Author: Anders Mattson

DiSCO makes technology accessible to all

DiSCO, the Digital Scholarship Center, is a brand new multimedia space on the fourth floor of Rolvaag Memorial Library. The space is the result of a collaboration between the li- brary and the IT department that intends to provide students with equipment and training for classes as well as creative projects.

Director of DiSCO Ben Gottfried explained that the space contains a variety of new media equipment and software.

“[There is a] common collaborative work space, two media production work stations with computers that have specialized equip- ment: Adobe, Final Cut Pro, Audacity audio, software you won’t find across campus,” Gott- fried said. “There are also two recording rooms for audio and video recording that are avail- able during staff hours.”

Gottfried also spoke about the lab, which is the new home of the large format printer pre- viously found in the media lab as well as the brand new 3D printer.

“We haven’t seen much use of the 3D printer yet, but art uses it consistently for visual proj- ects, as well as a music history class where they created a model of a baroque recorder which was then put together and usable,” he said.

He emphasized that they are planning to add a 3D scanner, which would allow stu- dents to scan objects to be printed with intri- cate detail. Although there is a fee for using this equipment, students can use them for all creative endeavors, not just classroom assign- ments.

Another feature of the DiSCO space is the new computer classroom. Gottfried explained hat this space is filled with immense potential for all members of the campus community.

“It is used for teaching sessions and work- shops as well as librarian-led programs. Stu- dents are also welcome to use it whenever it is open for a collaborative workspace,” he said. “That will be the space where we will host events, regular programs and workshops for students. If students want to learn about the equipment available for check out, that is the place [to go].”

Keeping availability in mind, DiSCO’s space will be open to students for the same hours as the entire library, while the printing and audio/

video rooms will be open only during staffed hours. Check out the website, disco, for hours and more information.

Gottfried made it clear that DiSCO is for students and their creativity.

“I know what this means to have this great prime location, and see how it is already start- ing to be used by students. When we designed this space we intentionally left space available so we can design it based around what stu- dents are interested in. From the beginning we have planned to leave room for flexibility, and already we are seeing amazing things that stu- dents are doing with the space,” he said.

A common concern with new media spaces is the inevitability of the technology becom- ing outdated, but Gottfried and the DiSCO staff have kept this in mind and plan to work on keeping the space updated with the newest technology.

“The goal for DiSCO is to keep thinking to the future and being flexible and responsive to students’ interest,” assistant in the Kierkegaard Library and head of PR/Marketing Eileen Shi- mota said. “DiSCO is part of a campus wide initiative to be cutting edge on technology, and I feel strongly that DiSCO will preserve this. Not just create a space, but maintain it in a for- ward direction.”

Shimota believes that DiSCO will have a large impact on the students and campus as a whole, providing students with technology for all of their creative ideas.

“DiSCO is a real statement about St. Olaf’s commitment to thinking forward. Liberal arts institutions sometimes seem to not be catching up with technology, but St. Olaf is leading the midwest movement on technology on cam- pus,” she said.

Gottfried shares these ideas and believes the primary focus is providing for all of St. Olaf’s students.

“The intention from the beginning was that this would be a student-centric space. It is in a very accessible place in the library, and we want students to be able to play and experi- ment with technology,” Gottfried said. “We want all students to feel welcome to be creative. We are excited to see what students do with the equipment, as well as what students want more of. We plan to be very flexible.”

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Search for insight ends with Google

I was fortunate enough to be raised in a family that, from a young age, allowed me to use the Internet as a gateway to knowledge. I am grateful they saw the value in Google as a tool for finding information.

However, an article recently published on NPR, suggestively titled “OK, Google, Where Did I Put My Thinking Cap?” questions the intellectual value of using Google, particularly as com- pared to learning and memo- rizing information on one’s own. Throughout the article, it is implied that obtaining information digitally rather than non-digitally could incur about negative conse- quences for today’s techno- logically-obsessed society.

I disagree with any claims that Google is detrimen- tal. Our society has always been fueled by technological advancement and the ben- efits which arise out of such advancement outweigh the possible pitfalls of the old techniques.

The art of learning is always progressing, and implying that Google is somehow halting that pro- gression is foolish. It is clear, through an examination of the history of information technology, that Google is not the first step in the direc- tion of shortening our mem- ory spans.

The old ideal of long term comprehension is that of Greek oral teaching, a way of educating through spo- ken word. When writing became commonplace, the need to commit a large cache of information to memory became obsolete, thus taking away the value of memorizing most information. Google, as well as the Internet as a whole, is the embodiment of

the next progression from written word, the ability to obtain knowledge with near limitless potential. Printed texts are no longer the pri- mary way to research; Google simplifies the ability to find information and places just a few keystrokes away.

While it is true that many Google searches are not of intellectual value, it is the ability to take out our smart phones and type in search terms such as “Japanese word for cat” or “the correla- tion of bacon and cancer” or “Einstein’s theory of relativ- ity” that makes the resource worthwhile. It is the element of accessibility that proves Google’s value.

As the presidential elec- tion carries on with each pri- mary, Google is an excellent place to find out politician’s stances as well as fact-check their speeches. The constant, easy access to truth can help make politicians more hon- est. Google is a sustainable source of all encompassing instant information on all forms of knowledge found in the world.

The argument that Google inhibits critical thinking may have a partial point, but it is foolish to let that overrule the positives of Google. It may be possible to waste hours searching for cute animals on Google, but the streamlined and comprehensive access to information makes up for that. This expansive plain of articles, books, videos and other sources can provide multiple perspectives of learning on one particular subject in a way that a single text cannot.

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Keeping campus clean: meet the custodial staff

The beauty and cleanliness of St. Olaf is undeniable, from the scenic views through the windows of Regents, to the spotless tiles in Buntrock, all the way to the comfortable and cozy dorms. The unsung heroes of St. Olaf who maintain this quality are the custodial staff. These are the people that go above and beyond their daily duties in order to put St. Olaf’s best face forward.

Rosa Payes is one of Ytterboe Hall’s best custodians. While each residence hall has a custodial team, each custodian is assigned to different parts of the building and given separate tasks. They do a lot more than just clean and report maintenance problems; they also serve as mechanics.

“Before we report something is broken, we make an effort in doing what we can to try and fix it on our own,” Payes said.

Payes gave some insight about the process of student maintenance reporting. Whenever a student has a problem with a fixture in their room, be it the furnace, the overhead light or a squeaking door, they can request that it be repaired on a clipboard usually found in the utility rooms or at the hall’s front desk.

“Sometimes I think [the students] don’t know we have keys to their rooms. They often don’t specify exactly what is not working, so we go and check for ourselves and report what is the issue,” Payes said.

The custodial staff take their jobs seriously and work hard to keep things working and running smoothly for students. If the janitors are unable to fix a maintenance problem, they report it to their supervisors and a specialist checks it out.

The work of cleaning and maintaining residence halls is much different from cleaning Buntrock Commons or an academic building. Payes enjoys working in residence halls because of the lively atmosphere.

“It is different working in residence halls, because we are always around and the students always seem very friendly towards us,” Payes said.

Susan Kulsrud works on the other side of campus, in Regents Hall of Natural Sciences. Kulsrud has been a custodian at St. Olaf for 26 years.

“You wouldn’t stay if you didn’t enjoy it,” she said.

Kulsrud begins work everyday at 5:00 a.m., making her way through the bathrooms, sweeping the floors, cleaning offices and, of course, cleaning each individual lab. She also has to clean all of the windows and shovel the snow during the winter.

“What I enjoy is that being here makes me feel young. I get to know students who hang out in my building a lot, and I love being a part of the college atmosphere,” Kulsrud said.

She emphasized that many on the janitorial staff share her sentiment and enjoy interacting and spending time around students. The occasional “hello” or “good morning” to St. Olaf custodians can go a long way and lead to great friendships.

“I know custodians who have kept in touch with students for more than 20 years. We are able to have a relationship with the students, which gives us pride in our job,” Kulsrud said.

Kulsrud finds that students are eager to engage with the custodial staff.

“I previously worked in the theater building and the music building and have been invited by students before to their recitals and their performances,” she said. “I always try and make a point and go.”

Both Payes and Kulsrud, as well as other custodians at St. Olaf, go above and beyond their assigned tasks, whether it is helping to fix maintenance problems, cleaning up post-weekend dorm bathrooms or being a friend to a student in need.

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Bacon headlines sensationalize health risks

I recently learned that my mother is no longer feeding my dog bacon because she heard on the news that eating bacon is as dangerous as smoking cigarettes. If you have not been paying attention to the recent uproar about red meats, the WHO (World Health Organization) has recently deemed red meats to be in the same category of cancer risk as cigarettes.

This recent categorization has caused many eye-opening headlines from “Bacon Could Be as Bad For You as Cigarettes” to “Bacon as deadly as cigarettes and asbestos.” This tragic news should be taken with a grain of salt, though, because the actual study that prompted the uproar is not as reliable as these headlines claim.

Twenty-two scientists reviewed evidence that linked processed and red meats to cancer, specifically an increase in colorectal cancer. Taken directly from the WHO press release, the study concludes that “each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.” This puts processed meats into the WHO’s classification one, considered carcinogenic to humans.

It is not suprising that consuming 50 grams of processed meats daily would negatively impact the body,. So I was suprised how much news coverage was dedicated to this subject. To those who have decided to avoid bacon because of cancer risk, please remember the actual ranking system the WHO uses.

Anything designated as category one is there because it has been sufficiently proven to cause cancer. As such, this category includes things such as Aloe vera and sawdust. Category one sounds threatening because it includes tobacco, but that should not deter you from eating bacon.

Compare tobacco to processed meats and it becomes clear that the chances of getting cancer from tobacco are much higher than from eating a few pieces of bacon a day. While the WHO’s findings should still be taken into consideration next time you decide to binge on bacon, the idea that bacon and cigarettes are equally cancerous is statistically inaccurate.

This whole episode should be taken as a cautionary tale about the power of headlines. Many people read and trust just one news source. The reality is that the media will fixate on one thing and blow it out of proportion, often neglecting to give the true statistical facts on the subject.

Analyzing the data on processed meat reveals minimal cancer risk, and comparing it to tobacco is inappropriate. At times, the media’s tendency to exaggerate can actually obscure the truth. Viewers should investigate the actual studies and not just the news reports.

My dog’s suffering could have been avoided if only my mom looked into the data. I encourage you to do the same next time a ridiculous headline seeks to sway your opinion.

Anders Mattson ’19 ( is from Dana Point, Cali. He majors in English.

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No more theater in residence halls

Deep End APO is one of St. Olaf’s primary theater produc- tion groups, unique on campus in that it is run entirely by stu- dents. Recently, Deep End APO has encountered a problem: it is no longer allowed to perform in residence halls. The policy change was enacted this year and has made it difficult for the organization to find proper performance locations.

“We were surprised and concerned initially, because we were planning to use dorm space for our productions this year,” Deep End APO Artistic Director Seton FitzMacken ’17 said.

Deep End APO has used dorms as its primary performance, practice and general meeting space for a number of years. This is FitzMacken’s first year on the board for Deep End, and she did not expect such a big change.

“We contacted [Residence Life] in October, to use a space in Thorson for November, and that was when they informed us the policy change had occurred in response to last year,” she said.

FitzMacken believes it was due to increased sound com- plaints. Deep End APO operates on a relatively low budget and has a difficult time finding places to perform. FitzMacken wor- ries it will be hard to find places with proper seating. While she expressed frustration, FitzMacken does believe that the policy change was not unreasonable, and she is confident in her ability to work with Residence Life. She emphasized that there was no animosity between Deep End APO and Residence Life.

“This semester and next semester we hope to establish a better relationship with Residence Life, and to work together to think about the needs for the dorms and creating a more friendly environment between us,” FitzMacken said. “We have other places to perform, like the Art Barn in November, and we will just have to be a little bit more creative with where we perform.”

Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Pamela McDowell emphasized that this change does not only apply to Deep End APO. She felt the change was necessary for the residents of the dorms where these performances occur.

“We have gotten a lot of student complaints, due to some of the material being very provocative, and these are people’s liv- ing environment and it was too much and too overwhelming,” she said.

McDowell made it clear that not only the performances but

also the practices took these lounges and other locations in resi- dence halls away from the residents.

“A lot of these residence halls do not have that much lounge space,” she said. “This year we got many requests, and we gave some space in Ytterboe Hall, and I felt that these are sup- posed to be lounges and it was not working out well with these groups.”

Mellby Hall was the last site of performances and was the catalyst for new regulation on where students can perform. On

the subject of improv shows and other performances, McDow- ell said those are possible, and she emphasized that the problem is “student led shows where they are going to have multiple per- formances and practices.”

Both Residence Life and Deep End APO are trying to work together to find suitable spaces to perform and practice, while being mindful of dorm residents. Next year will be an interest- ing time for both groups as they further define where perfor- mances can and cannot take place.

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