Author: Manitou Messenger

St. Olaf Sentiments (11/09/17)

As the first two snowfalls of this school year have already shown, winter is in the air. For some, the thought of winter fills them with dread as they remember the harsh winds, sub-zero temperatures and slippery sidewalks. However, there is a wonderful part of winter that is sometimes forgotten. With winter comes the Christmas season.

While no two people celebrate Christmas in the exact same way and not everybody celebrates Christmas at all, Christmas is a serious holiday at St. Olaf College. Being a Lutheran college, St. Olaf proudly and successfully celebrates Christmas.  

I have always loved the Christmas season, not for the presents, but for the celebrations and coming-together of people. Here at St. Olaf, thousands of students and faculty join together to celebrate this season. Each person brings their own experiences and traditions to make this holiday season an inviting place for all. In this way, Christmas does not need to be strictly religious, but can simply be a time of merriment and warmth. 

Coming to campus last year, I was very skeptical of how the college would celebrate Christmas. Not wanting to budge from my home tradition of watching sappy Hallmark Christmas movies and baking way too many cookies, I was nervous that Christmas would be ruined. However, St. Olaf College only made Christmas better. 

First of all, St. Olaf has the best Christmas decorations. Not only does Buntrock get decked out with Christmas trees and holiday decorations, but every building on campus receives a holiday make-over. Residence halls are bedecked with handmade snowflakes and decorated, and doors and buildings receive ornamented trees. Outside, each lamp post is adorned with a festive bow, and the large pots which once held flowers are filled with holly and evergreen branches.

Besides decorations, St. Olaf also hosts its famous Christmas Fest. With four concerts, thousands of attendees, five choirs and an orchestra, there cannot be a better way to spread the holiday cheer and bring people together. The harmonious voices of the choirs sing of hope, wonder and happiness. After each concert, the audience leaves, amazed at how those five choirs were able to project such a beautiful message. 

Even students not in a musical ensemble can spread the holiday cheer by Christmas caroling or singing and listening to their favorite holiday music around campus. St. Olaf offers countless events to get everyone into the holiday spirit. There are holiday parties, Christmas caroling, cookie-decorating and countless more activities. The college even provides wrapping paper and tape for students to wrap gifts for their friends on campus. 

Furthermore, nothing says Christmas like beautiful, white snow. Lucky for us, St. Olaf should have plenty of snow by the time Christmas is in full-swing. The snow is perfect for sledding down Old Main hill and building snowmen. The softly falling snowflakes encourage students and staff to bundle in warm holiday sweaters and sip hot chocolate from the Cage while talking to friends old and new. 

Now I know some of you might think it is too early to think about Christmas, but for me, Christmas is a time to celebrate friends and family and forget about the cold. It is especially during this time that St. Olaf becomes my home away from home.

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Head injuries leaving impact on Ole athletes

“My head was pounding and I felt a bit dizzy. I still got back up and tried to finish the race, but [I] realized that I only had one ski left.” 

This is the head-spinning aftermath St. Olaf alpine skier Madison Valent ’20 experienced following a brutal 40 mph impact with a gate during a ski meet earlier this year. Flying 20 feet in the air and violently cracking her head against the ground, Valent was diagnosed with a concussion – eight months later, she still is not fully recovered.

Even though playing sports has always been a popular and thrilling endeavor for people of all ages, concerns over head injuries, specifically concussions directly resulting from harsh contact sports such as hockey and football, have risen exponentially in recent years. Enhanced awareness and analysis of long-term degenerative brain diseases like Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), has led to adjusting and prioritizing head safety protocol with heightened urgency, especially in more potentially dangerous sports. 

Valent is not the only St. Olaf athlete that has sustained a concussion participating in the sport they love. Julie Johnson ’19, former starting goalkeeper of St. Olaf women’s soccer, was forced to leave the team following her fourth concussion during a June contest in which she took a hard cleat to the face. According to her, the injury was the culmination of numerous previous head traumas suffered throughout her career. 

“My most recent concussion was definitely affected by the one before when the ball came flying and hit my head at 80 mph,” Johnson said. “For four whole days, I had to stay in a dark room with no stimulation. I took two weeks off of school and was never able to catch up in my classes that semester.” 

Concussions usually result from a blow to the head during games or practices, often when they are least expected. Tim Bergeland ’18 became suddenly and unexpectedly concussed earlier this school year when he dove for the ball in an intramural beach volleyball game. The first immediate symptoms athletes experience after the hit are usually temporary dizziness followed by nagging headaches. As time passes, more evident, tangible symptoms, such as abnormal sensitivity to brightness and noise, difficulty concentrating and irregular sleep disturbances emerge. 

Athletes who experience concussions all undergo the St. Olaf concussion protocol. St. Olaf’s former head athletic trainer Dan Hage developed a five-stage protocol for concussion recovery, involving multiple exercises and eventual integration back into regular participation on the athletes’ respective team. An athlete remains at one stage until they can successfully complete it without demonstrating any hint of lingering concussion symptoms, the first stage being simple physical exercise and mental stimulus, and the fifth and final test being unlimited participation in a live game. 

The middle stages of St. Olaf’s official concussion protocol see the afflicted athlete resting until symptoms settle down. Once stability occurs, they will gradually participate in increasingly strenuous exercises every 24 hours provided no concussion symptoms occur during each respective activity, starting with asymptomatic brain function during light aerobics and moving through stages of sport specific exercises, non-contact training drills and participation in full contact practice.

 This deliberate system helped Johnson recover from her third concussion and triumphantly return to the soccer field within 15 days. Valent also described exercises that St. Olaf provided to help strengthen her neck, decrease the pounding headaches and rehabilitate the brain. 

One significant effect that concussions have on student athletes in particular is that it interferes with their daily cognitive abilities. Whether it is taking twice as long to finish a test or quiz or three times as long to comprehend a person talking at a faster pace, cognitive processing of common everyday interactions is significantly hindered, which has a noteworthy negative influence on athletes’ academic capabilities.

“I am someone who loves to put a lot of energy into my academics and intellectual explorations, and to be held back because my cognitive process in that was very frustrating to me,” Bergeland said.

Some concussions are obviously worse than others. Johnson’s fourth concussion forced her to quit the team and the sport she had adored for the previous 17 years of her life. Being kept in a dark room with little to no cognitive stimulation for a week, Johnson was not allowed to exercise, study, see light, be in a loud environment, listen to music or even to think too hard. Her only option was to either fall asleep or keep attempting to do so. When people ask about the injury, Johnson did not experience much empathy when she said she had a concussion. 

“It feels like you are being a wimp when, really, you are brain damaged,” Johnson said. “I think it is important that people realize that, to take it seriously when it happens because it can affect you forever.”

“The brain quit the team,” she said. “Not me.”

Coming out of this painful experience, athletes are still hopeful about their road to recovery. 

“The recovery is slow, but I should celebrate the fact that I am healing,” Bergeland said. “I also think it is one big thing about having a concussion is when other people have concussions I can understand where they are coming from and express my empathy.”

“There are people who are so badly concussed that they can’t even remember who they were anymore,” Johnson said. “I’m lucky that I’m not extremely affected. I’ll be fine, I can still finish college, go to grad school and be a human.”

The effects of concussions are long, painful and frustrating, but Oles who have sustained severe and repeated head trauma and who are left with impacted cognitive abilities are still patiently recovering while remaining optimistic about the future ahead. 

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Orchestra showcases new composers

Orchestral repertoire often consists of works by primarily white, male composers who lived at least a hundred years ago. These symphonies and concertos are famous, within musical circles or with the entire world, having withstood the tests of time to become standards. The Minnesota Orchestra plays these pieces expertly, but the Orchestra is a champion of new music as well, premiering original work by a living composer on nearly every concert. 

On Friday, Nov. 10 at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis, the Minnesota Orchestra’s Fall Campus Night concert will feature an entire program of new works by a diverse selection of composers. They call the concert “Future Classics,” aware of the fact that even Tchaikovsky was new to the profession once.

The concert will be performed as part of the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, which is celebrating its 15th year. For the seven composers of the night, it’s a huge deal to have work performed on this concert.

Audience members will vote via Twitter for their favorite piece, which will receive a second performance on Nov. 11, when it will be broadcast live as part of Minnesota Public Radio’s 50th Anniversary. Exposure makes or breaks an emerging composer’s career, and this concert is the perfect opportunity to step into the spotlight – literally.

Composers will give a brief talk about their piece before its premier, and audiences will have the opportunity to engage with the composers after the concert as well.

In a world with a musical cue for every app and Facebook video, not to mention concert halls and movie screens, we need strong composers to capture the nuances of our world and transform them into music. Famous or not, composers like the seven featured on Friday have to break into the professional world to make a living creating for us. 

Though being among the first to hear a new work is exciting enough, the Minnesota Orchestra appeals to its college audience even more by offering free coffee, tea and cookies, as well as prizes and a meet-and-greet to attendants on Friday night. Want in on the action? Tickets are $12 with a student ID online or at the door. 

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Zionist ideology is destructive to Palestine

What do you know about Palestine? What do you know about Israel? How about Zionism? Have you ever thought about how all these things are tied together? Or how Zionist ideology is employed in promoting epistemic violence? All throughout the world, and specifically in the U.S., the Zionist project has been largely successful in making people believe in the right of Zionist Jews to reside within Palestine. This success and its multifaceted forms of creating false moral equivalences, lays on the roots of what is the Israeli State.

The existence of Israel as a nation state creates a Zionist sponsored conflation between Jews and Israeli Jews. This conflation is one of the first ways by which arguments against the state’s oppression, dispossession, ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people has always been repressed. Every time someone dares to speak against Israel, they’re immediately labeled as anti-semitic, as if speaking against oppression that is sponsored and carried out by the Israeli state means that one hates Jews. 

This well developed gagging tool is one that is stuck right into the mouths of anyone that questions the legitimacy of this settler colony. When we deconstruct this tool, we can clearly see that it relies on people’s fear of sounding anti-Semitic, and manipulates them to blatantly silence criticism.

The criticism that is silenced is also subsequently condemned with the liberals’ favorite centrist attribute of drawing false moral equivalences between two sides that were never equal. For that reason it is often heard within classes that both the Israelis and Palestinians have a ‘story,’ often without attaching their respective power positions to one another. Ignoring the drastic power dynamics that are intrinsic in the Palestinian – Israeli conflict is the way in which false moral equivalences begin their formation. This formation is made under the false pretense that the resolution of this conflict is only a matter of putting your differences in the past, from which the misconstrued and glorified idea of coexistence is born.

 The idea of coexistence has been so widely misunderstood and misused that it’s become another norm people ought to abide by. Coexistence is an ill-conceived liberal term which encourages people to wish for an unrealistic ideal by demanding that one group of people must “coexist” with those who believe in dangerously flawed ideologies. 

What coexistence does is undermine the greater problem by shifting blame onto those unwilling to “coexist” and point fingers at those people as the problem because they’re not cooperating and putting the root cause of the problem behind them. Ethnic cleansing, ongoing detainments, brutal solitary confinement and constant expansion of the settlement projects are ways used by the oppressor to dehumanize the oppressed, quickly concealing them by defecating the misconstrued notion of coexistence. 

The narrative of coexistence assumes that both sides are equal, and therefore have an equal right to the land. The fact that the essence of the struggle is being disregarded by calling for and encouraging “coexistence” is in itself normalization of oppression and perpetuates a false reality.

Normalization in a Palestinian context is defined as the participation in any project, initiative or activity that aims either implicitly or explicitly to bring together Palestinians and Israelis for simple “dialogue” without taking into consideration that there’s a struggle still going on, there is resistance that needs to be nurtured and there is oppression that needs to end. 

There is no point of creating dialogue and exchanging conversations when there is a bigger issue at hand. The treatment of the Israeli state as “normal” and giving it a place in regular interactions allows oppressive parties to jump right into “coexistence” because people had already forgotten the real struggle, and started moving into “coexisting” with the oppressor because that is what has become normalized.

We are not at the point of moving from mindless complacency of the oppressor and imposed existence of the oppressed. The lives Palestinians live under oppression is not their choice; the Israelis decide when they want to make the Palestinians visible and when to make their suffering invisible. 

Until both parties are equal in terms of basic rights and freedom of living, coexistence is out of the question. Coexistence will only be considered when people acknowledge that the “other” is human, and stop stripping the humanity from the oppressed because they’re oppressed. When people become more than just a number and a case, and start being acknowledged as a person with a history and a story, then coexi

stence could be revisited, although to a large extent would still be unachievable.

Laura Tannous ’18 ( is from Ramallah, Palestine. She majors in political science. 

Or Pansky ’20 ( was born in Israel. His major is undecided.

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Day full of choir music brings high schoolers, Oles together

If you walked down to Skoglund on Sunday, Nov. 5, you would have seen hundreds of students from St. Olaf and several high school choirs walking around in their choir robes, clutching several pieces of newly learned music. You may have heard a wall of beautiful choral music beginning at 1:40 p.m. when rehearsals began, and again at 4 p.m. when the performance started. This event is known as Choral Day, a day filled with music, choir and community. It’s a day where Viking Chorus, Manitou Singers, Chapel Choir and the St. Olaf Choir join several high school choirs to put on a massive performance. 

Lukas Jaeger ’20 describes it as, “A lot like the All-State and/or State Honors Choir performances (or other regional equivalents).” 

“For me,” Jaeger said, “It was very refreshing in that way. A very exciting performance where all the choirs get to sort of show off what they’ve done so far and, in a way, where they are headed.” 

While this day has come to be a tradition for the St. Olaf choir program, many involved in choir find it to be a stressful day rather than an enjoyable one. 

Sally Olmstead ’20 says, “I’ve participated in Choral Day once before, and my overall experience with it was positive. It’s a great opportunity for high school singers to see what choir is like at St. Olaf. I enjoyed hearing their choirs sing, and it was [nice] meeting and interacting with some of the kids.” 

However, Olmstead also is one of the many Oles who competed in the NATS (National Association of Teachers Singing) competition all day Friday and Saturday, making her weekend full of singing and taxing both vocally and academically. Despite this, Olmstead was, “Mostly looking forward to this weekend of singing; I think it’ll be a great time, even if it does put me a bit behind on homework.” 

What this event really does is give the high school students the opportunity to sing with St. Olaf choral ensembles, and shows them what a future in choir could be like. 

Emily Hynes ’18 explains, “I know of a couple people who came to St. Olaf because of their high school experience with Choral Day. If I keep that in mind, it’s easier to try and have fun during the day. When I think about the other people who benefit from it, it makes it feel more worth it; when I think about my own to-do list, though, it can be hard to find a way to enjoy it. That being said, there are songs sometimes that are deeply moving and it feels good to share their message with the audience. It’s also nostalgic and fun to see the selected high school choirs that get to perform during the concert.” 

As a member of Chapel Choir, walking into Choral Day I was – like Hynes – remembering the homework I had to finish, or the books I had to read or the laundry I had to do. But, when several hundred singers ages 14-22 began singing, nothing else compared. Hearing the high school choirs perform songs I sang a few years ago in my own high school choir made any stress seem non-existent. 

In one of our choir rehearsals last week, Mark Stover, the conductor of Chapel Choir, talked about Choral Day being about giving back to the community as a group of musicians. We get so much out of this program, and demonstrating the wonder of the St. Olaf choral program is the least we can give for all it has given us. 

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