Author: Nicholas Bowlin

MLB poised for historic 2016 season

Baseball fans, rejoice! Winter is over and Opening day has arrived. While it may be sentimental to refer to the sport as ‘America’s pastime,’ fans who dismiss this year’s season do themselves a disservice. This season promises to be as interest- ing as any in recent memory. A decade removed from the ‘steroid era,’ the MLB has a bevy of young stars and a fascinating mix of teams. It’s a new day in professional baseball and you would do well to wake up and pay it mind. Here are a few compelling storylines to watch.

Though the Cubs have gone longer without a championship than any North American professional sports team, ever, this may be the year for Chicago. The Cubs enter the season as the best team in base- ball. They sport the best lineup in the game, with veteran first baseman Anthony Rizzo surrounded by an incredible pool of young talent. Third baseman Kris Bryant and left fielder/catcher Kyle Schwarber were impressive as rookies last year, with Bryant winning rookie of the year and Schwarber blasting 16 home runs in only 69 games, setting the team’s postseason home run record. Throw in second year shortstop Addison Russell, a strong pitching staff led by Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta and the consistently excellent John Lester, and a deep roster fortified with proven veterans Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward, and this team looks downright scary. At the helm is manager Joe Maddon, widely acknowl- edged as one of the game’s best tacticians. The Cubs are expertly constructed: young, deep and talented, and certainly a favorite to win the World Series.

If the Cubs are to end their champion- ship drought, they may well have to beat the Kansas City Royals, who are looking for their third straight American League pennant. The Royals are an odd team. Their style of play contradicts the accepted theories of what constitutes a successful baseball team, yet they enter the year as the defending World Series champions and have a legitimate chance to repeat.

In an era when teams have accepted high strikeout totals in return for hit- ters who walk regularly and possess some power, the Royals value hitters who make contact, avoid strikeouts and put the ball in play. First baseman Eric Hosmer and outfielders Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain return as the mainstays of a talented line- up. They struck out 144 fewer times than any other team in 2015. The Royals also led the majors the past two years in defensive runs saved, had three Gold Glove winners last year and have what is arguably the best outfield in a generation. This, along with their flame-throwing bullpen, makes for one of the best defensive teams in the MLB.

Turning to individual level, all fans should pay attention to Bryce Harper of the Nationals and Mike Trout of the Angels. Trout, simply put, has been the best player in the world since his rookie season in 2013. In fact, most stat mea- surements show Trout to be the greatest player at this point in a career, ever. The centerfielder displays a transcendent mix of power, speed and defense.

Unlike Trout, Harper has only had one truly excellent season. But at an age when most prospects are still trying to break into the big leagues, the 23-year-old Harper posted one of the greatest performances of all time last season. Smashing 42 home runs and boasting an ungodly split of .330/.460/.649, Harper won the National League’s MVP award and enters this sea- son as the game’s most feared hitter and – with his brash personality and illustrious head of hair – its most compelling person- ality.

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

SGA candidates forced to change SARN proposal

The lead up to the Student Government Association elections has been packed with drama, with posters defaced and accusations flying on Yik Yak. In the midst of all this, some students may have missed a recent debate over a proposal in the campaign platform Kyle Wilmar ’17 and Héctor Poveda ’19. The pair – running for student body president and vice-president, respectively – proposed to make the Sexual Assault Resource Network, or SARN, a branch of SGA. This was a radical proposal and it surprised many members of the campus community, including the SARN staff.

Kaelie Lund ’16 and Natalia Soler ’16, the SARN co-chairs, promptly wrote to Wilmar and Poveda explaining why their proposal was unnecessary and potentially harmful.

“We believe that SARN best serves students on campus when it is a separate, autonomous entity away from St. Olaf’s Student Government Association and request that you immediately remove it from your campaign platform,” Lund wrote. “We also request that you post a clarification about your stance on SARN remaining independent from SGA on your Facebook page.”

According to Lund, Poveda and Wilmar did contact the organization the day before their platform was released. However, SARN staff were not made aware of the details. They were quick to express disappointment that the organization was not briefed on the magnitude of the proposal.

In their response, Lund and Soler detail why SARN functions best as an independent organization. One key point involves the distinction between SARN and the It’s On Us campaign; Wilmar and Poveda conflated the two in their platform. Launched last year as an SGA initiative, It’s On Us seeks to raise awareness about campus sexual assault. While SARN also aims to educate the campus, it has a direct service aspect that makes it unique. SARN is a confidential resource center for sexual assault survivors; it does not involve itself with student government. For Lund, to speak of SARN’s lack of power as Wilmar and Poveda did is to misunderstand SARN’s mission

“SARN is powerful on its own because of who it represents: the survivor. SARN exists to empower survivors of sexual assault – not the student government,” she said. “To say that SARN needs more power is an unnecessary statement because it is the only resource of its kind to exist in the St. Olaf community.”

To their credit, Wilmar and Poveda responded promptly. After discussing the issue with SARN staff, they agreed to drop the proposal from their platform. Both emphasize that they want to support SARN and its mission.

“Our main goal wasn’t to get involved with SARN as a confidential resource or with SARN affairs because they’re doing a great job. Our purpose was to support SARN and their mission on campus,” Poveda said. “We wanted a student representative from SARN on Senate who could say, ‘Is there a way we can make campus safer?’ We don’t want to get involved in the way they are handling their affairs.”

At the time this article was posted, the SARN proposal was still featured on the campaign Facebook page, as well as the candidate profile.

In addition to educational events and mental health services, SARN serves as a liaison between the campus administration, the Wellness Center, the Title IX Committee and health services in the surrounding area. Its unique position requires that trained SARN staff make decisions for the organization, rather than the student government bureaucracy. Lund makes this quite clear.

“No other resource at St. Olaf is student-supported and a confidential resource,” she said.

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Drug laws soften from white pressure

Drug use in America has long been framed as an urban problem, which is a veiled way of calling it a dysfunction of the non-white underclass. Asked to imagine a heroin addict in their minds, I doubt many citizens would conjure up a suburban white person. But they should. The last ten years have seen a massive increase in heroin abuse by white, middle-class Americans. Drug addiction has picked up and moved to the suburbs.

I saw this dynamic firsthand this past summer, working at a public health non-profit in Minneapolis. Once a week, I would spend the afternoon working in the organization’s needle exchange. For the uninitiated, needle exchanges are exactly what they sound like: injection drug users exchange their used needles for clean ones. No cost, no judgment and no questions asked.

Immediately, I noticed two things. First, that heroin was by far the most popular drug. And second, many heroin users did not fit any of my preconceptions. Many appeared relatively affluent, not easily identifiable as addicts. More to the point: they were white.

Statistics confirm my observations. A recent report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that heroin use among all non-white Americans fell 15 percent between 2002 and 2013. It rose 114 percent for whites. Deaths from opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 2000, and now kill more people per day than car crashes. Heroin is epidemic.

And the response to all of this? It’s been different, to say the least. Let’s recall the last American drug epidemic of this proportion: crack cocaine in the 1980s. Police departments and the federal government responded with the infamous “war on drugs,” resulting in mass incarceration of predominantly low-income blacks, harsh sentencing guidelines and a general sense that drug addicts were criminals.

Fast forward to today: similar widespread use of an illegal and widely condemned substance. But there are no mass arrests in Edina, no wave of stiff, unforgiving prison sentences in St. Louis Park. Rather, a national movement for kinder, gentler sentencing laws has emerged over the last several years. Presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie have stated publically that courts should emphasize treatment over jail time for heroin users.

Even police departments are changing their ways. A recent New York Times article on heroin use among whites reports that nearly 40 local police departments around the country implemented new policies that don’t charge heroin users who ask police for help, even if the individual has the drug on their person. Instead, police direct the users to drug treatment programs.

It all depends who is shooting up. Suddenly, it’s the sons and daughters of white Americans. When asked to picture an injection drug user, they used to imagine a brown-skinned person living in a big city. Now they picture their children and neighbors.

And when well-off suburban whites want something, they often get it. They organize lobbying groups and PACs, call their representatives and form community organizations. They have money, which means they have power. It’s a sad commentary on the state of American democracy and racial dynamics that positive policy change for non-whites only occurs when it intersects with the interests of wealthy Caucasians.

Don’t get me wrong; drug-sentencing laws in this country are draconian, wrong-headed, cruel and do absolutely nothing to help the drug user recover. Addiction is a disease, not a crime. Drug addicts need care, not incarceration. This movement has encouraged a more reasonable response to addiction, and I suppose we should welcome progress whenever it appears. It is a welcome step, a step towards kindness – one we should all endorse. But it’s disgraceful that this change occurred only after heroin needles began leaving their scars on white suburban forearms.

Nick Bowlin ’16 ( is from Princeton, N.J. He majors in political science.

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

STO Talks preview: innovation and big ideas

The St. Olaf community is full of bright, creative people with innovative ideas. On Saturday, April 18, in the Lion’s Pause, some of these individuals will have the opportunity to present their ideas to the college community. The fourth annual STO Talks will feature lectures from students, alumni and faculty. The topics to be covered are wide-ranging in nature, from issues of foreign aid to astrobiology and Black revolutionary artistic expression.

STO Talks debuted in 2012 as the college’s version of the incredibly popular TED Talks. Like TED, the St. Olaf version emphasizes powerful ideas and critical thinking distilled into short, concise lectures.

The talks begin at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 18 in the Lion’s Pause. Several of the lectures are previewed here.

Tasha Viets-VanLear ’15: Nothing to Lose But Our Chains: Artistic Identity in Times of Black Revolution

Throughout this academic year, Viets-VanLear ’15 has been a visible and vocal advocate for the “Black Lives Matter” movement on campus. One of the organizers of the Christmas Fest “die-in” that honored shooting victim Michael Brown and other victims of police violence, her STO Talk lecture continues this work of raising awareness for minorities and explains how art intersects with revolutionary politics.

“My STO Talk will explore the ways in which the performing arts have been used as a tool for representing the revolutionary politics of identity in times of oppression and violence against people of color,” she said. “I will touch on my own experiences in poetry and dance, provide examples of Black artists who have used their art to testify or object to racial oppression, and then connect it back to contemporary issues and artists.”

She hopes that her talk will raise awareness regarding the plight of minorities in America and demonstrate the necessity of art in revolutionary politics.

Professor Gordon Marino: Four or Five Uplifting Ideas Gleaned on a Long Walk with Søren Kierkegaard

Marino, a professor of philosophy who specializes in Kierkegaard, will deliver a lecture on the renowned existentialist philosopher.

“Having walked with Kierkegaard for over three decades,” he said, “I would like to think that I have gathered some morsels of wisdom from the Danish firebrand. In my ten minute lecturette, I will discuss two of Kierkegaard’s ideas that have guided my life. For one, I will try to articulate the distinction he draws between depression and despair. Secondly, I will reflect on the moral import of his analysis of self-deception.”

Marino is prolific Kierkegaard scholar. He is the author of Kierkegaard in the Present Age and co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Kierkegaard. He emphasizes that audience members require no previous experience with Kierkegaard to appreciate his lecture and its message.

Robert Jacobel: What’s Under the Ice?

A recently retired professor of physics and environmental studies, Jacobel will speak about his research on ice and climate change.

He has continued his research since his retirement, working with St. Olaf physics students. His work specifically focuses on exploring the geography below glaciers and ice sheets. This is accomplished using ice-penetrating radar and satellite technology. Jacobel has traveled to Antarctica multiple times as a member of the Center for Geophysical Studies of Ice and Climate CEGSIC, which is a research group based out of the St. Olaf Physics Department.

Nathan Detweiler ’16: Building Community as Diverse Individuals

This lecture will focus on the diversity of individuals that exist within St. Olaf and society as a whole. Detweiler believes that recognizing this diversity will promote community, inclusion and new perspectives.

“My STO Talk suggests that recognition that we are all diverse individuals can spur us to engage with people that we perceive as different from us,” he said. “Through these are often awkward interactions, we can build community that is based not solely on the representation of diverse individuals, but on meaningful interactions featuring accountability and honesty.”

For Detweiler, recognizing and embracing individual diversity is a crucial aspect of a healthy and accepting community.

“So often we get caught up in what makes us comfortable, but the reality is that our world is an uncomfortable place with lots of people who make us uncomfortable,” he said. “It’s so important for us all to learn how to interact meaningfully with those ‘uncomfortable’ people, because otherwise we tend to develop friction. . . and that leads to violence of various kinds.”

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Meet next years SGA President and VP

Barring a shocking number of write-in votes, the race for next year’s SGA President and Vice-President has been decided. John Bruer ’16 and William Seabrook ’16, President and Vice-President respectively, are running uncontested for the top SGA positions. They will be the first single-gender duo in several years.

Both have been heavily involved in SGA over the years, and are members of this year’s SGA executive team. Bruer, a Physics and Economics major, is the current Oleville Webmaster and works in the Student Senate. Seabrook, Political Science and Economics major with an emphasis in Finance, is the Executive Assistant for Senate, SOC and ADC.

Despite running uncontested, Bruer and Seabrook have aggressively publicized their candidacy and platform. Both expressed surprise at the lack of competition, but believe that forging connections with the student body now is vital for a productive term in office.

“We want there to be a lot of excitement about the elections, and we’re extremely excited to be running in this race, ” Bruer said. “We hope that regardless of the elections being contested or uncontested, that the students still feel connected to us, and that they’re aware that we’re running and what we’re running on, and the things we’d like to do for student government.”

One of their main goals next year is to make the SGA structure more open and accessible to the student body. One tangible way this can happen is an updated Oleville page.

“We want every student organization to have their own page,” Seabrook said. “So that everyone in the organization can go through Oleville to then put out events, to put out SOC funding requests, and to make it easier for everyone to get involved.”

According to Bruer, many students do not realize the full extent of SGA’s involvement in student organizations. SGA funding supports many student groups that students may not consider part of the government structure. He hopes to increase student awareness about SGA and its potential.

“We want students to recognize this, as well help them discover new ways to enhance their time on the Hill,” Bruer said. “We want to make sure that there’s a space for every student organization that wants to put their events up on Oleville and recruit people to join their organizations so it’s not just the one-and-done at the org fair. We want these type of things to be easily accessible.

The word accessibility came up repeatedly when discussing their platform and plans for next year. For students outside the SGA system, it can be difficult to implement ideas or make requests of the government. Bruer and Seabrook want to change that. They want to simplify channels of access and dialogue between the student body and the Senate.

Another area of emphasis is sexual assault response and policy. The current executive duo, Rachel Palermo ’15 and Nick Stumo-Langer ’15, have made it a point to encourage dialogue about campus sexual assault and the related administrative policy. They have done admirable work and Bruer and Seabrook plan to continue the focus on this sensitive issue.

“We’re both on the It’s On Us task force,” Seabrook said. “We know that it’s hard to talk about these issues and the fact that they’re being talked about now is super important and we want to continue that. Be it with the task force, be it with a subcommittee, be it with more events about that, we want to keep the It’s On Us ball rolling.”

Seabrook hopes that SGA can build on the strides made this year, and potentially create tangible policy change regarding sexual assault.

“We think that sexual assault is such an important issue on this campus and we’re so glad to be a part of the It’s On Us movement that has started with Rachel and Nick and several other key people on campus, and that’s definitely not something that we want to see dropped,” Bruer said. “We’ve worked so hard to build momentum behind it and get people talking, and get as many people involved at different events or different meetings, and try and brainstorm ways that we can improve this campus through culture change.”

The It’s On Us campaign’s collaborative nature stands as an aspiration for other SGA movements. Seabrook thinks that student government can apply lessons from this particular campaign to other campus initiatives.

“It’s On Us is such an important motto because of its message, but also because of its method of gaining traction,” Seabrook said. “The cool thing is that its not just Senate, its not just subcommittee, we’re getting the Wellness Center, we’re getting SARN involved, so all these people that may not normally work together are coming together on this issue.”

Despite an aggressive satirical campaign by two of their friends, Bruer and Seabrook will have the chance to implement these and other changes next year.

Photo Courtesy of William Seabrook

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote