Blogosphere

MediaBeat: Netflix’s “Mr. Iglesias”

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 11:19am

By Lerato Mensah-Aborampah ’22

In an effort to be intentional about seeking out some warm, hearty and funny content from the media I consume, I have found myself naturally gravitating towards sitcoms. Yes, plain old sitcoms in all their cheesy humor, predictable plotlines and chirpy characters—all of it. So, two weeks back, after having already consumed an arguably concerning number of sitcoms throughout the summer, I landed on yet another one:  “Mr. Iglesias.”

Mr. Iglesias, better known by the full name he uses for stand-up comedy specials, Gabriel Iglesias, is a funny and charismatic high school history teacher who cares for his students and strives to see them succeed despite all odds. His group of students and colleagues are a refreshing bunch. For example, there’s Tony—the teacher that literally does nothing as far as being a teacher is concerned—and Lorenzo, a student who comes to class every day believing in one conspiracy theory after another. The relationships between the characters kept me thoroughly entertained.

“Mr. Iglesias” is about much more than just its characters, though. The show becomes an ode to teaching, a profession that society has consistently undervalued. What I particularly love about this show is that it achieves humor without glossing over some of the harsh realities that teachers and students face in the U.S.’s K-12 education system. The show speaks to obstacles such as limited school supplies and low teacher salaries through the vehicles of humor and character development.

“Mr. Iglesisas” is a sitcom that took me on more rides than I had anticipated. The show uses humor to make short, powerful commentaries not only on problems within the U.S’s K-12 education system but also on snippets of American history and the realities of systemic inequalities within education. From the seemingly inconsequential “ha ha” that escapes your lips after a fairly cheesy joke to a full-blast laugh from the core, “Mr. Iglesias” guarantees laughter and approaches important themes with worthwhile thoughtfulness. If you are looking for a fun show during your breaks between unending college assignments, “Mr. Iglesias” might just be it. 

mensah1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Heartbeat

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 11:13am

To all of the Ole couples out there,

I am so jealous of you. If you weren’t aware, only 43 percent of students are from Minnesota. So, you can imagine how many out-of-towners were forced to leave their significant others behind. I, unfortunately, was one of those people. There is a ton of stigma surrounding the long distance relationship, and in the weeks leading up to move-in day, many asked me the age-old question: Are you two going to break up before you leave? 

First and foremost, stop asking! Emotional probing is inappropriate and often causes the recipient to question their commitment. Your unbelieving scoff definitely doesn’t help either. The last thing a long distance couple needs is others questioning the validity of their relationship. Keep these thoughts to yourself and please consider the feelings of others.

To my fellow Oles in long-distance relationships, 

Communication is the most important part of any relationship, so why do we long distance lovers have such an issue with communicating? Often, we do not discuss when or how we will stay in touch, even though we are lucky enough to live in the era of texting and FaceTime!  Time is a rare resource, one which we often waste with poor time-management. Make time for your partner—schedule video chats and tell them about your day before you go to bed.  These small gestures will let your partner know that you are thinking of them. 

Once you develop a solid means of communication, it’s time to listen. Take time to actively listen to your partner and evaluate their concerns and needs. When they are troubled by the state of your relationship, reassure them! Let them know  you understand their feelings and remind them that you still love and appreciate them. While you listen, I would recommend paying close attention to their interests. It can be easy to feel disconnected when you no longer share common ground. You can still support their growth and endeavours from afar; show genuine interest, and let them know you are proud.

These are all great ways to maintain an intimate relationship from a distance, but you must also be ready to handle the rough patches. It can be difficult to address these sensitive subjects through text or over the phone, but always speak up when something is bothering you. Unvoiced concerns can easily turn into resentment. Realize that distance puts you on an uneven playing field—your circumstances will be wildly different. Be prepared to share your troubles and remember to listen. 

Caring from a distance can sometimes become very time consuming. Never be afraid to take time for yourself. Living your life is just as, if not more, important than caring for your significant other. Explore what life apart has to offer! There are countless new and interesting people around you. Don’t feel guilty about having a life outside of your relationship. I would recommend it for any type of couple. Explore yourself and share what you’ve learned. 

So, that leaves the dreaded problem of trust. I would just like to say, if you don’t trust your partner when you leave, should you really be together? If you have full faith in them, it’s just a matter of combating overthinking. Even the strongest of couples can find themselves wondering if their partner still loves them. Like I mentioned before, reassurance can go a long way.  An unexpected “I miss you” or “I’m thinking of you” is all it takes sometimes. For the particularly anxious partner, don’t be afraid to ask for affirmation! It can be scary to ask, but a caring partner won’t feel forced if you do.

I will leave you with some ideas to keep in mind: While you are on the uphill climb, always keep looking up. In my opinion, caring too much is better than not caring enough. Be committed, and hope for the happy ending.

thomps41@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf professors adapt to teaching in the time of COVID

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 11:07am

Students have descended on the St. Olaf campus once again: jogging in the natural lands, practicing instruments outdoors, playing Spikeball for hours, waiting in line at Stav and, of course, hammocking. This time though, they don face masks, stand far apart and Zoom their classes from the dorm halls. Just as students have been working on adjusting to this strange and new way of life together, so have their professors.

Some professors prepared for the first full year they have ever taught online, some are working on a complicated hybrid curriculum and all are searching for new and improved ways of connecting with and supporting their students during a pandemic and a national racial reckoning. 

“For me, personally, I felt like it was a really high stakes summer. I felt a pressure and a need to get my work right in a way I haven’t felt since I first started at the college,” Associate Professor of Psychology Carlo Veltri said. “I want to give my absolute best to my job.” 

During a normal summer, faculty members take a much needed break from teaching and often conduct personal research, spend time with family and revamp their curriculum. This year their summers consisted of technology workshops, department meetings and anti-racism classroom learning. 

Like everyone else in the United States, professors were experiencing the twin pandemics of racism and COVID-19. When the spring semester ended, professors were left uncertain as to how the fall would pan out. In early June there was an announcement that students would be back on campus, but no details were set in stone. Then, in early July, professors were notified that they could petition to have their classes completely online for health reasons or if they felt it would be more beneficial and effective for teaching their classes. 

Assistant Professor of Spanish Amy Hill Cosimini decided to have her classes entirely online. She describes needing to be at home with a young child, as well as the benefits that online teaching has, especially for language courses. 

“Pedagogically, the ability to see my mouth move and how I am pronouncing words is really important when you have never seen a language before,” Hill Cosimini said. 

Despite professors and students being frustrated with the presence of online courses, there have been some unexpected benefits such as new modes for participation, more intentional connections and learning new technologies. 

For professors committed to teaching in person, it came as a surprise, and a big adjustment, when they were notified that there would be a two week quarantine for students in which classes would need to be online close to the end of the summer. 

Professor of English and the Director of the Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts (CILA) Mary Titus said that professors worked together in coming up with new ways to teach, with a lot of support from IT and resources provided by CILA. Some professors were able to come to campus to walk through technology in the classrooms and plan out how, when the time came, they would have students in their rooms. Before the professors returned to teaching, CILA offered technology workshops approximately once a week. 

“St. Olaf faculty have been amazing,” Titus said. “Some people have not just come up to speed, but they have innovated.”

Especially for classes that rely on in person interaction—dance, labs, theatre, music and studio arts—creative problem solving has become a huge part of this fall semester. Artist in Residence in Dance Anthony Roberts spoke about the difficulties of teaching dance from his kitchen and described how hard it is to see the movements of his students and adjust their work. 

“Because we have to move our physical bodies, there has to be a level of engagement,” Roberts said. He feels his classes are a space for students to move and break up their day of sitting at their computer. Roberts is proud of the engagement that comes from his classes, which require students to be immersed. 

This year, professors have been making technological and logistical shifts as well as pedagogical moves towards anti-racism. On top of his teaching, Veltri works with the To Include is to Excel Grant. This fall, with nationwide protests in response to police violence against BIPOC, as well as St. Olaf protests around racism at this institution, the College—and more specifically the grant—have been focusing on racism and its manifestations in the classroom. 

“I think the protests have made me conscious of how much work I need to do to become a better anti-racist ally,” Hill Cosimini wrote in an email to The Messenger. “It is a process that is never complete, and I am just at the beginning. Thus, for me it is about finding ways in my classes to amplify the voices of BIPOC scholars, artists, activists, etc.” 

The To Include is To Excel team has been coming up with different strategies for classrooms to break down barriers, assumptions and hierarchies. The grant, CILA and the new Task Force to Confront Structural Racism have identified resources for colleagues to help professors begin this pedagogical shift. 

“In these conversations [around anti-racism at St. Olaf] I have realized I’m not the only person making these deliberate choices,” Veltri said. “I’m not the only person who has to wrestle with times I have failed to make those choices, or times where I have made the choices and executed things poorly or that I’m frustrated that my choices seem so small when the problem is so large.”

This work has translated into the classroom in different ways. Professors are working to create physically distant community, be more accessible to students and make space for students to share how they are feeling. 

They describe missing the small benefits of in person college teaching, such as moments before and after classes, office hours or walking by and chatting with students. Veltri described how his teaching used to be so focused on reading the students: if they were distracted, wishing to ask a question, communication through eye contact, small movements of encouragement and so on. It has been a new challenge for professors to work to create space for connection and relationship building, especially for the new students. 

“I dedicate the first 5-10 minutes of every class to do a kind of community building activity, whether it be an icebreaker or a different type of get-to-know-you activity,” Hill Cosimini said. Some professors even open their Zoom calls before they arrive to class in order to give the students time to talk and connect with each other. 

With national turmoil and increased separation from students, professors are even more concerned about students’ well being and mental health.  

“I miss being able to hear a little bit more about where my students are at any given time,” Associate Professor of Computer Science Olaf Hall-Holt said. “I hope that my students know that I am trying. I would like to know if there are ways that I can make things easier for them.”

Ultimately, professors expressed that students have been flexible and open to the changes. 

“The amount of support I have received from students reminds me why I am happy to be teaching here,” Veltri said. 

peacor2@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

02 Sept 2020 – Drawdown

KYMN Radio - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 11:03am
Welcome to The KYMN Climate Show, with Bruce Morlan and Alan Anderson, where we discuss climate issues in the news and then dig into the stories behind those stories. Today’s overview – we’ll tell a couple of stories – then we’ll talk about Drawdown – doing what helps and doing what is necessary. 1st story

Rice County Commissioner Galen Malecha on tax levy and more

KYMN Radio - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 9:46am
Rice County Commissioner Galen Malecha discusses body cams for Sheriff’s Department, preliminary tax levy, road projects, and funding from the CARES Act.

Galen Malecha on Defeat of Jesse James Days

KYMN Radio - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 9:36am
Defeat of Jesse James Days General Chair Galen Malecha provides information on how the DJJD Committee has modified this year’s celebration into a one-day event.  Visit djjd.org for details about the various events.

Esports see dramatic surge during quarantine

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 8:28am

The global pandemic has left many people working and learning from home. With less driving time, work trips and decreased access to restaurants and other venues, the amount of free space in peoples’ schedules has grown, leaving many looking for ways to entertain themselves. While some picked up baking, sewing or skateboarding, others turned to the world of esports.

Esports is a general term used to describe competitive gaming. While games such as Animal Crossing have also increased in popularity during the pandemic, esports focus more on games where players are aiming to win a specific battle. Popular esports games include League of Legends, World of Warcraft, Fortnite, Apex Legends and Overwatch. Naturally, these games have always been a way to build community and connect with friends to achieve a common goal, but now they are helping many cope with the loneliness that comes with quarantine.  

With COVID-19 isolating most people in one place, esports have become increasingly popular amongst those who may not have tried them before. The ability to access esports from home has drawn in a larger audience than the industry saw in pre-pandemic times. According to the World Economic Forum, the global video game market is forecast to be worth $159 billion in 2020, and huge gaming corporations such as Nintendo and Tencent saw an increase in engagement and sales. Additionally, since COVID-19 limits the ability to broadcast live, in-person competitions, several online competitions have been broadcast on TV, making esports more accessible to a wider audience.

Nate Carlin ’21 weighed in on the popularity of esports.

“Esports is a much larger and more mainstream community than people believe,” Carlin said. “Several different countries compete at the highest level for League of Legends. The world tournament finals last year had 44 million viewers from all over the world. The spring season this year was even on ESPN, likely due to the lack of other things to show.”

While there is no concrete guarantee that the video game market’s revenue will continue to rise due to an abundance of free games and limitations for in-person fundraising, esports continue to provide a socially-distanced alternative to other activities. College students especially have found esports to be a great way to connect with friends over the summer.

“I’ve been playing League of Legends since 2014 and have played for St. Olaf’s collegiate team since I was a freshman,” Carlin said. “We are trying to make it an official club sport this year. Last year we had a 66 percent win rate and made playoffs, although they were cancelled due to COVID-19. I would say I have been playing a lot more games over quarantine since it’s an easy way to pass the time and not feel so confined.”

Melinde Madsen ’21 has found a new vested interest in League of Legends during quarantine as well. 

“I started playing League of Legends to make fun of my boyfriend and his friends,” Madsen said. “But now my roommate and I have become obsessed with it. It was a good way to bond with people off campus and during the first quarantine phase on campus.”

 With so many new changes occurring in school, at work and in our social lives, it makes sense that the world of esports has seen a spurt of growth. Online gaming platforms give players an opportunity to refine or learn a new skill, sharpen their reflexes and enjoy time with friends in a safe manner.

lindah2@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

The rise of recreational sports during the pandemic

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 8:22am

Although the sounds of whistles, cheers and shouts may have filled your ears last fall, that certainly is not the case this year. Yelling to your teammate across the field with a mask on and playing defense while maintaining a six-foot distance are challenges that no athlete can easily tackle.

In addition to reminiscing about the fall sports season, the warm, sunny days added on to many students’ desire to get outside. As a result, new and returning students embraced the fresh air, emerging from dorms all around campus after the initial COVID-19 test results came back. With competitive sports out of the picture for the near future, students spotlighted different types of fall competition this year. While the pandemic introduced a socially distanced lifestyle worldwide, it also brought about the rise of Spikeball and frisbee.

A spin-off from the classic game of volleyball, Spikeball incorporates the elements of passing, movement and, hence the name, spiking. Built from a circular horizontal net, one team has three touches before the ball ricochets off the net to the opposing team. The freedom to move and spread out while passing makes this game ideal for scratching that competitive itch you have had while being cooped up indoors, all while continuing to maintain a safe distance. Another advantage is that it is not necessary for players to run miles to play the game, making mask-wearing more bearable on those warmer days. 

Now think of the quintessential, Hollywood picture of a college campus. Perhaps you envision students studying in the library far into the night, or a football game with all the fans showing their school spirit. But the one most consistent image is that of a group of friends throwing a frisbee on the quad without a care in the world. This fall especially, St. Olaf embraced the love college students have for the infamous plastic disc and brought that scene from Pitch Perfect to life. 

Whether it was an exciting round of pass, a chance at glory in frisbee golf or a more intense pickup game of Ultimate, students of all frisbee skill levels took to the empty greenery to show off their talents. Never before have I seen such a variety of different ways to throw and catch than I have during my first weeks on campus. Meeting new people outside and staying active all while having fun are some of the main reasons why frisbee has climbed to the top of games on college campuses, whether you are playing it to compete or to have fun. With minimal equipment to be carried to the fields, no refs needed and abundant participation, frisbee is a go-to choice.

On the beautiful fall days when you have exhausted yourself from schoolwork or your usual workout routine, consider changing it up with a game of frisbee or Spikeball. For those looking to play more competitively, this is the time to begin honing your skills for when club and intramural sports begin again. While I continue to work on my aim, technique and all other skills surrounding frisbee, I look forward to the day when I can watch a game of ultimate in its full glory.

esterl1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

The Least Worst

Tom Swift - Untethered Dog - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 8:22am

From Merriam-Webster: of, relating to, or favoring blind submission to authority of, relating to, or favoring a concentration of power in a leader or an elite not constitutionally responsible to the people Democracy is work. It’s messy. It’s being OK with not getting all of what you want. To be a citizen in a democracy […]

The post The Least Worst appeared first on Untethered Dog.

Categories: Citizens

#WeWantToPlay: A fundamentally flawed movement

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 8:18am

In last week’s edition of The Olaf Messenger, I published a story detailing the #WeWantToPlay movement. Within that article, I purposefully withheld my personal feelings on the movement, believing the campaign to be legitimate enough to warrant an unbiased article solely devoted to detailing the effort. That of course does not mean I do not have strong personal feelings on the subject. Last week’s piece was meant for context, so before you read this one, give that one a look if you’re so inclined. This week’s piece is where I rip the movement apart.

On the surface, the #WeWantToPlay movement is relatively harmless. Following the Big-10 and the Pac-12 conferences announcing the suspension of their college football seasons back in August, players and fans alike called for the decision to be reversed and for the games to take place. Proponents of the movement reason that the players are young anyway, so even if they contract COVID-19, they won’t suffer much, if at all. They claim that the pros of holding a season far outway the cons, wanting to see football played regardless of the cost. However, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that this reasoning is ridiculous, irresponsible and flat out dangerous, regardless of how you spin it. 

Young people are not immune to this disease. Since the beginning of the pandemic, people under 34 have accounted for 1,678 COVID-19 deaths (at least according to official numbers, as statistics are now believed to be underreporting the virus). Even if a young person were to survive the disease, the lasting health effects of the virus are not to be taken lightly. A prime example of this truth already having an impact on college athletes can be found in Georgia State University’s quarterback Mikele Colasurdo. A freshman three-star recruit out of South Carolina, Colasurdo has been ruled out for the season after being diagnosed with Myocarditis, a condition that causes inflammation in the heart that he contracted after battling COVID-19. Colasurdo is not alone. According to ESPN, as of Aug. 20, five athletes in the Big-10 alone had been diagnosed with the potentially life-threatening condition.

We as sports fans must also keep in mind who it is championing this movement. The primary voices advocating for the Big-10 and Pac-12 to reconsider their decision are high profile college athletes. While there is something to be said about athletes not wanting to lose an opportunity to bring a championship to their school and their fans, the players most outspoken regarding the movement are ones basically guaranteed a future in the NFL. They will have access to not only lucrative multi-million dollar contracts but also top notch healthcare to help them through any health complications they might have. The other 98 percent of players, athletes who will not go on to play football professionally, are being asked to risk their lives and their health with no such guarantees, all for a tiny chance at what is ultimately an arbitrary title. 

Not only are the players at risk, but by participating in the season they put everyone around them at risk as well. Their families, their coaches, their trainers, their fellow students, their professors, their fans, even their pizza delivery guys—basically anyone who they could possibly come in contact with throughout the course of the football season—are put at extreme risk if games were to take place.

And for those arguing that President Donald Trump’s endorsement is a sign that this movement should be taken seriously, please get your head out of the sand. Trump doesn’t care about college football. He just doesn’t want voters in crucial midwestern swing states to remember how poorly he handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you think it’s a coincidence that he’s only paying attention to restarting the Big-10, a conference made up of midwestern teams, and hasn’t so much as mentioned the Pac-12, a conference made up of west coast teams? 

In postponing their college football seasons, the Pac-12 and Big-10 made the unpopular but correct decision. They put safety over profits and should be commended for it. The Big-12, SEC and ACC conferences should all follow suit. 

warren4@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Does exploring Northfield jeopardize our semester?

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 8:12am

Sept. 3, a momentous day for Oles on campus this semester—the day where restrictions were loosened and in-person or hybrid classes commenced. However, perhaps the most significant opportunity for students is the ability to now leave campus. But is leaving campus worth the potential consequences, and is it an ethical act?

St. Olaf College has done a stupendous job of tackling the pandemic compared to the majority of other college campuses. We were tested twice, had limited contact with others on campus and mask-wearing and social distancing have been strictly enforced. Because of these precautions set in place, our COVID-19 cases have been controlled so far, allowing many students to feel safer. However, now that students are able to leave campus, the bubble has popped. Every time someone leaves, there is an increased risk of introducing new COVID-19 cases to our campus.

Soon, both Oles and Carls will have access and a presence in downtown Northfield, putting both colleges at risk of transferring the virus to each other and the Northfield community. It is extremely important to wear a mask in public and maintain social distancing as much as possible when leaving campus. It is unfair to the people of Northfield if students transfer the virus to their community. The failure to follow social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines in Northfield is an unethical act due to the willful ignorance and potential harm brought to the community.

If you do choose to leave campus, take considerable measures to protect yourself and others. Want to get lunch at Hogan Brothers? Grab it to go and eat outside at a picnic rather than indoors. Want to go to Target? Make a shopping list to limit the time spent in the store. Restrictions can seem demanding, but they can allow students to stay on campus for the entire semester. Following restrictions and safety guidelines on and off campus does not mean it is impossible to have a good semester. Instead, you can find ways to safely connect with the community around you.

Ignoring the virus and failing to comply with recommended restrictions that subdue COVID-19 poses the chance we will be sent home before the end of the semester. In the end it is a choice that each individual makes every day. The majority of students have followed restrictions seriously and have made sacrifices in order to keep themselves and others safe. 

As President David Anderson ’74 said in an email sent out to students this week, “We don’t want the hard work we have all put in together to be undone in the coming days and weeks.” As a St. Olaf community, we should be committed to keeping the campus safe during the time of the pandemic as a top priority.

Ainsley is from Charlotte, NC.

Categories: Colleges

Online classes less valuable than in-person classes

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 8:07am

Online learning presents quite the challenge in ensuring that students are getting the most out of their classes. Due to the change in platform and the resulting fundamental changes in class design, the benefits of online classes are limited, and the flaws extensive.

The main weakness of online learning is that the medium doesn’t lend itself to an engaging class. Aside from being technologically problematic, group discussions can be chaotic since students end up talking over each other. Video calls are also inconvenient for discussion-based classes because they unavoidably change the course structure. In an attempt to reduce Zoom fatigue, for example, most of my professors have altered their course schedules so that we only meet synchronously as a class once a week. The other class periods are routinely spent as solo asynchronous classes or in small groups.

The problem with these kinds of classes is that the group and individual work may consist of unnecessary review, self-teaching or thoughtless, superficial activities. However, some of my small groups are dedicated purely to open-ended discussion, which is an incredibly valuable way to learn, especially in my literature classes. 

 

Breakout rooms are another useful strategy to foster discussion but only when used effectively. Most of my professors only use them with surface-level questions when they are most beneficial with discussion-based questions.

Alternatively, individual work outside of class sometimes replaces in-class discussion with a written discussion forum and required peer responses. In this case, interaction is forced, and students focus on getting participation credit, not participating in order to learn. While this practice may reduce class time, it seems pointless to pay for an education with minimal professor instruction and class interaction. 

While online classes are a more accessible educational resource in the midst of this pandemic, it’s a win-lose situation. Video meetings are needed to keep up discussion but they inevitably result in Zoom fatigue. Via an online format, discussion substitutions, technological issues and pointless assignments catalyze teaching at the expense of learning.

However, there are ways to minimize what is lost through online learning. I urge our professors to use more interactive discussions, in which small groups of students can easily participate, with work or questions that are truly beneficial to our learning and are not simply for meaningless participation.

Emma is from North Little Rock, AR. Her majors are Spanish and women’s and gender studies.

Categories: Colleges

It is time for a prohibition on the alcohol policy

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 8:04am

COVID-19 has changed the way we live. There are changes present across campus, from Stav Hall to our dorm rooms. Sometimes it feels as if everything is different, but one thing that remains steadfast is the St. Olaf alcohol policy. Not only is the policy archaic, inexplicable and ineffective, it has real negative consequences on students creating unhealthy relationships with alcohol, such as binging, dependency and shame. These repercussions should be reason enough to overturn the alcohol policy, but the COVID-19 crisis creates increasing cause for concern.

As campus fully reopens, students have many practical questions, such as “when can I eat?” and “where can I go?” We are also wondering how new rules resulting from the pandemic will be enforced. If we look to the alcohol policy as an example, there is reason to be concerned that the College will be too relaxed when enforcing mask policies or room capacities.

If the College were to eliminate the policy of prohibition of alcohol on campus, the College would have much more credibility in enforcing its new policies. As long as the unenforced alcohol policy is present, the college’s credibility will always be undermined.

Credibility aside, the alcohol policy puts students and the College at greater risk for COVID-19 transmission. Students will still congregate and drink, and with the current policy there are essentially two options: hide in a small dorm room with groups of friends, or go out to bars in the Northfield community. Both are dangerous at this time, but the current college policies force students to make those choices. 

Students would be much safer if the College allowed us to congregate and drink openly outside where there is plenty of space to socially distance. Students would be visible. The enforcement of mask policies and social distancing would be much easier. This visibility would also pressure students into making better choices and foster a better relationship with alcohol. 

The alcohol policy stands in direct opposition to this critical goal in the era of COVID-19. Not only should the college eliminate the alcohol prohibition, it has an obligation to do so to keep the students, staff, faculty and greater Northfield community safe. 

Mason is from Pine City, MN. His major is social work.

Categories: Colleges

The US response to COVID-19: on-brand behavior from Trump

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 7:59am

Last March, I thought my senior year of high school would surely end in-person. Then, I thought if we kept quarantining, I’d have a summer. I was sure this semester would start normally. I doubt I was alone in this mentality, which shows how good we are at lying to ourselves. Part of the issue is that this virus won’t go away without a vaccine. However, the US is clearly failing to handle this pandemic—we have only 4 percent of the world’s population and 22 percent of its COVID-19 deaths. Why is this? 

The leaders of several other countries have provided more stable and effective leadership during this time. There are various reasons for this, but it’s my opinion that many of the historic failures of President Donald Trump’s administration have fed directly into our country’s lack of success in handling the COVID-19 crisis. 

Obviously, no one was ready for the virus; it’s something that none of us have experienced in our lifetimes. However, Trump’s 2018 disbanding of the Pandemic Response Team was the perfect way to set the stage for the current state of things, and it relates back to the trend of the Trump administration failing to fund necessary services like the United States Postal Service. 

Other issues with the current administration also render the unfinished roller coaster that is our new cases curve very unsurprising. The trend of blatantly denying scientific research to further political aims is another perfect example of Trump’s inept handling of COVID-19. Of course the president, whose response to a government climate change report was “I don’t believe it,” would encourage the country to look past the evidence about how serious of a situation this is.

It’s possible that Trump believes acting like he’s the main information source instead of public health officials and pretending that we’ve already conquered the virus at the Republican National Convention may help him achieve his goal of reelection. 

However, the desire to be reelected doesn’t justify the Trump administration’s actions. Trump’s inadequacy can be seen in his valuing property and business over human life; he favors reopening America for economic reasons at the expense of providing relief services to the people who are struggling. 

Simultaneous to his prioritization of the economy over the people who make up the economy, Trump’s responses to recent protests against police brutality have garnered well-deserved criticism. Trump has recommended that cities disperse crowds who are protesting against racism with tear gas and rubber bullets when property gets damaged, instead of listening to these protesters’ complaints.  

If the failure to manage the current crisis is a symptom of the larger problems within the Trump administration, then nothing can change until after this semester at St. Olaf ends in November—and it may not change at all. It also seems likely that the COVID-19 crisis is going to get worse when the weather cools down and we see the full effects of schools reopening.

I’ve spent enough hours on Instagram over the past few weeks to have lost most of my optimism when it comes to my fellow college students’ abilities to take the virus seriously. However, this really is on us. The only way we can slow the spread of COVID-19 is to be responsible ourselves, pressure our local governments to listen to health officials and vote in November.

Charlotte is from Boulder, CO.

Categories: Colleges

Humans of St. Olaf

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 7:54am

There are so many things we do in the day that we get very little time to do things that we really like. Taking that time-out is really important. I like art because it is a way of escaping this reality. The worlds that we want to create, we can create them through our art. It allows me to make things that I would want to see more of in my world.

Categories: Colleges

ruminations on trust.

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 7:49am

I trust you. From what I collect, you are to be trusted. I recognize that I cannot control your actions or the thoughts that motivate them, nor the circumstances we may encounter—though that is not to say that I’d want to, in any sense. It’s just that, beyond the vague blend of interactions we share, what we call influence, all we have is trust … trust that we are communicated about our expectations; trust that we are acting in each other’s best interest … and trust is crucial! It is good and well that we value trust, but no amount of trust promises true understanding among different perspectives. No amount of communication, no matter how articulate and pure, can reconcile the mystic wall between distinct points of view. So, what have we—an opportunity to practice trusting the reliability of trust founded in imperfect understanding? Truthfully, trust seems more like a faith in pleasantly, predictable coincidence; a choice to avoid observation of the endless proximate possibilities, no matter their likelihood. Trust seems like the product of willful ignorance, though probably, an utmost important ignorance in maintaining healthy relations. When I say, “I trust you,” I’m really just reaffirming the faith that our circumstances will align favorably. I think you should know this definition of trust.

I trust you.

Categories: Colleges

Microfiction Corner

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 7:43am

My heart is racing. My palms are sweaty. My knees are definitely weak because I haven’t left my room in two weeks, and my arms sure do feel heavy. My heart’s beating so loud I can hardly hear what people are saying. I start to feel today’s lunch of mom’s spaghetti climbing its way up my throat. Should I do it? Can I even do it? I have to. Everything depends on this. I gotta hop in before the subject changes. I double check to make sure I appear calm and collected. I take a deep breath and unmute myself.

“Yeah, so piggy-backing off of that-”

Categories: Colleges

Andrew Yang joins the St. Olaf community for a virtual conversation on the Freedom Dividend, his presidential campaign and the state of U.S. politics

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 7:36am

The Institute of Freedom and Community (IFC) hosted former presidential candidate Andrew Yang for a conversation with Director of the Institute Edmund Santurri on Sept. 1. The conversation was streamed for community members to watch live or through the Broadcast Media archive

During his initial campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, Yang was a newcomer to politics. He was ultimately overshadowed by his colleagues with more political experience: Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. Fifteen months into his campaign, Yang dropped out of the race, and he later offered support for Democratic nominee Joe Biden and running partner Kamala Harris, a senator from California. 

Since dropping out of the presidential race, Yang has appeared on podcasts and national news programs, and he was invited as a speaker at the Democratic National Convention in September. 

Yang stands out from other candidates because of his policy surrounding universal basic income, which would entail giving every American adult $1,000 per month as part of a universal basic income mandate. This policy, called the ‘Freedom Dividend’ by Yang, has only grown in popularity as Americans face mass unemployment resulting from the pandemic.

When asked about the matter, Yang dryly joked that after COVID-19, “We are all ‘Yang Gang.’”

“Yang Gang” served as a rallying call amongst his supporters during his campaign. 

When speaking to the St. Olaf community, Yang emphasized finding commonalities between individuals, claiming that cancel culture would do nothing but exacerbate wounds inflicted on either side of the political spectrum. 

And for many members of the St. Olaf community, finding commonalities is exactly what Yang has accomplished. 

Evan Faas ’22, former president of the student organization Oles For Yang, pointed toward Yang’s recent emergence as a figurehead of open discussion and commended the former candidate’s ability to draw people together regardless of political affiliation. 

Ariel Byerly ’21, vice president of the College Republicans, was pleasantly surprised by the candidate and his frank, unconventional ideas. Like Yang and his supporters, Byerly also believes that rank choice voting could serve as, for lack of a better term, a democratic diuretic. For Byerly, rank choice voting could also solve the massive dilemma currently plaguing republicans: the question of whether to vote for Trump. 

Despite the Republican party’s conservative mindset, many aren’t too pleased with the president, including Byerly herself.

“If there were more options available, we wouldn’t be seen in the negative light we are now,” Byerly said. 

Instead, she finds herself in a rut. Her voice resonates closely with that of Yang himself. Like him and many others across the nation, she believes that the American political system “could use some work.”

allbro1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Residence Life staff face challenges amid pandemic

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 7:32am

Junior counselors (JC) and residence advisors (RA) have faced a unique set of challenges during the pandemic. Tasked with their usual responsibilities of community building and support for students, Residence Life staff members must now enforce COVID-19 policies, a more complicated balance. 

JCs work within first-year dorms to help first-year students socialize and build community. Residence Life staff now create online programming to ensure adherence to COVID-19 guidelines. In past years, Residence Life staff held events for their hall every other week. With programming being mainly online, the number of events have doubled. 

Joshua Lee, assistant dean of students, oversees Residence Life staff. According to Lee, Residence Life has changed its programming guidelines for JCs and RAs. Instead of having themed events, like wellness or education, the weekly meetings are designed around the newfound need for a frequency of connections, Lee said. 

Alongside programming, Residence Life staff are expected to report any violation of COVID-19 policies through a community incident form. The new expectations of Residence Life staff have increased their feelings of responsibility, first-time JC in Hoyme Hall Logan Graham ’22 said. 

“If the JCs aren’t reporting it, nobody knows it’s happening,” Graham said. 

Staffers are supposed to report any incident they see—even ones that happen outside their respective building. This heightened awareness creates a feeling of having to jump into the Residence Life role immediately upon seeing rule violations, even when walking through Stav Hall or the quad, said Ella Koenig ’22, a JC in Ellingson Hall. 

“It’s almost like you’re in that mode all of the time,” Koenig said. 

The dual role of enforcer and community builder raises concerns among Residence Life staff. According to Graham, there are worries that if students see staffers as enforcers, they will be less inclined to contact their JC or RA with concerns. 

Lee assures staff members that the majority of students wish to stay safe and remain on campus, which helps foster more respect for JCs and RAs as enforcers. 

“When they see me as a policy enforcer, they see that as an aspect of building community,” Koenig said. 

Despite the challenges, the RAs and JCs are committed to doing their best by their residents and the student body.

“The reason I wanted to be a JC is because I thought it was important,” Koenig said. “With COVID-19, the role would only be more important.”

klinef1@stolaf.edu 

 

Categories: Colleges

What’s the status of the Ole Avenue housing project?

Manitou Messenger - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 7:27am

The Ole Avenue housing project, announced last winter and set to be completed by 2022, was supposed to replace the honor houses and President David Anderson ’74’s home with a new dorm and fourteen townhouses on St. Olaf Avenue. However, with the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, some of the honor houses are now being used to house infected students as they recover. As such, their removal to make way for the townhouses cannot begin. 

“We would normally be breaking ground right now, and you would have seen six of the honor houses taken down over the summer had COVID not happened,” Associate Dean of Students for Residence Life Pamela McDowell said. 

The original plan was to have the townhomes completed by 2022 and the residence hall for 2023, but the townhomes have now been delayed and the residence hall will stay projected for completion in 2023. 

McDowell explained that the pandemic has shown the College what they are missing in terms of housing. 

“What we wish we had are more suites with their own bathrooms because when we were looking for quarantine and isolation space, we didn’t have much of that,” McDowell said. 

The company that is working with St. Olaf, Workshop Architects, is putting together the building documents, and the Board of Regents will have another vote in October to determine the project’s path. 

The first vote to postpone the housing project was held in January, and the Board of Regents is now reevaluating how to move forward with budgeting and revenue, McDowell said. 

The new residence hall will take the place of President Anderson’s Northfield house, but the College does not plan to tear down any other buildings on the southside of St. Olaf Avenue at the moment. Due to COVID-19 and the delay of construction, the counseling center in Boe House does not yet have to move. 

Despite the delay, planning is still continuing, which McDowell expressed excitement in. According to McDowell, students will be able to try out and vote on different styles of furniture that they like best. The townhomes will also employ various efficient systems, such as potentially adding outdoor mail lockers that will allow students to pick up mail outside their townhome rather than up The Hill. 

Creating new residence halls that match campus architecture while allowing students to feel at home is a challenge, but one McDowell is passionate about. 

 

“I love talking about the common areas and the open spaces and seeing the lounges and open kitchens,” McDowell said. “We’re talking about how we can make something that fits with our campus, which is the limestone part, but also making it feel inclusive to anybody from anywhere. Those are the most important things.”

lindah2@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges
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