.

Provost and Dean of the College Marci Sortor brought up the topic of academic freedom in the classroom at the April 17, 2018 FLC meeting, according to the meeting minutes. Sortor provided a document meant to spur discussion at the May 15, 2018 faculty meeting and argued that “faculty members are likely to find their classrooms under increasing scrutiny, with students (and parents) disputing faculty choices relative to course content and pedagogies,” the meeting minutes read.

“It was in that environment that we all found ourselves, in colleges and universities in 2016, 2017, that made me alert to the fact that this is a kind of a new terrain for all of us in higher education to have to grapple with, a new level of politicization of how we think about higher education,” Sortor said.

The FLC subsequently formed an academic freedom subcommittee in fall 2018, Swain said. The subcommittee read through various AAUP policy statements and academic freedom policies at other institutions, and examined the College’s own policy. It ultimately found that the College’s current academic freedom policy is adequate in some regards, such as its language regarding faculty research, but says relatively little about academic freedom in the classroom, Swain said. 

By November, the subcommittee realized it didn’t have the expertise needed to revise the policy, and said they would likely recommend the creation of a task force, according to the Nov. 27, 2018 FLC meeting minutes. The group finalized its recommendations in April 2019 – chief among them was the creation of an Academic Freedom Task Force, which will examine the College’s academic freedom policies, with an emphasis on academic freedom in the classroom.

The FLC still has to finalize the Task Force’s charge, determine its structure and membership, and sort out other details, Swain said. It chose not to oversee formation of the Task Force until General Education reform wrapped up, according to the Sept. 10 FLC meeting minutes.

When it does form the Task Force, the FLC hopes to recruit members with complementary, varying perspectives. It is considering “an open invitation with an explanation that we desire a wide range of interests and expertise,” the Sept. 10 meeting minutes read. To that end, the FLC plans to hold a lunch in February to “engage faculty interests” and gauge faculty interest in joining the Task Force, Swain said.

Central to the goals of the Task Force will be ensuring that the College is in a good position to address incidents similar to those of Rohn and Gallego before and after they occur.

“After hearing these other kinds of cases that have made the news … it looks like we’re trying to be proactive in addressing this rather than waiting for some incident to happen and then trying to figure out what to do,” Swain said.

irwin2@stolaf.edu
carlen1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges
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