Author: Andrew Wilder

Nepalese community remembers earthquake victims

Bishwas Sharma ’16 awoke on the morning of Saturday, April 25 to a flood of missed calls, text messages, emails and social media notifications alerting him to the news that a massive earthquake had struck his home country of Nepal.

It was hours until he heard anything from his family and friends still in the country.

“I tried to call my parents for what were probably the worst two hours of my life,” Sharma said. “It was an indescribable relief when I heard back from my brother saying they were all safe.”

Not everyone in the country was so lucky. The earthquake, dubbed the Gorkha earthquake after the district where its epicenter was located, registered a 7.8 on the Richter scale. With the death toll above 7,000 at press time and expected to rise to 10,000 or higher, more than 14,000 people injured and many more made homeless, it has become the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since 1934.

The earthquake leveled entire villages and caused landslides that have severely hindered rescue and relief efforts in rural areas. It triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest that killed 19, making it the deadliest day on the mountain in history. It also devastated the Nepali capital, Kathmandu, where it razed houses and damaged important cultural and historic sites – including parts of Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site – beyond repair.

Sharma was not the only St. Olaf student affected by the earthquake. Feeling cut off from their family and friends on the other side of the world, he and the college’s other Nepali and South Asian students decided that they wanted to find a way to involve the St. Olaf community in the effort to help Nepal recover from the damage of the earthquake.

“Being so far away from home created a sort of survivor’s guilt that we felt would only dull if we did something to help the country that raised us,” Yazmin Moktan ’18 said. “I don’t think a lot of us really sat down to process the emotional trauma this was doing to us. We went straight into work mode and have been quite efficient. I think it helped to distract ourselves.”

The students began by compiling information about the various relief organizations active in Nepal, which they sent to students in several emails to the stolaf-extra alias, in an effort to make St. Olaf community members more intentional about where they choose to donate. Then, on the Monday following the earthquake, the Nepali students held an open meeting of the student organization Celebrate South Asia! at which they shared their stories about the effects of the earthquake and brainstormed ways of contributing to the relief effort.

“We had great attendance at the CSA! meeting,” Sharma said. “And a lot of people sent emails saying they were interested in volunteering if we did fundraisers.”

The students wasted no time, quickly organizing multiple fundraisers for the coming days.

“We talked to Pastor Matt [Marohl] and organized a candlelight vigil on Wednesday,” Sharma said. “Even with such short notice, a lot of people came to the vigil and heard our stories. We raised more than $800 in that one hour alone.”

The students were recognized by the Student Organizations Committee on Friday as an official student organization, called Oles for Nepal. The group’s email alias and Facebook page became a hub for coordinating the relief effort at St. Olaf. Before long, other student organizations began to lend their support.

“We were contacted by the Lion’s Pause team, who had decided to donate all their proceeds from selling pizza on Friday and Saturday to Nepal,” Sharma said. “They have been asking us for suggestions for which organizations they should donate to. We also heard from St. Olaf’s Habitat for Humanity group, which wants to collaborate and help us in promoting our plans.”

The Lion’s Pause fundraiser proved to be a huge success. By the end of the day on Saturday, it had raised $1,772.

“It was our kitchen manager’s idea,” Lion’s Pause Co-coordinator Nathan Hartwig ’15 said. “By the end of Friday night we had already almost met our original goal of $1,000.”

Fundraising on campus continued into the second week after the earthquake, with Oles for Nepal selling momos and Nepali dumplings from Monday, May 4 to Wednesday, May 6. There was also a henna tattoo fundraiser on Thursday and Friday, May 7 and 8. The group is also selling handmade Nepali bags throughout the week and tabling during meal times.

All the proceeds from the fundraising will go directly to some of the most severely affected rural areas in Nepal through the Lincoln School Earthquake Relief Fund, where Moktan’s mother works. Part of the fund will also go to help organizations rebuilding the neighborhood where Bimala Shrestha ’16 lives and the village in the Gorkha District where Deepika Pokharel ’18 grew up.

“This disaster has brought us all closer together as Nepalese,” Sharma said. “But it has also brought together the campus community, which has been a tremendous source of support.”


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Sustainability fair raises environmental awareness

Student organizations and Northfield businesses representing varying aspects of sustainable living gathered in Crossroads Tuesday, Oct. 21 for Sustainapalooza: SustainAbilities Fair 2014.

“The goal of the event was to show Oles ways they can be involved in the environmental movement or movements both on campus and off,” said Hannah Gelle ’15, one of this year’s SustainAbilities representatives. “It was also a great chance for environmentally-minded Oles to come together and collaborate on some projects.”

“I think it’s a great opportunity for students to get to know their environmental community better, since it’s often diverse or complex,” said Will Lutterman ’15, this year’s SGA Environmental Senator. “This is a place where we can come together and show students where they’re at.”

The event, a part of SustainAbilities Week, featured both student organizations and Northfield businesses in a festival-like setting that also featured free food and drink and live music. Student organizations worked to educate students about their varied approaches to sustainable living. Organizations included the Wendell Berry House, an honor house whose mission is “to reestablish the link between people, communities and the food that we eat,” according to its Facebook page, and STOGROW, an organic vegetable and herb farm run completely by students.

SustainAbilities is a student organization that “invites all St. Olaf students to learn about sustainability and to practice it together in residence halls,” according to its Facebook page.

The organization was formed after a 2011 survey of St. Olaf students found that 94% of first-years “expect to learn how to live sustainably in the residence halls.” In meeting that expectation, SustainAbilities performs a variety of roles on campus to promote sustainable living; this includes holding sustainability-themed events and encouraging recycling.

SustainAbilites is far from the only environmental group on campus – thus the need for the event in the first place – and the other organizations tabling at the event promoted their own agendas. Lutterman took the opportunity to share his goals for the year with the greater student body.

“I’m the leader of the sustainability subcommittee on the student senate, and I’m here to just talk about what we’re doing,” he said. “We developed a series of recommendations for the President’s Task Force on Sustainability utilizing summer research done on student preferences on sustainability, as well as holding focus groups with student leaders. We’re submitting these recommendations to the Task Force in order that they can better formulate broad goals for sustainability at St. Olaf.”

A few Northfield businesses were also represented at the event, such as Just Food Co-op, which promoted its College Cooperator program. The program entitles college students to member discounts on certain items by showing their student IDs, as well as its new student CARE Cooperative Access to Responsible Eating Package program, which delivers a selection of nutritious foods to students at St. Olaf and Carleton monthly for $35/month.

SustainAbilities Week centered around Campus Sustainability Day, a national effort to celebrate sustainability in higher education.


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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Music on Trial: Metal music: is it worth it?

Let’s face it: heavy metal has a bad reputation. Critics of the genre often generalize the music as lacking any real aesthetic or artistic appeal, citing the hellish howling of the death-growl or the frenetic squeal of overdriven guitars. Metal fans are frequently stereotyped as a subculture of machismo misfits decked out in black band T-shirts and leather jackets. Whether it’s the demonically face-painted members of KISS, the pyrotechnics of Rammstein or even the names of some bands – Death, Bloodbath or Cannibal Corpse, to name a few of the tamer ones – metal doesn’t exactly have a great public image.

Yet metal is successful. Metal concerts and festivals consistently draw huge crowds of devoted fans. Top metal albums go platinum multiple times over, and many metal bands have enjoyed long and lucrative careers. Despite heavy criticism, heavy metal is alive and well.

So why has metal stuck around? Perhaps it’s because many common complaints against metal music simply are not true:

1. All heavy metal sounds the same.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, there are probably more subgenres of heavy metal than any other kind of music today, except perhaps jazz. Taken together, the different subgenres of metal music draw on practically every other musical tradition out there, from classical to Celtic to hip-hop. From progressive metal to melodic death metal to, yes, Viking metal, there is no shortage of diversity in the world of heavy metal. For proof, check out

2. Heavy metal is satanic.

Yes, some heavy metal bands in the subgenre called black metal are satanic. Perhaps the most serious case is Mayhem, a Norwegian black metal band whose lead singer committed suicide and whose guitarist was murdered by its former bassist. But to decry all heavy metal as satanic and evil is, quite simply, fear-mongering. When any movement gets as big as heavy metal has, there are bound to be deviants on the fringe. But the fact is, most metal bands do not hold satanic beliefs. With lyrics like, “Thanks be to God through Jesus / No condemnation in the Lord / thank you Jesus for saving me,” Antestor and other unblack metal bands prove that not all metal is satanic.

3. Heavy metal has no artistic merit.

Judging music based on its supposed “artistic merit” is a bit like trying to agree on something’s length without standard units of measurement. “Artistic merit” is too subjective a term. Metal music is not simply thoughtless noise-making. In fact, theoretical and technical complexity are two of the lesser known hallmarks of metal. Lots of metal music employs complicated key and tempo changes, borrowing heavily from jazz and classical music. By virtue of metal’s complexity, speed and intensity, virtually all genres of metal demand nothing less than virtuosic musicianship. Furthermore, metal isn’t limited to doom, gloom and anger. Metal can also be about Tolkien-esque fantasy most power metal, overcoming an addiction Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” and even mystical out-of-body experiences Mastodon’s “Crack the Skye”.

4. Heavy metal fans are violent and depressed.

Wrong again, metal-haters. According to a recent study by Professor Adrian North of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, metal fans are actually psychologically identical to fans of classical music. “The general public has held a stereotype of heavy metal fans being suicidally depressed and being a danger to themselves and society in general,” North said, “but they are quite delicate things.” It turns out fans of Mozart and Metallica alike tend to be creative, gentle people who are at ease with themselves, not the violent and aggressive delinquents they’re made out to be.

So if you’ve always thought that all metal is evil or looked down on metal as a second-class art, or even if you’re in Ole Orch, give metal a listen. You might just find yourself headbanging along to the beat.

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote