Author: Katie Jeddeloh

Faculty in Focus: Trish Beckman

Religion professor Trish Beckman is a delight both inside and outside the classroom. As many of her students and peers can attest, Beckman emphasizes fun as an integral part of her teaching method, ensuring that her students not only develop knowledge about the topic but also enjoy the learning process.

Beckman has spent the majority of her life in Minnesota. She grew up in Anoka, Minn. and completed her undergraduate degree at Gustavus Adolphus College, where she studied religion. She went on to receive a masters and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School in the History of Christianity, one of her many specialties at St. Olaf. She also studied mysticism extensively during her schooling.

Following graduate school, Beckman immediately got a job at St. Olaf and then briefly taught at Carleton College and the University of Missouri. Although Beckman liked the experience of teaching at a large state school, she is a self-proclaimed “liberal arts junkie” and prefers the intimate engagement of classroom discussion.

“I am curious about everything, and [teaching] is the greatest day job because you get to follow your curiosity everywhere,” Beckman said. “What I really love about St. Olaf is that students come in expecting that they are supposed to know the material, engage it and critique it.”

Beckman teaches a wide variety of classes on the Hill: the Great Conversation, first-year religion and other religion seminars. She often teaches with a focus on a particular way of understanding religious texts – for example, examining women in Christianity or comparing religions through the lens of mysticism.

This past interim, Beckman and Professor of Religion Mara Benjamin co-taught a class on the role of food in religion.

“It’s fun to put eating rituals across cultures in conversation with ultimate meaning,” Beckman said. “We use a lot of anthropologists to talk about how food has meaning and how humans structure themselves around communities.”

The students in her interim class got to explore cultural aspects of many different religious groups through food, including partaking in a traditional Sikh dinner at a temple and a Mexican candy demonstration and tasting.

Beckman also teaches in St. Olaf’s Great Conversation program, and she currently teaches the course in the Kildahl cohort for the class of 2018. She likes teaching the class itself, but she particularly enjoys the communal nature among the Great Conversation professors.

“One of the fun things about teaching Great Con is that the faculty is all reading together, right? And we’re having our discussions like a mini Great Con among us,” Beckman said. “It’s fun to teach the classes, but it’s really fun to have a peer with you doing that, and our cohorts become like a Great Con cohort with faculty. It’s a great chance to have a high level of intellectual fun.”

Outside of her work at St. Olaf, Beckman is working on other academic projects. She is currently writing a piece on mysticism in the study abroad experience, in which she claims that students seek an ultimate experience through travel. She is also working on a food and religion faculty seminar with religion professors at Carleton College. Her part of the project will focus on mystical practices in the Christian, Jewish and Islamic traditions. However, instead of food creating differences between religious groups, she emphasizes how food can assist in the erasure of these boundaries and the ability to bridge gaps.

When she isn’t working, Beckman enjoys spending time with her three boys, playing with her dog and cat, knitting, cooking and being outdoors. She says that she likes a full life, one with a balance between work and play.

Professor Beckman loves teaching at St. Olaf. When asked about the thing she likes most about it, she said, “I like the excitement of watching [people of] your age build a life. You’re on your own now, you get to think about what is meaningful and we get to be a part of those conversations as people figure out what they’re trying to do. It’s pretty cool.”

Beckman has a lot of hope for her students. She is constantly impressed with the things her students do after leaving St. Olaf, and she considers herself lucky to work here.

“I love the exchange, I love the conversation, I just love wrestling with the meaningful things and doing it with other people.”

jeddel1@stolaf.edu

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Oscar nominations highlight Academy’s racial bias

It is no secret that the Academy, as well as other major film and television circles, are overwhelmingly and unabashedly white and male. According to an article in The Atlantic, the demographic composition of the voting members of the Academy remain 93 percent white and 76 percent male, astoundingly high numbers compared to the demographics of the United States population. As a result of this imbalance, the Academy Awards also lack diversity, an issue that arises every year after the nominations are announced.

In response to accusations of racial and gen- der biases within the voting and nomination process, the Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, a black woman, announced the forma- tion of an initiative called A2020. A2020 is a five-year plan to diversify the Oscars in which the Academy and associate studios will work on programs to expand the hiring of minorities in the film industry. The plan works directly with top executives in the business to do so, the goal being to ensure that they employ more women and people with minority backgrounds.

While this five-year-plan is a step in the right direction, we cannot fix the racial bias in the Academy by simply encouraging film execu- tives to hire minorities. The problem is with the institutional bias in the film industry and in the United States as a whole. I admire the Academy’s decision to begin a diversity initiative and to address the clear issue with the Academy’s racial biases, but it is simply not enough. Moreover, the specifics of the plan have been unclear to the public. The Academy can encourage filmmak- ers to pursue minority hiring, but it seems that there is little to no guarantee that they will follow through effectively. Further, five years is quite a long time, suggesting that the Academy may not prioritize racial justice.

Additionally, while the sentiment set out by the A2020 plan that the film industry needs to diversify is absolutely positive, it seems also to imply that the minority directors and actors we have presently are not making movies good enough to win awards. Of course, art is subjec- tive, awards can be fickle and it is difficult to place explicit value judgments on film. I recog- nize I have no authority to say which movie or actor was the best, but I refuse to believe that there was not one minority actor or director in all the 2015 movies who deserved an Oscar, or at least a nomination.

The root of the problem with the Academy’s racial bias is perhaps in its representation in voting on nominees, as aforementioned. This should be the first issue addressed to ensure that there is a more diverse group of people deter- mining who wins these awards, rather than sim- ply saying that the present minority filmmakers were not up to snuff with the white filmmakers. If the Academy adds more diversity to its voting body, perhaps we will get a more even represen- tation of minorities and whites who win awards.

However, the Academy’s process for enter- ing the Academy as a voting member may also systematically prevent minorities from joining. People in the film industry become members

through a process of sponsorship, in which two current members advocate for a potential candidate to join. The original members of the Academy were entirely white. If becoming a member requires an industry connection, this kind of sponsorship might be difficult to obtain if you are, for example, a young black actress try- ing to win over an old white director.

In many ways, the Academy is a microcosm of the overall institutional racism in the United States. There are many barriers to becoming successful in the film industry as a minority, and those barriers are certainly not limited to the ones mentioned above. While the plan set out to diversify the awards may be the first acknowl- edgement of the Academy’s racial biases, there are still numerous ways in which the industry must improve in order to work towards racial equality.

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Revenge porn survivor speaks out

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever (GLOW) brought YouTube stars Bria Kam and Chrissy Chambers to campus to speak about cyber exploitation, more popularly known as revenge porn. GLOW collaborated with St. Olaf Leaders Abolishing Slavery (SOLAS), the Women’s and Gender Studies Department and the Political Science department to host the event.

Kam and Chambers have a popular YouTube channel, called BriaAndChrissy, on which they post comedy videos, songs, self-help videos and vlogs about their experiences as a lesbian couple as well as videos about Chambers’ experience as a victim of revenge porn.

The event took place in the Sun Ballroom and began with an introduction from Kam.

“Revenge porn is defined as a form of sexual assault which involves the distribution of sexually explicit videos without the victim’s consent,” she said.

Following the introduction, they played a short documentary from The Guardian sharing Chambers’ story. The documentary explained that before Chambers had discovered her sexuality and begun identifying as a lesbian, she was dating a man in the United Kingdom. After she attempted to break up with him, he proposed a night of drinking and then raped her while she was unconscious, filmed it and put the video online.

“It’s like every single moment is etched into my memory for the rest of my life,” Chambers said.

The documentary went on to describe Chambers’ legal battle to get justice and develop legislation in the UK to hold accountable those that post and view revenge porn. After the documentary, Chambers gave an emotional firsthand account of her story as well as her and Kam’s current campaign to end revenge porn. Chambers said that although it is still difficult to talk about her experience, staying silent would be even worse for her and speaking out is a crucial part of her recovery process.

Kam and Chambers are currently working with a women’s rights lawyer to seek retribution for the wrongs done to Chambers as well as push policies that will protect women from the trauma of revenge porn and ensure that perpetrators are properly punished. Currently, only 26 states in the United States have laws forbidding revenge porn.

Kam and Chambers also spoke about ways to get involved with this particular issue on campus. They suggested including revenge porn in discussions of sexual assault, advocating for policies at St. Olaf or in local or state governments that seek to prevent revenge porn, spreading awareness and generally discouraging a culture of victim blaming. In the presentation, Chambers stated that a shocking six percent of the population will become victims of revenge porn, and of these people 90 percent will be women.

“This is a form of sexual assault. And the perpetrators need to be held to the highest degree,” Chambers said. “It’s a young crime that the world is just starting to learn about.”

Chambers gave a message of support to the survivors of revenge porn.

“I know you feel like you’re completely alone, but it’s not true, and there are many people who know exactly what you’re feeling right now,” she said. “You didn’t do anything to deserve this crime happening to you. Don’t let anyone silence your fight for justice.”

In response to the presentation, Co-Coordinator of GLOW Caitlin Whitely ’18 said “I think that [revenge porn] is a part of sexual assault that doesn’t really get mentioned a lot. Even if the picture or video is consensual at the moment, it’s not consensual to be put everywhere.”

Whitely was excited to see the duo on campus, as they are some of her favorite YouTubers in addition to speaking out against revenge porn. Whitely sees their message as one close to the heart of GLOW.

“When I was coming out to myself, it was good to see a healthy queer relationship,” she said. “I think having them here, showing their healthy lesbian relationship, is important because a lot of people that come to GLOW don’t have a strong support system or role models to look up to.”

More information and resources on revenge porn and Chambers’s story are available at endrevengeporn.org, and on their YouTube channel, BriaAndChrissy. Additionally, GLOW holds meetings every Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. in the Sun Ballroom.

jeddel1@stolaf.ed

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Modernized Shakespeare sacrifices literary value

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival recently launched a potentially game-changing and controversial new project with one aim: to make Shakespeare more contemporary. The plays’ structures and plots will remain unchanged, but the language will undergo a complete modernization in order to create stories that are deemed more accessible for the 21st century play-goer.

While the project is certainly ambitious and intriguing, I disagree with the notion that Shakespeare needs to be altered in order to make his work understandable. It’s true that many people find the dated language of Shakespeare’s plays a bit intimidating. However, we often forget that plays are intended to be heard and seen live at the theater instead of studied as literature.

Of course, there is value in studying Shakespeare on the page. Yet in terms of accessibility, most Shakespearean actors are able to communicate the meaning behind the potentially confusing lines through their performance. For instance, humorous moments are often conveyed more clearly when acted out on stage, making it easier for the audience to not only understand, but also enjoy those moments, even in the original old English.

Shakespearean language requires that the audience pay attention to the context of the words—perhaps more so than with contemporary plays. As such, we shouldn’t encourage audience laziness by modernizing the language. In fact, an active audience was an important aspect of the theatre tradition of Shakespeare’s time, with patrons of the theatre interacting directly with the actors during the play. Shakespearean language, despite its surface difficulty, demands audience attention in a way that contemporary English does not.

Thus, because the rewrite of Shakespeare is solely intended for the stage instead of for academic study – where meaning will not be lost on the audience – it is unnecessary to create some kind of warped Shakespeare play that loses the original poetic qualities of the writing. An integral part of Shakespeare’s plays is the heightened language, the intimate and strangely balanced rhyme scheme and wordplay.

These more sophisticated and eloquent elements of the plays can potentially be lost by modernizing the language, destroying the special, elevated sensations Shakespeare wrote into his original plays. In fact, I would even say that the playwright attempting the rewrite can be considered arrogant for thinking that he or she could possibly match the original.

Further, colloquial language simply does not convey the intent with which Shakespeare, or any playwright, wrote his or her plays. Much like works in translation, certain smaller elements of the story are altered between languages, which oftentimes detracts from the original meaning. However, the function of translating works is to make them accessible for people who do not speak the original language at all; this form of rewriting is a different situation entirely.

Shakespeare’s work is already in English, albeit an older version of English. Still, I contend that if you can understand English well enough to understand the contemporary version of Shakespeare, true, genuine Shakespeare performed on a stage is equally accessible.

I see the attempt by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as needless, pointless and damaging to the original works. Shakespeare’s canon is a treasure trove of fascinating language that, ultimately, should not be subverted in favor of something more contemporary simply because people are intimidated.

Katie Jeddeloh ’18 (jeddel1@stolaf.edu) is from Denver, Colo. She majors in English and political science.

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Competitive gaming: sport or hobby?

Lately, there has been a push to include online video games as sports and to consider them athletic activity, because they are mentally stimulating in the same way traditional sports are physically demanding.

For many competitive online gamers, games require extensive training and skill equivalent to what athletes devote to widely recognized sports such as basketball or football. Online gaming requires strategic skill as well as mental flexibility and toughness, the same characteristics that lead some people to recognize games such as chess and poker as sports. Additionally, many online video games have serious competitions, with major tournaments online which have both competitors and a high number of spectators. But do these factrs make online gaming a sport?

Webster’s dictionary defines a sport as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Certainly these games involve skill, and as previously mentioned there are competitions that draw spectators.

Still, one of the major points of this definition is “physical exertion and skill.” Although I certainly respect online gamers for the time and energy expended in gaming, I disagree that this constitutes athletic prowess. When we discuss sports, we speak of something that incorporates a certain level of physicality. While mental skill and the strength of the brain are absolutely integral to competitive online gaming, this activity, in my mind, does not have the physical exertion needed to be considered a sport.

If we begin to consider all activities that challenge the mind as sports, then we begin to claim that hobbies such as competing in a physics bowl or singing in a competition are sports. In order to differentiate, we can make the distinction between hobby and sport by judging the physicality and athleticism required for each activity. By this definition, it is difficult to qualify online gaming—or even card games and board games—as “sport.”

However, although I do not define online gaming as a sport, I do not think that labeling an activity as a “sport” or “not a sport” legitimizes or delegitimizes it. Simply because we recognize certain activities as “sports” and others as “fine arts” or any other label does not imply that these things are unimportant or undemanding. We can recognize the legitimacy of online gaming as competitive, difficult and important without calling it a sport. Additionally, individuals certainly have the freedom to label themselves as athletes in online gaming.

Even within the realm of physical exertion, we do not always recognize certain activities as sports. For instance, some may categorize dance as an art rather than a sport even though it requires extensive physical training and sometimes competition. The label doesn’t minimize dancing; it remains a valid, strenuous activity. The claim that online gaming is not a sport does not diminish the difficulty and mental stress of the activity, nor does it delegitimize it.

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote