Author: Anders Mattson

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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Potter improv show casts laughter, fun

On Saturday, Oct. 24, the Ytterboe lounge was filled with magic, muggles and – not surprisingly – laughs, as Scared Scriptless held their fourth annual Harry Potter-themed improv show.

The show had the performers split up into four groups based on the different Hogwarts houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and, my personal favorite, Hufflepuff. These houses then competed against each other in a variety of different improv games and challenges in a competition to decide which house was the best.

The show, however, was surprisingly not completely centered around Harry Potter. Aside from the house divisions and a few sparse references, improvisers focused more on making quality scenes rather than stubborn, forced adherence to the show’s theme. This decision helped to showcase the true ability each of the performing Scared Scriptless members.

There was a certain depth found in each scene, and at no moment did it seem the show was going to have an awkward “what do I say?” moment. Each skit was ingenious and hilarious at the same time.

From a game of “Oscar-Winning Moment,” where restaurateurs conspired to steal a crabman’s legs, to another game in which improvisers took on silly characterizations to retell popular fairytales, each actor was able to quickly continue the skit and add humor to it.

Being my first Scared Scriptless show, I found that the show found a good balance of bathroom humor while also still being unique and hilarious in each skit. For an improv show, it felt surprisingly calculated, with swear words only being used at appropriate moments, and no one ever just swearing for no reason.

The introductory skit, “What You Got?” – featuring a rap battle-esque showdown between Gryffindor and Slytherin – was one of the few to include many Harry Potter references. Harry Potter proved itself to be a fitting theme for improv, due to its widespread relatability; all audience members could understand references made to the popular series.

The show also used audience suggestions as the basis for many of the improv skits, allowing the audience to interact and influence the direction of the scene. Every improv game was different, and each was as enjoyable as the last.

While not a norm in the standard Harry Potter canon, Slytherin was declared the winner of the night after team member Josh Horst ’19 showed no hesitation to drop and complete 50 consecutive push-ups when prompted by his fellow improvisers. Horst completed his exercise swiftly, pausing only for a brief second to give the audience a wink before his final push-up. Horst’s completion of the set was met with uprorious applause.

This was just the second of four intended Scared Scriptless shows this semester. Shows are announced on the Scared Scriptless’ Facebook page. I recommend checking them out if you are seeking a good laugh from chaotic acting.

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New hazing policies coddle student body

By Anders Mattson

Hazing is complicated. No longer is it a term to describe some bizarre and often humili- ating initiation into a group; it is something bigger. While I see hazing as a headache all schools and programs must deal with, it seems the St. Olaf administra- tion is beginning to blur the lines between hazing and basic social opportunities.

You might be asking yourself: why would a freshman, who wasn’t even here last year for the complex baseball incident, be writing an opinion on the new hazing policy?

With the recent rumblings about the first-year dance being cancelled for future Oles and with a very tangible memory of the “hazing that occurred” during those Week One activities, I offer my humble opinion.

What I found at the first-year dance was something reminiscent of the fabled end of middle school dance that so many of us wish we did not remember. Awkward standing around, a room full of sweaty people and a lot of jumping to EDM music.

This was not hazing. This was an optional event for students to do something different, students who may have otherwise just been sitting in their dorm room making small talk with others. It was a way to let out some energy, not some forced traumatic horror.

What truly worries me is where the administration could go next. The new policy states, “Any activity or practice that new members are required or encouraged to participate in by virtue of their status as a new member presumptively constitutes hazing.”

This line could imply that a number of Week One events constitute hazing. I can picture next year’s Week One now: no awkward dance, no playfair and no form of social interaction for the introverted who struggle with making friends when not encouraged to participate.

Isn’t pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone what college is all about? The answer is, of course, yes.

Certainly, a student who would prefer to stay sitting in their room deserves that option, but that does not justify taking the “awkward dance” away from those who need he social push.

The final concern I have is the lack of faith between the administration and Ole community shown by this new policy. There are certainly exceptions – and past mistakes have been properly punished – but if this policy is to improve life at St. Olaf, the administration needs to communicate with a variety of students to decide what truly defines hazing as opposed to normal social events.

I believe that most students would agree that the vast majority of events here on campus are not malicious in any way, shape or form, but simple fun, creating positive memories. Hazing happens at every college. Forced humiliation and harassment should be complete- ly stopped and the perpetrators punished; but, there is a fine line between that and activities where the intent is simply to make first year students feel welcomed.

Certainly, conversation about intent and discussion about the “worst case scenarios” would eliminate any abuse. Meeting new people is never without risk, but the reward of friendship gained from new experiences is worth it.

Anders Mattson ’19 (mattso1@sto- is from Dana Point Calif. He majors in English.

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