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Digital Issue Nov. 21, 2019

Mon, 11/25/2019 - 3:43am

As part of an initiative to integrate more digital content into our print publication, the Manitou Messenger is going digital for multiple editions throughout the year. With this new digital push we hope not to just encourage people to #readthemess but #clickthemess and #watchthemess.

Categories: Colleges

SGA resolutions endorse divestment, make textbooks more accessible

Sun, 11/24/2019 - 9:14pm

The Student Government Association (SGA) Senate unanimously approved two resolutions during their Nov. 19 meeting: one urges the College to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies, the other initiates an SGA-funded textbook provision program.
The divestment resolution, presented to Senate by the Climate Justice Collective (CJC), also presses the College to post quarterly investment statements on the St. Olaf website and make “total divestment from unethical investments” the main priority of the St. Olaf Investment Committee’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policy, among other things.

The textbook resolution, presented to Senate by SGA President Devon Nielsen ’20 and Vice President Ariel Mota Alves ’20, mandates that $5,000 of SGA’s budget be spent each year on course-required textbooks to be loaned to students through Rolvaag Memorial Library. This new textbook program, the SGA Textbook Program Senate Initiative, aims to make course-required textbooks more accessible.

Divestment Resolution
About eight percent of St. Olaf’s $534 million endowment is invested in the fossil fuel industry. Those investments are anathema to CJC, a student group that pushes for environmental justice. The divestment resolution urges St. Olaf not to make any future investments in fossil fuel companies given their role in fueling climate change.
The resolution emphasizes the fact that St. Olaf has complete control over whether it divests even though the College’s investments are handled by Cornerstone Partners, a consulting firm

“Our job is to invest the portfolio within the guidelines set by our clients, so what we’re not going to do is put our own views ahead of St. Olaf’s,” said Cornerstone Partners Senior Managing Director David Russell at a Nov. 18 meeting. “You don’t want me making decisions on what St. Olaf decides to include or not include in the portfolio.”
So far though, the College has shown no signs of intending to divest. The President’s Leadership Team did not answer whether the College views itself as obligated to follow Senate resolutions when asked by the Messenger.

Chief Investment Officer Mark Gelle did not comment on whether the Investment Committee would heed the resolution’s call to list “total divestment from unethical investments” as the primary concern of its ESG policy.
Whether divestment has the power to reduce carbon emissions is a contested question. Shell Oil Company, Peabody Energy and the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. have all reported that the divestment movement can have negative material consequences for the fossil fuel industry.

But a divested St. Olaf, even coupled with other divested colleges and universities, might not have the power to reduce emissions.
Russell said that, while some companies own enough stocks to influence emissions, “the college and university ecosystem, collectively, doesn’t really, in and of itself, consist of that much of the market.”

Even if a divested St. Olaf cannot stunt fossil fuel emissions, CJC member Abby Becker ’20 said divesting is still desirable because it acts as a moral statement.
The Resolution’s push for the College to release Total Investment Statements might also fail to materialize. Cornerstone Partners will not reveal the names of companies their clients privately invest in, nor the amount they invest, Gelle said.
But CJC has managed to align the Senate with their cause. The Resolution commits the Senate to a pro-divestment stance, to encouraging the student body to learn more about ESG policy and divestment, and to stand against the destruction of marginalized communities and the environment.

“It’s a stepping stone, we now have a bigger platform to run the divestment campaign,” Becker said.

With the new resolution and their popular Sept. 20 climate strike, CJC has demonstrated their capacity to garner student support for their aims twice in short order.

Textbook Resolution
The textbook resolution initiates the SGA Textbook Project Senate Initiative, which will annually set aside $5,000 of the SGA’s budget for purchasing course-required textbooks to be loaned to students through Rolvaag Memorial Library.
The resolution cites a survey conducted by the SGA Textbook Task Force – a group tasked with gauging students’ textbook purchasing experience. The survey “concluded that a significant amount of St. Olaf students show a demonstrated need for access to textbooks.”

Of students surveyed, only a third feel that they can afford their textbooks, half have not purchased a book for a class because of its cost and half believe that their ability to complete coursework was affected by not having a textbook.
“Purchasing textbooks has always been a hardship for students from low-income backgrounds who have to carry an already long list of financial responsibilities, and this is something that people don’t always talk about,” Mota Alves said.
While Rolvaag already loans students textbooks for some courses through its Course Reserve system, half of surveyed students said the library does not offer the textbooks they need. And almost 60 percent said the textbooks they need had already been checked out when they tried to borrow them.

To alleviate these problems as efficiently as possible, the Textbook Project will use a set of rules to determine which textbooks it should purchase and how many. The Textbook Project Committee – a group tasked with carrying out the project – will handle the selection process, and Rolvaag will purchase the chosen textbooks using the $5,000 set aside by SGA. The $5,000 will be split evenly across both semesters – $2,500 worth of textbooks will be purchased for fall courses and $2,500 for spring courses.
Rolvaag will loan these textbooks to students for two hour intervals, Mota Alves said.
The Project Committee will publicize the project by encouraging faculty to tell their students about it and advertising it on social media, among other methods. At the end of each semester, the Committee will evaluate the program by assessing usage and getting recommendations from students.

The Committee will form in time to purchase textbooks for fall semester 2020, Mota Alves said.

The Resolution also initiates a Committee-led textbook drive to collect unused textbooks from students and faculty at the end of each academic year. The Committee will organize the textbooks into a bank and loan them to students on a first-come-first-serve basis at the beginning of the following year.
The textbook drive will begin collecting textbooks during the end of the next academic year, Mota Alves said.

“Textbooks is my biggest project,” Mota Alves said. “It’s something that is very close to my heart and I must admit that I was emotionally overwhelmed with the passing of the resolution.”

irwin2@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Oslo Opera House, Steven Garcia

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:53am

“I was just wandering around Oslo at Midnight because I was bored,” Steven Garcia ’20 said. “It’s an absolutely beautiful building and I was inspired to capture it. I was very happy with how they turned out.”

Categories: Colleges

II

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:44am

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf Sentiments

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:42am

At the Cage, textbooks lay on my table with their binds bent. Pencils scatter themselves across loose leaf sheets of notes I’ve taken, and my tea spoon soaks in coffee, leaning casually against the side of my mug. It’s midday and I am organizing an alternative low-fi playlist perfect for Sunday study sessions and just long enough to distract me until my 1 p.m. lunch plans with my freshman year roommate. The ambience is cozy and relaxing. It’s moments like these when I am reminded of how much St. Olaf feels like home.

I’ve developed a recent crush on fiction writing. In fiction, I can pretend I focus well with music, drink coffee and talk to my freshman year roommate. In fiction, I don’t have to avoid running into my ex-boyfriend at the Cage. It is so much easier conforming to this theoretical concept of an “Ole” than confronting the fact that I do not feel as though I fit at this school, so fiction can make me seem palatable for you. The girl I describe myself to be – studious at the Cage – is agreeable. She is written exactly how she should be. Or not. If I wanted to, I could make the story less agreeable.

The ambience is cozy and relaxing. It’s moments like these when I am reminded of how much St. Olaf feels like home.

Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. My phone vibrates against the table, shaking my notes. Clicking the power button with my thumb, I unlock my phone to skim the notifications from my friend. A few words stick out to me: “accident”, “help”, “hospital”. Before I get a chance to reply, the buzzing begins again. I answer the call. Screaming. Wailing. All I can decipher is “Old Main”, so I stuff my work clumsily into my backpack and race towards the building my friend called out to over the phone.

I scurry along the pavement forgetting that my feet are half-a-size too small for my shoes. With one swift misstep, I fall face first onto the ground. Hard. My whole body stings and I do not get up right away. Instead, I let my limbs rest at awkward angles undisturbed.

A lot more uncomfortable, right? Just as quickly as I created the quaint Cage scene, I took it away. Fiction writing is a powerful tool to garner emotion, and it has been rather therapeutic for me when I don’t get my way. In fiction writing, I can make the impossible happen. I get a do-over. I can time travel or visit any place in the world. Or I can study at the cage with coffee, textbooks and loose leaf sheets of paper strewn about. Maybe I can use fiction to convince myself that St. Olaf could one day feel like home. But for now, I guess I will just have to play pretend.

nizhny1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Dumpster fires of the NFL

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:34am

Alright folks, we’re back for round two. It’s time to once again dive headfirst into the league of legally permissible gladiatorial combat that is the NFL. But have no fear loyal readers (and by loyal readers, I mean my mom. Hi mom!), we have gotten through the hell that is analyzing the good teams. We have choked down our metaphorical vegetables. Now we get to look at the dumpster fires of the league, the teams that are going nowhere fast and should feel bad about it. This week, we get to make fun of the five worst teams in the league and relish every moment of it. Now, without further ado, let us begin.

5. Miami Dolphins

If a month ago someone told me that this iteration of the Miami Dolphins would only be the fifth worst team in the league, I would’ve laughed them out of the room. Without any doubt, this is a team that is actively trying to lose. The product they had been presenting every sunday could barely have been called football. There were discussions of whether or not this team could beat the college program the Alabama Crimson Tide, and there were legitimate points being made against a Miami victory if that game had ever taken place. But then … to the horror of Dolphins fans worldwide, their team started winning. They rattled off two successive wins, the first against the admittedly horrible Jets, but the week after that they shockingly topped the Indianapolis Colts, a team that many thought were legitimate contenders in the AFC. This was all wrong. This wasn’t part of the plan. This team had literally the past 9 months selling off all of their bet pieces, only for it to backfire. I am so sorry, Dolphins fans. The first overall pick is gone. Unless his most recent injury destroys his draft stock, dreams of getting Alabama QB Tua Tungaviloa are all but dead. The football gods are cruel, heartless bastards.

4. New York Jets

Why anyone ever has any faith in this team to do well is beyond me. For God’s sake, they’re the Jets. I’m pretty sure that there’s a clause in every Jets contract that explicitly requires underperforming and disappointing the greater fans across the greater New York area. This team made such flashy moves over the offseason, signing the likes of CJ Mosely and Le’veon Bell. These signings along with a Sam Darnold with a year of experience was supposed to propel them into contention. But then because Jets they fired the GM who handed out those contracts right after he had done their whole draft and everything went to crap. Then because this team is apparently run by a gaggle of squirrels in suits, they tried to pawn off their best players for pennies on the dollar, even going as far as to promise to not trade them and then immediately turn around and shop them as was the case with star safety Jamal Adams. I pity Jets fans, but I have no sympathy left for the organization. They will forever be the butt fumble of the NFL, but hey at least you aren’t the worst team in NYC.

3. New York Giants

As a lifelong Giants fan, this is extremely painful to write. I want to focus on this team’s upside, how with a few solid free agent signings and a good draft of two, this team could return to its Superbowl form (which seems oh so very far away now). But if I were to do that, I would only be kidding myself. This team is BAD. And sure, you can blame injuries. Some of the few bright spots on the team such as Saquon Barkely and Sterling Sheppard have been on and off the field this year with injuries, but with everything around them being so putrid I doubt it would make much difference in the long run. I hate to say this so soon after the Mara family cleaned house following the 2017 season with the firing of Ben Macadoo and Jerry Reese, but it might just be that time again. Pat Shurmer and Dave Gettlman have shown an inability to build and manage even a borderline competitive team. With so much young, easily-squandered talent on this team in the likes of Daniel Jones, Dexter Lawrence and Evan Engram (to name only a few), I, as a Giants fan, am not confident in this organizations ability not to ruin it.

2. Washington Redskins

I have taken to calling this team the Deadskins, for that is what this organization is. Dead. This organization has done so much wrong in the Dan Schneider era, it is honestly hard not to despise them. From their refusal to change their name to something that JUST ISN’T A RACIAL SLUR, to the misdiagnosis of Trent Williams’ cancer as “minor,” and something that he doesn’t have to worry about, their sins are numerous. I honestly don’t blame former coach Jay Gruden for having had both feet out the door before they fired him, I would have done the same thing. This organization has no future. Adrian Peterson needs to sign with a different team so that he doesn’t end his Hall of Fame career with this joke of a franchise. Rookie QB Dwayne Haskins will have his potential squandered, and there is no doubt about that in my mind about that. Nothing good will come to this franchise as long as Dan Schneider owns it. Luckily, D.C. has other teams like the Nationals and Capitals to keep them sane, because FedEx Field will be nothing but a desolate wasteland of failure and misery for a long-time coming.

1.Cincinatti Bengals

Surprisingly enough, the worst team in the league has the brightest future of any of these teams. While they haven’t been selling big pieces to acquire more draft picks (mostly because they had no big pieces in the first place), their ineptitude has at this point secured them the first pick in the draft. They will be able to build around that draft pick (hopefully a QB for the sake of fans in Cincinnati), and even though he has been hurt all year, they still do have one of the best receivers in the league in AJ Green. Don’t get me wrong, this team is god awful, just maybe not for much longer. Then again, they are the Bengals, so I’m sure they’ll find some way to royally screw it all up.

warren1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Minnesota Twins: 2019 Wrap-Up and 2020 Outlook

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:31am

In 2018, the Minnesota Twins lost more games than they won, with a record of 78-84. I wrote an article at this time last year suggesting that the Twins had the chance to turn things around and build a playoff team for 2019. However, I never could have guessed that the Twins would stampede their way to the playoffs with a mind-boggling 101 wins.

The 2019 Twins broke new ground thanks in large part to the hiring of an inexperienced 37-year-old manager named Rocco Baldelli. Twins beat reporter Do-Hyoung Park reports that part of Baldelli’s influence involved his focus on “building relationships and creating a fun, comfortable clubhouse environment to empower his players.” Under Baldelli’s guidance, the Minnesota Twins shocked the baseball world by setting a new all-time record for most team home runs in one season and broke the 100-win threshold for the first time in over 50 years. Last week, Baldelli was recognized for his extraordinary efforts with the AL Manager of the Year award.

All of this sets the stage for a very exciting 2020 season. Baldelli has proven his effectiveness as a manager and the Twins once again have plenty of room on their payroll to afford the more expensive players in the free agency. The gaping hole for the team this offseason is in their starting rotation; four of the five Twins starting pitchers have reached the end of their contract. Last week, the Twins resigned Jake Odorizzi, one of those four pitchers, to a one-year, $17.8M deal. This was a necessary move, as a hole this large would be very difficult to fill entirely with free agents.

Regarding the other three vacancies in the starting rotation, the Twins should dream big. There are plenty of well-established pitchers on the market and the Twins have plenty of cash to spend. I hereby advise that the Twins sign two major starting pitchers: Hyun-jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel. One is a former Cy Young award winner and one is a runner-up. Both are seasoned MLB veterans who aren’t looking for a ridiculously long-term deal. Both are rumored to be searching for a three- or four-year deal for a considerable, but not unreasonable, sum of money.

Other worthy candidates for a deal with the Twins include Wheeler, Hamels, Roark, Anderson or Lyles. These pitchers would come at a slightly lower cost but still offer the Twins a great talent. Perhaps the Twins sign either Ryu or Keuchel and then select from my basket of other options. Or perhaps they don’t read the Manitou Messenger. At the very least, they need to somehow acquire two more above-average starting pitchers in order to construct a 2020 postseason team.

Still, that leaves one starting rotation spot empty. However, the team can (and likely will) fill this spot from within the organization. The best option at this point is Randy Dobnak, who rocketed through the minor leagues last year and impressed in the majors with a 1.59 ERA through 28.1 innings. Suffice to say, Dobnak will be able to fill in the back end of the rotation. If he hits a rough patch, the Twins still have internal options for a fifth starter in Brusdar Graterol or Devin Smeltzer.

All in all, the Twins are poised for another terrific season in 2020. With a bright young manager, one of the best lineups in the game and an opportunity to improve pitching this offseason, there’s no reason they shouldn’t repeat as AL Central Division Champions.

faas1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Finding success in an era of struggle

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:31am

Both the men’s and women’s hockey programs at St. Olaf experienced what I would argue were defining moments over the past year. Both programs faced the departure of experienced and well-respected head coaches, and the hiring of two young, fresh faces to take their respective places. Alongside this head coaching shift, St. Olaf hockey received a new home on the Hill, a drastic change from their previous location off-campus.

These changes forced both programs to reevaluate and enter a period of transition. As with any transitional period, for any franchise, the hockey teams have struggled to find their footing in unfamiliar territory. Neither team has won a game at the St. Olaf Ice Arena since its inauguration in January 2019. Neither team has won a game, home or away, in their 2019-20 seasons so far. While losses were expected, it is not inaccurate to say that no one envisioned this prolific of a struggle.

However, while it is possible to take these defeats at face value and come to the conclusion that hockey at St. Olaf is simply ‘bad,’ I believe there is more to both programs than meets the eye.

Watching the men’s team play against a nationally ranked St. Thomas last Friday night, it was clear that the Oles were not outmatched, holding a tight defensive line and notching a couple good counter-attacking shots before ultimately falling 0-1. While the situation for the women’s team was more lopsided, they too showed glimpses of promise through some sparkling scoring chances on the fast-break, chances which ultimately caught St. Thomas unawares and led to a 19th minute goal for first-year Samantha Martin in the second period.

“However, while it is possible to take these defeats at face value and come to the conclusion that hockey at St. Olaf is simply ‘bad,’ I believe there is more to both programs than meets the eye.”

Although their records may not reflect it, both men’s and women’s hockey programs are showing definite promise. Both rosters feature majority underclass athletes who are continuing to develop their skills to match a difficult Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Both new head coaches are young and come from successful programs themselves, and while it may take some time to build trust among players, they will surely transfer their developing sets of skills to programs that share bright futures.

Most importantly for both teams, the support from fans is still there. Student-athletes from across campus turned out on Friday and Saturday nights to cheer on the Oles at home, and parents and community members also offered their support from the seats. It would seem that, as the losses continue to pile up and brief glimpses of greatness continue to shine through, support for the teams continues to grow. It’s the paradox of defeat – people want to be there when the tides change.

And, rest assured, the tides will change for these programs. The desire to win, both among the players and the fans, continues to grow. With time comes experience, for coaches and players alike — experience that will naturally translate into success on the ice. Through all the tough defeats and glimpses of brilliance, the character of the teams and of the fanbase will continue to develop.

As with any great franchise, it is necessary to take the good with the bad. While it is clear that St. Olaf hockey is currently in the bad, I think the good is right around the corner.

marand1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

For the love of the game

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:28am

A St. Olaf student’s successful career in sports betting.

When you imagine sports betting, it might be easy to picture bookies and attendees throwing money around at a horse race, a frenetic financial chaos similar to stock exchanges and pre-computerized securities trading. But like in a stock exchange, this chaos has vanished in favor of the digital world. The rise of sports betting with its path towards legalization in many states has also triggered a rise in the use of algorithms to predict which teams and players to bet on.

Largely, the process of creating algorithms to determine the success of individual players or teams is enabled by a recent change in sports as a whole, where teams and stakeholders have started using data and statistical modeling to not only decide what players to play when, but how the game is played. This revolution was brought to the forefront by the bestselling book “Moneyball,” which inspired the movie of the same name.

One St. Olaf student is using this statistical approach to sports to improve his own game, and also to make money in sports betting. Let’s call him Jay, as he must remain anonymous to maintain NCAA eligibility. Jay bets using a website called DraftKings, a site featuring a wide range of sports betting avenues, but bets almost exclusively on football. In order to maximize his chances of winning, he bets using a system where a lobby of individuals will each set forth a lineup, and based on how successful the players in the lineup are, they earn points. The half of the lobby with an above-average number of points get 180% of their bet back, and the other half lose it all.

This method is ripe for success, as you only have to beat the average competitor, not the Vegas odds. And so, to ensure that he wins a significant majority of the time, Jay uses algorithms to decide which players to pick for his lineup. The results speak for themselves. Every season Jay takes $25, with the hopes to multiply it as much as possible. Last year, he turned his $25 into $1000. This year, Jay is on track to replicate his staggering 3,900% return on investment, a return on investment even the biggest and most successful sports brokers would envy.

The secret to his success is the effort he puts into his algorithms. These algorithms are intensely complex mathematical functions that use over a dozen individual player metrics to spit out which players are likely to score him the most points on DraftKings. These metrics can be as simple as average yards per game to as complex as to which team is projected to be playing from behind, causing a higher likelihood of late game passes. Of course, creating the algorithm is just one part of the process. Jay spends about 24 hours a week collecting and inputting the data needed to fill in his massive excel spreadsheet that houses the algorithms.

In interviewing Jay, I realized there was something deeper than just his intellect and an ability to make money on sports betting. There was a wholehearted love for sports and a love for numbers at play. With the amount of effort he was putting in and the comparatively low amount of money he was betting, I asked him why he did it. He was certainly making below minimum wage, after all. I asked if it was to fulfill a career ambition.

“I would do it for free, just because I really love it,” Jay said. “If this was a lucrative, stable job, I would definitely consider it. It is a very good combination of things I love.”

graham1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Heartbeat

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:24am

It took me about a year and a half, but I think I can say with full certainty that I have exhausted the St. Olaf dating pool. As a first-year, hookups and dating seemed inconsequential – my romantic life was an opportunity to explore and have fun. That exploration, however, has slowly developed some unintended consequences.

At dinner the other day, I was talking with my friends about an ex-boyfriend of mine. I told a fun anecdote about a time his close friend Ruby* and I went to dinner together. I had nothing against Ruby. She was a nice girl who always treated me with respect and kindness. But Ruby is a close friend of my ex-boyfriend and as a means of disassociating myself from any romantic feelings towards him, I figured it would be best for my mental health to avoid Ruby. After all, Ruby was a part of my ex-boyfriend’s world, and we belonged to different friend groups, so it was easy to keep those worlds separate.

“Ruby? She’s my SI instructor for religion!” My friend exclaimed.

“No way,” another friend chimed in, “She lives right across the hall from me!”

I realized then that our worlds were not as distant as I had previously thought. Somehow my ex-boyfriend’s world overlapped with my friendships and I was at a loss. Sure, I could keep adding people to my “avoid-eye-contact-at-all-costs” list, but I had already watched it grow exponentially over the past year as I added the names of my recent ex-boyfriend and, by association his friends and their friends.

In a small school, it is impossible to avoid the ghost of relationships past. It is tempting to try and distance yourself from old heartaches, but learning to confront your post break-up reality is part of moving on. People have as much power over you as you give them, and unnaturally trying to keep your worlds separate can be draining. Especially considering that memories of your failed romances will haunt every inch of this school. It is at Old Main where you first spotted that cute person in your 9:00 a.m. BTS-T class. It is at the Cage where you had your first coffee date or at Viking Theater when you went to see Incredibles 2 together. For me, it was at the Caf when I carried my food to my table.

Just as I was setting my tray down, I look up to see my ex-boyfriend one table over. He was facing me, laughing with his friends. We had not yet made eye contact, so in that moment I had a choice. I could either take my tray downstairs and eat in the Pause or take a seat at that table. Whatever decision I was going to make would say something significant about me – my coping mechanisms, my conflict resolution tactics and my insecurities. Was I going to live the rest of my time at St. Olaf in fear of an array of college boys, or was I going to confront my relationship ghosts head on? Sitting down would mean I was ready to let go.

So, I took my tray and went to go eat in the Pause. However, as I turned the corner and walked past the dishroom I stopped. I glanced at my reflection in the window and then at my uneaten food. Refusing to acknowledge my history was ironically what was giving it so much power. By actively avoiding my past I was not allowing room for personal growth. That is never a healthy way to live.

When navigating relationships at St. Olaf, it is important to develop healthy coping mechanisms in case the relationship ends. We are young and bound to make mistakes when it comes to love. Sometimes those mistakes cost us a few friends or partners, but hiding from your past will make your time here so much more unpleasant. Especially on such a tiny campus, it is practically impossible to entirely forget old relationships. You will see them, and St. Olaf will somehow remind you of their existence. You have a choice, too: you can hide from your ghosts or let them go.

I took one last look at my reflection in the window. My heart was racing and I stared myself down. I had made my choice. So, I walked myself back to the table at the Caf, and took a seat.

*names have been changed.

nizhny1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

A&Eats: Cozy caf meals

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:22am

“I love when there are soup options in the caf, especially the vegan soup options,” Sylvie Deters ’22 said.

Categories: Colleges

2019: The Year of Horror Movies

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:18am

Against all odds, 2019 has delivered more evidence of a genuine horror-film renaissance

2019 has been a year of welcome surprises for movies. Comic-book movie naysayers have been silenced with Marvel’s “Avengers Endgame” and DC’s “Joker” raising quality standards of the genre. A new throwback mob movie from Martin Scorsese has been embraced with universal acclaim despite its unlikely Netflix home. This year has even seen unprecedented success in the international film market, with Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” clearing $100 million at the box office and setting limited-release U.S. opening weekend records. Perhaps the most miraculous of the surprises, however, has been the affirmation of a legitimate renovation of the horror genre.

This is a renovation that has been in the works for many years now. At the cusp of the 2010s, the genre was saturated by franchises like “Paranormal Activity” and “Saw.” Despite having critical receptions as low as their budgets, Hollywood’s gore and jumpscare stuffed seasonal franchises dominated the market. Industry experts worried over diminishing annual profits of horror movies. Sans a few indie and international outings like “The Babadook” and “It Follows,” the genre was seeming increasingly disposable and stale.

The latter half of the decade, however, has suggested more promising prospects for horror fanatics. Thanks to companies like A24, more obscure and artistically driven horror films like “The Witch,” “It Comes at Night” and “Hereditary” found widespread distribution and attention. Hollywood horror movies began to find its groove again, with mainstream hits such as “It” and “A Quiet Place” each raking in over $300 million in the box office.

However, the real game changer was perhaps the critical and commercial success of Jordan Peele’s 2017 film “Get Out.” “Get Out” was a blockbuster horror sensation, becoming the first horror movie to compete for the Best Picture Oscar since 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs” (Peele took home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the film, becoming the first black man to do so). And among 2019’s most popular and critically acclaimed films are horror flicks: “Us,” “Midsommar” and “The Lighthouse.”

“Us,” Peele’s second horror outing, has been every bit as commercially and critically popular as “Get Out.” “Us” earned $250 million – becoming the most financially successful original horror film of all time. Peele’s films have been noted for their carefully constructed socially commentary, with “Get Out” and “Us” being interpreted as criticisms of this era of so-called “post-racial” America. Peele has also made good use of his famed background in comedy, splicing crowd-pleasing comic relief into his films.

“Midsommar” comes from “Hereditary” writer and director Ari Aster, whose freshman effort shocked audiences, going on to be hailed as “the scariest movie since ‘The Exorcist’” by certain critics. For “Midsommar,” Aster decided to downplay the horror elements of the film, focusing instead on creating a mesmerizing atmosphere. On top of much play with melodrama and trauma, Aster’s films have been noted for their arthouse influences with allusions to the films of Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky. “Midsommar,” despite positive critical reception, has been the subject of much debate, with as many people disparaging it as hailing it a masterpiece.

Robert Egger’s “The Lighthouse,” however, may be the year’s horror stand out. Fans have been calling the film a bona-fide modern classic since it opened to rave reviews at Cannes. Like his freshman effort, “The Witch,” Egger’s film is a meticulously researched and crafted New England period horror film. Despite only featuring two actors in the entire film (Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe), audiences have been entranced with the film, rallying for Academy attention for both actors. Eggers shares similar arthouse influences with Aster; the two have discussed their admiration for Bergman on a podcast.

Peele, Aster and Eggers have found much success in their respective lanes of the horror genre, each releasing successful sophomore efforts in 2019. As the year has shown, despite anxieties about an increasingly changing landscape, film as a serious cultural force is not going anywhere. In fact – as perhaps is the case for horror films – it might just be getting started.

piwonk1@stolaf.edu

Graphic by Thomas Hardy/Manitou Messenger

Categories: Colleges

Agnes A Capella concert has all the elements of an entertaining evening

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:48am

Agnes A Cappella had the audience clapping, cheering and laughing along to the music at their fall concert on Nov. 15.

Agnes A Cappella is St. Olaf’s resident soprano and alto a capella group and includes students, Katie Anderson ’20, Emily Bohlig ’20, Alina Villa ’20, Jessica Folson ’21, Emma Borkowski ’21, Meg Swanson ’21, Gabbie Hotlzman ’21, Chloe Militzer ’21, Kylie Landa ’22 and Mila New ’22.

This year, their fall concert focused on the theme of “Fire, Water, Earth and Air.” The set began with a medley of rain themed songs, including “It’s Raining Men,” by The Weather Girls, ‘’Thunder” by Imagine Dragons and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz.”

After the introductory medley, each member or the group took turns performing solo pieces with the rest of the group acting as the mandatory a capella backup. Villa was an essential part of the backup with their beat-boxing prowess, and the group expressed thanks at the end to Folson, who they said “gives us all of our notes to sing every single song we sing.”

Notable solos included Anderson’s heart-wrenching performance of “Turned to Stone” by Ingrid Michaelson and Holtzman’s energetic rendition of “Mr Blue Sky” by The Electric Light Orchestra.

“Hill Harmonics,” St. Olaf’s mixed-voice a cappella group performed three songs during the concert’s intermission. The group’s wobbly but comedic set was a definite crowd pleaser. You can check out Hill Harmonics in a full concert on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Pause Mane Stage.

The concert included a decent amount of group participation – at one point, the singers taught the audience how to sing some basic a cappella techniques and, during intermission, Agnes members invited the audience to play a Kahoot filled with fun trivia about each Anges member.

At times, the balance seemed a little off, with the background singers drowning out the lead. However, the shaky balance could have been due to questionable tech, as deafening screeches occasionally filled the Pause, making everyone in the audience flinch.

The concert may not have been pitch perfect, but the Agnes A Cappella put on an entertaining, captivating performance Friday night.

everett2@stolaf.edu

Photos: Claire Strother/Manitou Messenger

Categories: Colleges

“Cloud 9” amounts to a shocking, powerful, thought-provoking performance

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:42am

This past Friday, the St. Olaf theater department opened its production of “Cloud 9” by Caryl Churchill. Filled with non-traditional casting and a remarkable scenic and costume design, the production delivered a powerful statement on the intersection of repression, colonialism and identity.

“Cloud 9” is a bold complex play that utilizes absurdism to challenge the ways sexual orientation, gender, race and class identities intersected in both 19th century British colonial Africa and 1970s London.

“Holistically, the production was a marvelous success. “Cloud 9” is a powerful and frequently shocking play that requires a great deal of reflection from the audience,” Eli Aronson ’21 said.

The first act of the play, set in British colonial Africa, shocked the audience from the onset. “Cloud 9” immediately submerged the audience into the absurdist and bent reality with cross-gender, race and age casting. The play continued to shock through tense character dynamics, jarringly direct and profane dialogue and simulated sex acts. It was clear through the direction and performances that special attention was paid to these potentially problematic elements to ensure they effectively furthered the themes.

The second act, set 100 years later in 1970s London, was an interesting departure from the world created in the first act. The characters are free to explore and embrace their identities, but still struggle to fully overcome the repression developed in the first act.

While the show was well performed, there were some standout performances that made this production extraordinary.

Rachel Ropella ’20 performed with incredible strength and clarity of intention. Playing the secretive Harry Bagley and the bumbling Martin, Ropella’s attention to detail was evident in every scene, conversation and vignette. Bianca Davis ’21 performed her contrasting roles in the first act with excellent distinction and variety and in the second act, her performance as the lesbian single-mother Lin was a scene stealer.

Additionally, both Claire Chenoweth ’20 and Kendall Otness ’21 portrayed their roles with excellent dramatic gravitas that especially grounded the new reality in the second act. Seeing Chenoweth’s performance as the elderly mother Betty in act two expertly articulated the struggle of self-expression and societal oppression.

There were times when the pacing of the show lagged or accelerated unexpectedly. Some moments seemed to swell lethargically but were often immediately picked up by the energy of Ropella or Davis’ characters.

The scenic and costume design was decadent and tastefully absurd. The production transformed the proscenium Kelsey Theater into a thrust stage with the audience seated on the stage itself. Brian Bjorklund’s scenic design and Aimee Jillson’s costume design possessed a beautiful attention to detail and complemented the dramatic and absurdist themes of the play. The physical concept was seamlessly tied in with the overarching dramatic concept was a testament to the creative abilities of St. Olaf’s theater department.

Holistically, the production was a marvelous success. “Cloud 9” is a powerful and frequently shocking play that requires a great deal of reflection from the audience. It is encouraging to see that the St. Olaf theater department is unafraid to present difficult and uncomfortable art that forces the audience to think critically about how one is complicit in the oppression of others and oneself.

aronso2@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Rent control will do nothing to solve California’s housing crisis

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:36am

The conceit of the free market is that generally it supplies most things efficiently to most people. Whenever it fails to supply, it is a market failure.

There is, unquestionably, a market failure at play in California’s housing market. This market failure has managed to place California as one of the richest states with the most homelessness. The question is simple: why has the market failed to provide enough affordable housing to Californians? The answer is simple: not enough housing is being built.

The California legislature has just passed a bill to limit rent price increases, which, while well-intentioned, will ultimately fail to help the housing problem. The problem in California is not that existing housing is too expensive, it is that this expense happens because there is simply not enough housing options in the first place. If it were just a rent price problem, then there would be a surplus of empty apartments and homes in California, with people just unable to rent there. The simple truth is that not enough housing is being built.

This is not just a practical question in California – rent controls have time and time again proven ineffective in reducing housing costs and homelessness. In fact, the Washington Post referred to rent controls as “the one policy all economists can agree is bad,” as it is fundamentally inept at solving the real problem at hand; there are not enough places to live.

This is not a carte-blanche, conservative, anti-government intervention argument. In fact, there is a state intervention in the California housing market that would actually do a whole lot to address this issue. Furthermore, it is contained in a bill already proposed in the California State Senate.

California Senate Bill 50 would attack existing zoning law in California. Outside of the very center of California’s major cities, local zoning laws prohibit housing that is not single-family housing. This is because the constituents deeply involved in local governments want to see their home values go up and have misaligned incentives that lead them to pass zoning law to keep others out of the market.

This bill would forcefully change much of the zoning law in California to allow for the spread of more urban housing, including apartment and condominium complexes. Doing so would dramatically increase the amount of people who can live in these neighborhoods and, as the vehement opposition of local homeowners associations tell us, would decrease property value (and, therefore, rent).

A secondary benefit of this policy would be reducing the environmental impact of these neighborhoods. With urban expansion, the need for cars would decrease and maybe finally the famous LA traffic would start to be reduced. Furthermore, the people living within California’s largest cities have some of the lowest environmental impacts in the U.S. This comes from a combination of not needing air conditioning, being less likely to drive cars and environmental regulation in the cities and California. Increasing the size of urban parts of these city areas would dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of California as a whole.

This bill has sat stagnant for months, as it has divided the California legislature. Some are scared that the increased development could price people out of the market, as developers may elect to build high-cost places to live rather than homes that could be afforded.

With all due-respect to California’s politicians, this idea is at best ignorant and at worst pandering spurred on by a detestment of any and all of the economic literature on the topic. When looked at in a contemporary or historical lens, the development of and creation of more housing in a market with a constant demand will always decrease price. Gentrification is already a massive problem in California’s urban centers and suburbs, specifically because not enough housing is built to satisfy the demand.

If the California legislature wanted to actually make movement on solving California’s housing crisis, they would pass the bill they’ve already written: California Senate Bill 50.

graham10@stolaf.edu

Logan Graham ’23 is from Warrenville, Ill. His major is undecided.

Categories: Colleges

Obama calls out cancel culture

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:32am

A video of former President Barack Obama criticizing cancel culture has been gaining attention on social media. The video is from a rare public appearance Obama made on Oct. 29 at an Obama Foundation Summit, but his even rarer harshness raised eyebrows for his online fanbase.

To be clear, definitions of cancel culture can vary, but my definition is attempting to hurt someone’s career and steer success away from them if they are bigoted. People deserve second chances, but most celebrities who are cancelled have good reason to be.

Obama claimed that young people on social media think activism is being “as judgemental as possible.” He said that people can tweet against a celebrity and “sit back and feel pretty good” because of how “woke” they are.

He even defended his views by saying, “People who you are fighting may love their kids.” Whatever that means.

Basically, Obama hates social media activism and cancel culture and his harsh language offended many young people, including myself. I am not a big fan of Obama to begin with, but with the 2020 elections ramping up, Obama cannot be excusing racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination, which is what cancel culture targets.

My favorite example is when cancel culture targeted actress Scarlett Johansson after years of problematic actions and comments. She took the lead role in the live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga series “Ghost in the Shell.” She also tried to take a transgender lead role in “Rub & Tug” despite being a cis-gender, white person. She then responded to criticism by saying that she should be able to play “any person, tree or animal.”

Many people had conversations about the complex subjects of representation in media and plenty agreed that Johansson was a bigot who should not be supported. Johansson is the type of person who does not deserve a second chance anymore because she is clearly bigoted and there are people with much more talent and intellect who can do her job better.

Social media allows many more people to be educated about the other media they consume and good conversations about politics can occur when a celebrity is cancelled. Obama says cancel culture is not “bringing about change,” but I actually got into politics and educated myself after seeing so much buzz about the 2016 elections on Tumblr and Instagram.

“Obama says cancel culture is not ‘bringing about change,’ but I actually got into politics and educated myself after seeing so much buzz about the 2016 elections on Tumblr and Instagram.”

Does social media activism get bills to pass or wars to stop? Absolutely not, but activism does not have to be at the macro level. Simply educating Americans in every way possible can have great impacts on our conversations about topics such as race and gender.

When people, especially politicians, are abrasive to “wokeness,” it just means they do not like being politically correct or watching their language. It is really not hard to be polite and not racist or sexist.

Considering the 2020 elections are ramping up, Obama must uphold high standards for Democrats and even higher standards for anti-racists and anti-sexists. The discussion within the party must be about how to alleviate and ultimately solve America’s oppressive structures and that requires accurate language or political correctness or “wokeness,” as Obama calls it.

While I understand that sometimes teenagers on Twitter can be ruthless and harsh, the majority of cancel culture deals with either clear examples of bigotry or debates about the gray area and both situations are completely valid and helpful for political discourse.

While Obama may have tried to point out the extreme of social media, he actually offended teenagers who learn and discuss politics on platforms like Twitter. Social media activists who spread the word and debate about political correctness are not the enemy.

larion1@stolaf.edu

Karen Larionova ’23 is from Eden Prairie, Minn. Her major is undecided

Categories: Colleges

What Instagram’s new change could mean for content creators

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:30am

A quick read through some people’s reactions to Instagram’s recent announcement regarding likes made me realize that there is actually a misunderstanding about what the announcement was in the first place. No, Instagram is not removing the feature that allows you to like people’s posts. So do not worry – you can continue liking every single post by your celebrity crush. However, you will not be able to see the number of people who have done the same. Only the owners of accounts would be able to see the number of likes their content received.

“Likes on Instagram are a form of capital that speaks to one’s value and credibility.”

Countries like Canada, Japan and Brazil have already implemented this change. Instagram’s CEO, Adam Mosseri announced that this move is an attempt to de-pressurise their social space – to see Instagram shift from the more competitive comparison of number of likes to an emphasis on the content and appreciation of people’s work and art. The potential implications of this feature for U.S. social media culture has a lot people in a roar of conversations and debates.

I cannot help but be skeptical of how this move would affect smaller businesses and growing voices on Instagram. A lot of influencers and businesses benefit directly from the metric system of like counts and earn a living from it. Whether it had been Instagram’s intention or not, it has become a platform from which entertainers, entrepreneurs and content creators can find creative means to market themselves and engage visibly with their audience. Likes on Instagram are a form of capital that speaks to one’s value and credibility.

I am not saying that all accounts that have many likes have great content; we all know that is not true. Nor am I saying that the actual content cannot speak for itself in exclusion to the number of likes it gets. However, when you are a growing business or an influencer, on top of the work you put into creating and marketing your work, users’ ability to see the number of likes you get on posts can speak mounts on people’s continual positive perception of your work.

Instagram is not oblivious to this and they even acknowledged it, promising to come to an alternative of how businesses and content creators can communicate value to their market and audience. Whether or not Instagram ends up making this test permanent in the U.S., it will be interesting to see if they choose to protect businesses and influencers from being negatively impacted by the change.

While Facebook Inc., which owns Instagram, says this change is a ‘fundamental’ one, many people insist that this is one of many ways the company is asserting its power on their market – to have more businesses and content creators pay for ads directly to them. I am not indifferent to some of the positives that can come from reducing the arbitrary measures young people use to define their worth. But, honestly, when it comes to Facebook, there is always something cringy about their ‘well-intended’ initiatives disguising the profit-driven ethic that I have come to associate them with.

mensah1@stolaf.edu

Lerato Mensah-Aborampah ’22 is from Maseru, Lesotho. Her major is undecided.

Categories: Colleges

New registration system is a step in the right direction

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:29am

As anyone who consistently reads the Manitou Messenger from start to end will know, St. Olaf is implementing an entirely new registration system. It will be first come, first serve; seniors get access first, then juniors, then underclassmen. The Registrar’s Office promises an easier and more straightforward registration process, a claim that may or may not prove true in the long run.

“In a first come, first serve system, being early to the game is everything.”

The day spring registration opened this year, one of my friends and I skipped lunch, made Kraft mac n’ cheese in her microwave and signed up for classes within five minutes of registration opening. We knew the timing did not matter, but it made us feel a little more in control; with five majors and two concentrations planned between us, any amount of fantasized control over our class registration was calming.

As a first year, I heard plenty of advice and theories from peers and upperclassmen alike about how registration works. It felt to me like a convoluted, incomprehensible system: throw your classes into the void and hope it all works itself out. Cross your fingers and pray to the Registrar. Now, some of this panic is just my flair for the dramatic. But there is a general consensus among students that the old registration system is stressful and confusing.

So, will the new system be better? That remains to be seen. I can, however, offer some predictions. My class tested the registration system over the summer when we signed up for first year writing and religion classes. As a Great Conversation student, I did not have to go through the process, but most of the first years I know did. As a whole, they found the process pretty simple – with the caveat that they had no prior experience with which to compare it.

The first years’ approaches to registration varied. My circle of first years included both ends of the spectrum: some were like me, refreshing the page every few minutes until the program opened, while others forgot about it altogether until the very last day.

It is this difference in timing that worries me. In a first come, first serve system, being early to the game is everything; making mac n’ cheese and huddling with your laptop is necessary rather than slightly obsessive. For me, it raises a few potential problems. The most obvious is that this urge to be early will go overboard and that the already high-strung St. Olaf student body will just become more stressed – exactly the opposite of what the Registrar’s Office intended.

Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect registration system. It is a process that will cause stress and difficulty no matter how well designed it is. And as a whole, St. Olaf’s new system seems more straightforward and the first years generally had no complaints. Although I worry about the added anxiety the first come, first serve aspect will inevitably bring, I still think it is a better system.

Registration will never be a low-stress situation, but the new system is a nice attempt to make it less convoluted. If all else fails, register early, cross your fingers and eat some mac n’ cheese.

klinef1@stolaf.edu

Grace Klinefelter ’23 is from Omaha, Neb. Her major is undecided.

Graphic: Anna Weimholt/Manitou Messenger

Categories: Colleges

Many campus buildings remain inaccessible for disabled and injured students

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:22am

Although St. Olaf is a predominantly residential campus, many residence halls and other buildings remain inaccessible for students with disabilities or injuries.

Mellby, Thorson, Hoyme, Rand, Hilleboe and Kittlesby residence halls, as well as the Theater Building, lack elevators and other accommodations. Students who have suffered due to this issue are voicing their concerns, and the Student Government Association (SGA) and Residence Life staff, conscious of this pending problem, are looking to find a solution.

Navigating campus can be especially tricky for students who suffer injuries mid-way through the year since they have not arranged to live in an accessible dorm.

Mahmoud Aldirderi ’20 had reconstructive ACL and meniscus surgery in late August 2019. He lives at the bottom floor of a Rand stairwell, which forces him to traverse two flights of stairs every time he needs to go anywhere.

“I could not put any weight on my foot in my case, whereas if only my ACL was torn I could use my foot,” Aldirderi. “So, initially I stayed off campus at some very good friends of mine. They took care of me after the surgery, they had cars and I didn’t have to bother with the inaccessibility – no stairs.”

Two weeks into the semester, Aldirderi’s physical therapist gave him the green light for putting more pressure on his injured leg. He then moved back into Rand. However, the dorm’s inaccessibility persisted as a problem. Usually, students in a similar situation are able to move to a more accessible dorm. Aldirderi received this offer but needed his roommates for psychological support and, due to the severity of his surgery, to assist him with standing up, showering, changing ice packs and other things.

Even with his friends’ support, the stairs were a huge obstacle for him.

“It was isolating,” Aldirderi said. “The stairs were horrible. I would rather just stay in my room all day and end up not doing anything.”

Recent graduate Kayla Carlson ’19, who has a physical disability, experienced the lack of accessibility on campus every day for four years. Not only was Carlson incapable of accessing most dorms due to their lack of elevators, but she found that the supposedly accommodating residence halls also lacked proper infrastructure.

“The solution has been to just put people in accessible dorms but even though Larson has an elevator, it doesn’t have an accessible bathroom,” Carlson said. “Same with Mohn. As far as I know, Ytterboe doesn’t have a shower with a bench.”

While academic buildings on campus are generally more accommodating for people with disabilities, the Theater Building remains inaccessible. Though the building has an elevator in the back that accesses the green rooms, it requires two flights of stairs to reach classrooms on the upper floors.

“It’s simply that the school should take into account students with disabilities regarding their architecture. Period,” Aldirderi said.

This is not an issue that has gone unnoticed. Student Government Association (SGA) President Devon Nielsen ’20 and Vice President Ariel Mota Alves ’20 are aware of the lack of accessibility at the College and intend to address this issue in spring 2020.

The two executives are both board members of the Minnesota Association of Private College Students (MAPCS), an organization comprised of Minnesotan college student government representatives. MAPCS seeks to find innovative solutions to the common struggles of private colleges by means of a collective effort.

“This coming spring [MAPCS] are going to discuss accessibility. This will be an ongoing conversation,” Mota Alves said.

This particular issue is not unique to St. Olaf alone, but extends to most private colleges in Minnesota. With many dorms without elevators, oddly shaped terrain and seasons that alter landscapes with time, maintaining accessibility throughout campus is a challenge.

From a legal standpoint, it is permissible that not all campus dorms and buildings are created equally.

“[An] example could be a student who needs to be able to be in a wheelchair while showering,” said Associate Dean of Students for Residence Life Pamela McDowell. “Not all halls have showers you may roll into – but as long as some halls do we meet the requirements. As we renovate we do try to address more of these accessibility concerns.”

Both staff and student authorities are cognizant of this pending issue. Feasible solutions, however, are highly complex, requiring architectural ingenuity that limits quick change.

“I applaud St. Olaf for their work,” Nielsen said. “But my ultimate dream would be that St. Olaf continues that drive to become more accessible throughout campus.”

kostov1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges

Class project tests trayless Stav Hall, provoking backlash

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:22am

Stav Hall went trayless for two nights last week in a pilot initiative spearheaded by students from an environmental studies course.

Five students from the course “Environmental Policy & Regulation in the United States” led the pilot initiative to gather information regarding student responses to a trayless cafeteria and to see if no trays is a good fit for St. Olaf.

The use of trays in the cafeteria leads to increased food waste and water usage, which contribute to poor campus sustainability, group members Cameron Goebel ’21 and Rose Sandell ’21 said.

No trays were present in Stav Hall during dinner Nov. 12 and 13, unless needed for accessibility reasons. Student volunteers weighed leftover food to gather data on food waste.

The students held the pilot as part of a class project that encouraged students to work toward a change in environmental policy.

“I want people to come out of this class and not think of policy as something that’s way off in Washington,” said visiting instructor in environmental studies Megan Butler, who leads the class.

The group landed on the idea of a trayless initiative after group member Becky White ’22 reached out to Bon Appetit General Manager Traci Quinnell and various other cafeteria workers. Northfield City Council Member Suzie Nakasian also spoke with group members about their project.

“She recommended that we do a pilot program, to see if we could try it first and then get some data, figure out public reactions, and then move forward from there,” Sandell said.

Goebel sent an email to the student body detailing the pilot program on Nov. 10 and a survey to gather feedback on Nov. 14.

The survey included four options regarding the trayless initiative – full support, on the fence, do not support, and don’t care. Of the responses so far, more students selected ‘do not support’ than ‘support,’ while ‘on the fence’ was the most popular option, Sandell said. The results so far are inconclusive.

“We saw a lot in the survey, people were asking, ‘I’d like to see if this actually makes a difference,’” Goebel said. “That may take them off the fence.”

During dinner on Nov. 19 and 20, the group weighed leftover food to measure the difference in food waste between having trays and not having trays.

“We’re hoping that there’s a significant difference,” Sandell said. “Maybe it’ll push people that are on the fence to be like, ‘oh, so this actually had an impact.’”

Sandell and Goebel noticed a majority of students expressed disapproval and frustration with a trayless cafeteria. This frustration led some students to attempt to skew measurements of food waste by placing bundles of napkins into the disposal bins to make them weigh more.

“We knew public reaction was going to be bad,” Sandell said. “We just didn’t know to what extent.”

Butler indicated that other groups working on projects for class have not faced the kind of push-back the trayless pilot has so far received.

“I think those dissenting opinions are important to understand, and to decide if this policy change is necessary,” Butler said. “I think they’re doing a good job collecting that data, too.”

The group also used the pilot to gauge whether a trayless cafeteria would be a good fit for St. Olaf in the future.

“I don’t think mandatory no-trays is a good fit,” Goebel said. “But I do think there’s a huge aspect where if people knew there was more of an impact, they would change their autopilot behavior of grabbing a tray.”

Although Bon Appetit cafeteria workers expressed support for eliminating trays, preliminary student responses indicated that an entire elimination of trays would not be possible at the moment. A culture change has to happen before trays can be eliminated, Goebel and Sandell said.

“I think at this point it’s just about bringing awareness to people,” Sandell said. “Now we’re kind of just hoping for a culture shift, and this just might be the start of it. It might be people recognizing the problem now.”

marand1@stolaf.edu

Categories: Colleges