Author: Nicholas Bowlin

SGA Spring Elections Preview

This is a preview of just a few of the contested races in the Student Government Association SGA spring elections. For information on all races, candidates and platforms, visit Oleville.com. Primaries will be held on Tuesday, March 17, with general elections on Thursday, March 19.

PAC

Emma Kieski ’16

Major – Political science and Latin American studies with a management concentration

Bio – PAC Marketing and Communications Officer, member of College Democrats Executive team, Captain of Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team.

Platform – Politics does not have to be boring, it can be interesting and fun! PAC should not be just one more lecture to sit through. In addition to our weekly dinners and big speakers, I will emphasize interactive events including, but not limited to, lively discussions, social media-themed events and political comedy.

I want to establish an atmosphere of informed debate between individuals with different political perspectives. I do not expect everyone to agree, but I want to create an environment for political discourse without prejudice.

I’ll move away from bipartisan gridlock and widen the scope of our events by bringing in speakers that force us to question our current beliefs.

St. Olaf has many organizations dedicated to awareness and social impact. I want PAC to be seen as a partner, using our resources to bring in speakers that interest you!

Kelsey Henquinet ’16

Major – Political science and history with a Middle Eastern studies concentration

Bio – PAC Weekly Events Coordinator, Volunteer Network Assistant Coordinator, Co-President of Mental and Spiritual Health Awareness House.

Platform – Students are often being told who to listen to and what kinds of conversations to have. It’s time to take back the conversation and work together to raise awareness beyond the Hill. It’s time to burst the St. Olaf bubble, and this is how I intend to do it:

I want to increase awareness about issues beyond the hill and encourage discussion, no matter the topic. Too often we have presented only one side of the argument, and I want to change that. I believe the only way to strengthen your opinions is to thoughtfully listen to the other side, and in order to do so, I am committed to bringing in speakers who will widen the scope of conversation.

International issues are undeniably important to students, but we rarely hear about the work of the international community and its implications on the world. I am dedicated to raising awareness about international politics, and I believe it should be a priority of the committee.

SAC

Rebecca Kunau ’17

Major – Economics and political science

Bio – SAC Social Media Director, Chair of the President’s Ball Committee, member of St. Olaf Model UN team

Platform – I’ve been on SAC for almost two years now, and during that time I’ve plotted out a roadmap for where we need to grow: socially, as SuperFans and in our selfless acts.

Our committee is the largest on SGA, and our events reach a large swath of the student body. But we need to go farther. Our Facebook page is our main point of contact for many of our events, but has only around 1800 people following it, many of whom are not current students. Through careful programming and advertising, I hope to grow SAC social media in order to reach those students who do not normally attend or hear about SAC events. At the National Association of College Activities this spring, Christian Dwyer and I booked an act for next fall that I think you’ll love. I’ve watched the SuperFan subcommittee grow, and I think I understand how to open it up to more Oles. And with my work on the Tackle Cancer initiative, I watched Oles and the Northfield community give back. I can’t wait to do it again next year, and I hope you’ll join me.

Eden Faure ’16

Major– Political science and Asian studies

Platform – SAC is a meaningful way for students to build a stronger, more cohesive St. Olaf identity through events that appeal to Oles from all corners of campus. Through the utilization of different advertising and media outlets, we can spread the word about events in a way that reaches a larger portion of St. Olaf students. I want to emphasize getting more students involved in decision making processes, including getting genuine feedback about potential events.

More specifically, I would love to see a greater promotion of weekend events in coordination with student organizations. There are so many unique student groups and it would be awesome if Oles could spend a day exploring and learning about different activities! Expanding recreational opportunities more heavily into the Cities is also something I would like to explore. Opportunities for students to familiarize themselves with St. Paul and Minneapolis and chances to get off campus are relatively slim, and I hope to work toward creating a more efficient and accessible system that will change this.

I have many ideas to extend the scope of SAC to cater to a more diverse body of students, and would love the have the opportunity to implement them.

Mara Stutzman ’17

Major – Economics with concentrations in statistics and Chinese studies

Bio – Co-Chair of Senior Days 2015, member of Off-Campus Subcommittee, former Hillboe-Kittelsby Senator

Platform – Let’s make SuperFan a primary focus next year! Specifically, I want to increase the number of sports we support and the size of the events we put on. I plan to contact all teams and ask what games/meets are most important to them that season. Let’s get a huge number of Oles to show up and cheer you on for your big games!

Next year I would like SAC to collaborate more with student organizations and honor houses to create programming that appeals to different audiences. This will allow you to have more say in what events SAC brings next year. My office will always be open to you. Come talk to me about your ideas and lets see if we can make something great!

In order to be mindful of our consumption, I will appoint a Sustainability Officer to be part of the SAC executive team. This person will be in charge of monitoring what types of materials we are purchasing, what can be reused and the environmental impact of our events during the planning and executing stages.

Juliette Emmanuel ’18

Major – Political science and French with a concentration in race and ethnic studies.

Platform – I am running for the SAC Coordinator position to make activities one of the principal assets of our campus and make sure that students, including myself, get the best out of their experience while here on campus. Conscious of all the opportunities that our campus has to offer, such as the creative and diverse student body that it possesses, it is our goal as students to make the best use of them in order to create the campus that we wish for. My plan is thus to reinforce all the activities that our students enjoy the most and reshape them in a more fun and enjoyable way and through feedback, make possible what has not yet been done.

CURRICULUMSENATOR

Talia Mackay ’16

Bio – Member of Curriculum Committee’s Policy and Planning Subcommittee

Platform – I plan to be your voice. You know your classes better than anyone else. Therefore I want my recommendations about new courses and programs to reflect your opinions to the administration and professors. Specifically, I will make the Curriculum Committee’s work more inclusive by hosting forums where students can submit course proposals and revisions. I will also conduct major-specific surveys to gather feedback from the individuals most invested in a specific discipline. Finally, I will look into revising the multicultural General Education requirements so students graduate with an open mind about other cultures and ways of life.

Andrew Parr ’16

Major – Music

Bio – Member of St. Olaf Choir, KSTO Radio Program Host Liaison, Admissions Tour Guide

Platform – I have two main goals. The first is to re-evaluate the WRI requirement. I think that having a four class requirement is great – people need to learn how to write – but for some majors, it’s really difficult to fulfill this comfortably. I want to reevaluate what constitutes a WRI and perhaps alter the definition so that more classes can be eligible. I would also like to work to revise the Music curriculum. Right now, the Music department only allows predetermined music majors into its 100 level classes. The department will be submitted to the “Continuing Programs” subcommittee next year. As a music major, and someone who knows the department well, I feel I would be a valuable contributor to this project.

Nate Webster ’17

Major – Political science and economics

Bio – Intercampus Liaison, PAC Weekly Events Coordinator, Sustainability Subcommittee Member, member of Cross Country and Track Team

Platform – Having served on Senate as both a Hall Senator and as the Inter-Campus Liaison, I hope to bring practical experience and vision to the position of Curriculum Senator. If elected, I will be a determined advocate for the interests of students on the curriculum committee, which has significant impact on the college’s academic opportunities and courses. Having participated in various branches of Student Government, as well as residential learning programs and varsity athletics, I believe I bring a large variety of experiences and familiarity with a wide mix of the student body. This, in turn, will help me serve as a better advocate for the interests of all students, including those who normally are not as engaged in student government.

Dillon Cathro ’17

Platform – Provide the student body with information regarding the ins and outs of how the St. Olaf curriculum is organized. As a transfer student with an outsider’s perspective, I feel that there a serious lack of transparency regarding our general education system/why specific GE’s are chosen, and my goal will be to relay this information to the student populous.

Represent the student body in the Curriculum Committee. Before every meeting, I will send out a forum most likely in the form of a Google Doc or on Facebook in which students will be able to voice their ideas/concerns regarding anything academically related. I will then discuss these ideas with the Committee, and relay their responses to the study body within the week.

bowlin@stolaf.edu

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Conspiracy theorist raises free speech debate: Canceled at the Cow, Jim Fetzer divides Northfield community

Northfield is generally a quiet community – a place where the year’s biggest event involves grown men running around dressed as cowboys. But the past several weeks have seen the town divided over the issue of free speech, accusations of anti-Semitism and political conspiracy theories. “Cows, Colleges, and Contentment” indeed.

The Contented Cow, the popular pub overlooking the Canon River, sponsored a series of community discussions in January. These discussions, called “CowTalks,” were meant to address relevant political topics and engage Northfield’s academic communities.

Norman Butler, owner of the Cow, described the talks as a chance to “discuss politics over a pint and help us cope with the winter.”

Controversy arose, however, when Butler invited Jim Fetzer to lecture at several of the CowTalks. Fetzer is a former professor at University of Minnesota-Duluth, but is most well known as a conspiracy theorist.

His theories range from the somewhat odd to what many consider blatantly offensive. He has argued that Paul Wellstone the Carleton professor turned progressive Congressman who died in a plane crash, was assassinated by Republicans, that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax and that the U.S. and Israeli governments were responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

He is also a Holocaust denier, stating that the number of Jews killed by the Nazis was just in the thousands, and that no Jews were killed in the gas chambers. His denial is based on the argument that Zykon B, the chemical used by Nazis in the gas chambers, should have turned the dead bodies pink. Since there were no reports of pink bodies, according to Fetzer, the massacre could not have occurred.

The St. Olaf and Carleton communities reacted swiftly to Fetzer’s impending visit. Alan Rubenstein, a Carleton professor of philosophy, removed himself from a scheduled debate at the Cow with Fetzer and began circulating a petition protesting Fetzer’s presence in Northfield.

At St. Olaf, Professors Gordon Marino, Danny Muñoz-Hutchinson and Michael Fuerstein were the Cow’s most vocal critics. Marino, Muñoz-Hutchinson and others informed Butler via email of their opposition to Fetzer. Some Northfield residents notified Butler that they would no longer frequent his establishment.

“We definitely have fewer members of the community coming to the Cow,” Butler said.

In response to the disapproval, Butler apparently forwarded the professor’s emails to Fetzer, who posted them, along with an article entitled “The Abdication of Reason and Rationality in Northfield, MN” on a conspiracy theory Web site called Veterans Today. Despite its name, the site does not provide services for American military personnel. Instead, it largely serves as a platform for conspiracy theories, many of which contain thinly-veiled anti-Semitism. Many of the theories blame Jews and the state of Israel for catastrophic world events.

Due to Fetzer’s actions, Marino, Muñoz-Hutchinson and several Carleton professors received hate mail. The threats directed at the Carleton professor were serious enough that the FBI became involved. On Jan. 27, the Contented Cow canceled the talks, citing pressure from the community.

Fetzer sought another venue in Northfield, and the result was his Feb. 18 talk at the public library. He spoke to a packed room. The crowd was made up of a mix of Fetzer supporters and curious residents there to observe the spectacle.

His presentation, entitled “Free Speech and Terrorism: Sandy Hook and the Boston Bombing,” consisted largely of images pulled from YouTube videos. Fetzer, who was introduced by a librarian as an “American hero,” argued that these images proved that the Sandy Hook Massacre was a hoax and that no children died. He also explained that the Boston Marathon bombings were in fact a government ploy to restrict the Second Amendment Rights of American citizens. His presentation omitted his views on the Holocaust.

The reaction from the audience was mixed. Some nodded along at Fetzer’s claims and took notes on the presentation. By contrast, a group of Carleton students challenged Fetzer on a number of his claims.

Gordon Marino has been one of St. Olaf’s most vocal critics of the Cow’s decision to invite Fetzer to Northfield. He has repeatedly rebuffed attempts by Butler, Fetzer and others to frame this as a free speech issue.

“This is like someone claiming that if I weren’t willing to listen to arguments saying that slavery was a good thing, or didn’t happen, or that there was no genocide against Native Americans,” he said, “then I would be against free speech. Of course, I’m not claiming that you should not be allowed to say such outrageous and hurtful things – but I am saying that I don’t want to hang around with or fill the pockets of someone who provides a platform for such views.”

He argued that while Fetzer can hold any opinion that he so chooses, the right to free speech does not mean that the Northfield community must give him a platform.

Marino is something of an odd target for the anti-Zionist hate mail he received. Though a supporter of the Israeli state, he has written articles criticizing Israeli violence against Palestine, and says that he has lost friends due to his critiques of the Jewish state.

Marino was quick to point out St. Olaf’s history of opposition to anti-Semitism. Reidar Dittmann, Dittmann Hall’s namesake, was a survivor of Buchenwald concentration camp, imprisoned for resisting the Nazis in his native Norway.

“We have a history at St. Olaf of someone who was a witness to the Holocaust,” Marino said.

Norman Butler, the Contented Cow’s owner, sees this situation very differently from Marino. He views this as afreedom of speech issue and feels unfairly persecuted by the Northfield community.

“The boycott turned into a fatwa against the Cow,” he said.

He also defends his choice of Jim Fetzer as a lecturer. According to Butler, Fetzer’s views are supported by research and some of his theories are in fact truths that the establishment would rather suppress.

“If you want to know what the establishment’s point of view is, read the newspaper or turn on a television,” Butler said. “It’s refreshing to hear a different point of view that’s backed up by evidence.”

Butler claimed ignorance of Fetzer’s beliefs regarding the Holocaust.

“I knew nothing about that,” said Butler. “He wasn’t asked to speak on the Holocaust. For all I know he might wear women’s underwear. It doesn’t matter to me. I wasn’t asking him to talk about his underwear, or the Holocaust. I can’t believe the absurd reasoning people are using [to criticize the Cow].”

Butler went on to say that he agreed with Fetzer’s theory that the Holocaust’s scale was much smaller than reported. He said that he had no idea how many Jews died, but that “the scale of the Holocaust wasn’t as large as we’ve been persuaded.”

When asked directly whether he agreed with Fetzer, Butler said, “He could be wrong, but so what?”

This is a delicate issue, because the Constitutional right to free speech protects unpopular or wrongheaded opinions. For many in the Northfield community though, Fetzer’s views are a version of hate-speech. By denying the horror and scale of the Holocaust, deniers attempt to trivialize what is likely the most horrific event in human history. Marino, Muñoz-Hutchinson and many in the Carleton community believed that providing Fetzer with an opportunity to spread his theories was morally unacceptable.

bowlin@stolaf.edu

Graphic Credit: ERIN KNADLER/MANITOU MESSENGER

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Proposed institute incites debate

For the first time its history, St. Olaf will have an institute. Formally announced at the Student Government Association (SGA) Senate meeting on Dec. 2, The Institute for Freedom and Community will provide a major boost for the study of public affairs. Made possible by substantial donor funding, the Institute has been a source of both excitement and controversy among the faculty.

According to Professor of Political Science Dan Hofrenning – who announced the development of the Institute to Senate and who has been one of its main supporters – this new program will both provide new opportunities for politically-engaged students and raise the profile of political inquiry on campus.

“The purpose of this project is to add to the list of wonderful things people think of when they think of St. Olaf, to add public affairs, politics and civic discourse to this list,” Hofrenning said.

One of the main features of the proposed Institute would be a Public Affairs Conversation, open to juniors and seniors. In addition, the Institute would host a yearly conference on constructive political dialogue and inquiry and would also bring in guest lecturers and visiting fellows.

Hofrenning imagines the Institute as not just a set of curricula, but rather an environment that fosters civic discourse and social activism.

“We want to include lots of debates and civil conversation,” he said. “But we also want to make a statement that at some point…there will be lots of issues where you will have to take a stand. We envisage a student that will get involved and take a stand.”

There has been some controversy regarding the Institute’s implementation, however. One issue involves the donor, Dean Buntrock ’55, who provided the majority of the money for the Institute. Buntrock has long been a financial supporter of St. Olaf, as well as a member of the Board of Regents, but was also the subject of a fraud charge by the SEC as the CEO of Waste Management in 2002.

There are also questions about the amount of faculty control on the Institute’s content. The faculty usually controls curriculum, but the Institute’s unique nature poses some distinct issues. There is no existing bureaucratic structure for assessing institutes, and some faculty are concerned about this lack of oversight.

Political Science Professor Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak believes that the Curriculum Committee should have had the responsibility of assessing and evaluating the new creation.

“This is an entirely new thing for St. Olaf,” she said. “We don’t have a process for an institute that intends to be on both the curricular and non-curricular sides of the college.”

Instead, a task force of eight faculty members has been developing the Institute since last spring, bypassing the standard elected committee structure. While the Curriculum Committee will eventually review the proposed classes, the rest of the Institute was presented to the general faculty as essentially a finished product. Some faculty members consider this a problem, as there exist several aspects of the Institute that many feel warrant further discussion, especially the presence of the word “freedom” in the title.

Freedom has a conservative connotation in current U.S. politics, and there is concern that the current title does not reflect the Institute’s mission of broad based civic discourse. Political Science Professor Kris Thalhammer articulated these concerns.

“If we want to attract speakers across a spectrum, if we really want to have people who do sophisticated analysis of all sorts of different issues, I worry that the title might send the signal that we have a particular agenda,” Thalhammer said. “If the agenda is actually to have spirited and widespread discourse, including conservative voices being heard, but not exclusively, I don’t think that’s the title I would have chosen.”

As an alternative title, she suggested, “Institute for Public Civic Discourse,” but was not sure that a change was possible.

“I’m not getting a strong signal that it’s open to negotiation,” she said.

Tegtmeyer Pak also questioned the word choice in the title and emphasized that these types of discussions could have taken place through the normal channels.

“Does ‘freedom’ in the title set us up to have to think about particular kinds of things in the classroom? That’s one of my questions,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I think it would be worthwhile to have this talked about through a normal process in the curriculum committee. So I’m disappointed that the name isn’t being treated as names are otherwise treated at the college.”

Both Tagtmeyer Pak and Thalhammer emphasized that the Institute could very well be a positive development for civically engaged students and academic inquiry. But concerns about the Institute’s implementation persist. Curriculum content should be within the domain of the faculty, and, in this case, faculty may not have been allotted the proper amount of oversight.

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PAC dinner tackles net neutrality worries

Net neutrality is a complicated political issue, but one that deeply affects most Americans. Any change in net neutrality would disproportionally affect college students, since the Internet is such a vital part of campus life. On Oct. 21, students gathered in the Black Ballroom to hear Nick Stumo-Langer ’15 explain the concept and the potential repercussions of an end to net neutrality.

Stumo-Langer titled his presentation “The End of Net Neutrality: Implications for College Students…and Everyone Else.” He began with a concise explanation of the concept of net neutrality.

Net neutrality is the idea that Internet providers should treat all Internet activity equally. Sites with controversial, subversive or even morally questionable content should load just as quickly as everything else. Conversely, no Web site should be able to pay a premium to their Internet Service Provider ISP, in order to receive faster loading speed than other Web sites.

“You can get BitTorrent the same speed you can get YouTube. You can get the stolaf.edu Web site the same speed as the Communist Party of Nebraska for example,” said Stumo-Langer.

He repeatedly referenced Netflix as a central component of the net neutrality issue. Watching Netflix videos uses extremely large amounts of bandwidth. In fact, St. Olaf’s Internet provider, Comcast, has had to expand the campus bandwidth to accommodate the sheer number of students trying to stream videos online. Comcast, and other ISPs like Verizon, have struggled to keep up with rapidly increasing consumer demand forbandwidth.

Earlier this year, Netflix cut deals with both Comcast and Verizon to increase its connection speed. Netflix was forced to do this because its connection speed had been declining steadily as its popularity increased. ISPs would like to make this standard procedure, effectively ending net neutrality.

“The ISPs argue that [bandwidth demand] has cut into their profit and they have to pass the cost on to someone because they say that in the short term they’re losing money on this. So they’re either going to charge the content creators like Netflix, or the consumers – the average person who is buying [Internet service] from them,” said Stumo-Langer.

Stumo-Langer asked the audience to consider the repercussions of this potential shift in Internet data. Rich companies who can pay the premium, such as Netflix, will receive the fastest connection speeds, essentially creating an elite class of Web sites. Any Web site or company unable to pay would lose business. Start-up Web sites would have to deal with plodding connection speeds, making it extremely difficult to attract Web traffic. Stumo-Langer emphasized the broad ramifications of a tiered Internet sysem.

“Comcast will own the media markets in 26 of the 50 states…This will affect half of the country if this goes into effect, and Comcast has been notoriously aggressive in attempting to dismantle net neutrality,” Stumo-Langer said.

He also addressed the social justice aspect of net neutrality. The Internet in its current state allows for freedom of information and encourages entrepreneurship and innovation, but an end to net neutrality could change that.

“What if the ideology of the ISP’s CEO or the board of trustees is directly against certain content?” Stumo-Langer asked.

There is strong opposition to ending net neutrality within the tech community. Google, Facebook, Netflix and Microsoft were among 150 companies that collaborated to send a letter to the FCC, advocating for the continuation of net neutrality.

Still, large ISPs have tremendous lobbying power in Washington, and the end of net neutrality is a genuine possibility.

Using the last slide of his presentation, titled “A Scary Dystopic Future,” Stumo-Langer addressed the worst-case scenario if net neutrality truly ends.

“Educational access to certain viewpoints and ideologies will not exist,” said Stumo-Langer. “It would lead to a homogeneity of information on the Internet and turn the Internet into a tool of ideological persuasion by those with the most money calling the shots.”

Stumo-Langer acknowledged that this worst-case scenario was certainly far-fetched. Still, the end of net neutrality is a crucial issue in the current digital age and merits close consideration.

bowlin@stolaf.edu

Photo Credit: MADISON VANG/MANITOU MESSENGER

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Campus vegans promote health

Veganism is an increasingly popular lifestyle choice, but one that is often misunderstood. On Wednesday, Sept. 17, St. Olaf students gathered for a Wellness Center event called Vegan 101. The goal was to educate students on the benefits of a vegan lifestyle.

Christa Schmidt ’16 lectured the audience on the differences between veganism and vegetarianism. Vegetarians eat no meat, while vegans avoid all animal products. This includes eggs, dairy, meat and honey. Some vegans even extend this restric- tion to non-food products such as clothing that contain animal products.

Many people choose veganism due to environmental con- cerns. Meat production takes a tremendous toll on the envi- ronment. Some studies have shown that it takes 2,000 gallons of water to produce 1 lb. of beef. In addition, the deplorable conditions of industrial factory farms have forced many ani- mal rights activists to embrace veganism.

“As a student body concerned about the well-being of its students, the environment and other animal life, veganism is highly relevant to our interests,” Schmidt said.

In addition to the ethical factors, there are substantial health benefits to veganism as well. Conditions related to heavy meat consumption include high cholesterol, heart disease and obe- sity. Some studies have even found a connection between meat consumption and cancer. There is also concern regarding hor- mones in meat that comes from factory farms.

By comparison, the vegan diet consists mainly of high fi- ber foods, which are free of cholesterol and contain minimal saturated fat. They are efficient in preventing chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. Phytochemicals, which are com- pounds that occur naturally in plants, are said to reverse the cell damage in the body and the build-up of chronic diseases. Additionally, the vegan diet can improve acne, create healthy hair and decrease time of workout recovery.

Schmidt acknowledged that the transition to veganism can be difficult. She provided some tips for any students consider- ing a change in diet.

“Take it a day at a time. You don’t have to switch overnight. My change to veganism took a number of months of gradu- ally whittling foods out of my diet,” Schmidt said. “People can substitute non-dairy milks such as soy milk, rice milk or al- mond milk for dairy milk. The grains line here is most vegan- friendly. There is often some sort of vegan soup or vegan bowl, and there are always veggie burgers available. I’m a big fan of making taco salad in the Tortilla Line. Another mantra I love is, ‘progress, not perfection.’

Evidence of vegan health benefits can be seen globally. Pop- ulations who practice veganism are believed to live longer than the average. Japan has one of the world’s highest life expectan- cies and the Japanese diet consists of very little meat.

St. Olaf students interested in veganism should contact Christa Schmidt schmidtc@stolaf.edu.

dao@stolaf.edu

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye