Music at pause dances should not be censored

Whether you’re a first year or upperclassman, most of us are aware of the protests that happened at St. Olaf last year. As an international senior, I was there throughout the entirety of the protests. I was there when my friends didn’t feel safe after the elections. I was there when the entire student body decided it was time for a change.

It is difficult to listen to what people have to say and it is very easy to misinterpret what is coming out of people’s mouths. This is the main reason why being in a relationship is so demanding. Living peacefully in a community is like being in a relationship with the entire community. Probably not as intimate as one thinks when they first hear the word “relationship,” but definitely as important. If we do not listen to each other, we can never move forwards. 

During the protests, I promised myself that I wouldn’t talk or speculate, I would simply lock my lips and listen. After everything that happened, I was aware that the administration went through some difficult times trying to satisfy the large body of students that simply couldn’t take it anymore. The injustice, the racism, the hate. I watched the frustration of the Collective when they first met with the Board of Regents and absolutely nothing of importance was brought up or discussed. Then, I watched the administration thinking that they had done their job when they agreed to listen to the demands and discuss them. 

Considering these past events, the recent SGA decision to ban profanity at Pause Dances has some problematic repercussions.

In my four years here, I have been to many Pause Dances, which is why I feel confident in saying that this effort to make the campus “inclusive” has not done so at all. The last Pause Dance, held on Saturday, Oct. 7, was one of the emptiest dances I have ever seen. Students go to the Pause Dance to relax after a long week, and to listen to quality music and dance. 

Music is made to express emotion. Music is art. As a studio art major I think that art should not and cannot be censored. Censoring art is basically censoring freedom of speech, which seems hypocritical when done in a country that has freedom of speech written about in the First Amendment of its Constitution.  

I come from a county where freedom of speech becomes more and more of a joke each day. I came here with the hopes of being free to express myself. I came here to be part of an inclusive campus. I was so proud to hear that the DJ who was supposed to play at the 70s Pause Dance held on Sept. 8 from 11 p.m. to 12 a.m., owned up to his art and decided to make a statement by not playing music that would have limited his freedom of expression. I know that it is difficult to satisfy everyone on a campus of  around 3,000 people and I understand the efforts of Student Activities Committee, but these kinds of decisions, if they are made to try and reduce racism and discomfort, should be discussed with the student body and cannot be made according to few opinionated students.

Wassim Askoul ’18 has been very brave in this small scale protest which unfortunately was not followed by other DJs on campus who shared Askoul’s opinions but did not have the courage to stand up for what that believe in. Rap is a type of music and definitely a deeply meaningful form or art. Street vernacular such as the N-word are incorporated in the majority of rap songs as a way of expressing a culture. As a white passing student, I can say that many people have a wrong understanding of the use of such a word. 

Rap is an expression of culture; not playing rap songs is only excluding the body of students who likes to listen to and feels associated with such culture and music. 

I admire Askoul’s courage in standing up to SGA’s decision, which was communicated only one day before the dance. I hope students and the administration realize that if freedom of expression keeps being limited, Askoul will not remain the only one who does not want to perform in a Pause Dance or any other activity that is held in order to unify the campus community under a roof. Which, I am only assuming, is the reason why  neither Wassim Askoul, Jesus Caballero ’18 – known as DJ Toasty – nor Micheal Wegter ’18 – known as DJ Synfinity – played at the dance that was held on Oct. 7. 

I hope the administration starts talking to students before making exclusive decisions while trying to be inclusive.

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