Author: Cassidy Neuner

ALSO program cancelled

St. Olaf’s Curriculum Committee recently decided to discontinue the Alternative Language Study Option (ALSO) program at the end of this academic year. ALSO is currently in the fifth and final year of its pilot period and offers students the opportunity to learn Arabic, Korean and Italian, languages not currently available in the regular curriculum.

“I think there was a a lot of regret in the faculty about this program being terminated,” Head of the Curriculum Committee Professor Mary Trull said. “But it also seemed clear that it wasn’t accomplishing the goals that it had set out to accomplish as well as we had hoped.”

The main reason for the program’s cancellation was the lack of student interest combined with the amount of resources it took to run. The program required hiring new Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants (FLTAs) every year, whereas the languages offered in the regular curriculum have consistent faculty.

“It’s just not as good a use of our resources as committing to faculty members who are trained in their field and are going to develop courses that are going to be offered for more than a year,” Trull said.

Interest from students varied widely, from a high of 29 students one semester to a low of seven in another.

Participation in the ALSO program was contingent on having already fulfilled the foreign language general education (FOL GE) requirement, and due to the program’s less traditional method it also required the students to commit to attending language tables and other informal conversation spaces.

“It also wasn’t an official part of the FOL GE program. You couldn’t fulfill that GE credit because it wasn’t being taught in the same way as our other foreign languages,” Trull said. “It didn’t have the same role in the curriculum and that meant it was less attractive to students.”

This is not to say that students will have no options for learning an alternative language in the future. While the ALSO program didn’t work out as planned, new ideas are already on the table.

“Some of the possibilities to be explored are collaborating with Carleton and using online resources and off-campus immersion programs,” Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary and General Studies Dana Gross said.

Additionally, the World Languages Center will continue to offer materials, native speaker tutors and online resources for any student to use.

“I will add that [Director of World Language Center] Renata Debska-McWilliams, [IOS Director] Jodi Malmgren and I are getting ready to announce a non-credit pilot language program, tentatively entitled Guided Independent Language Enrichment. This program is primarily intended to support students studying off-campus for a semester,” Gross said.

The Guided Independent Language Enrichment program would offer weekly one-hour enrichment sessions for students participating in the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, the Budapest semester, programs in Florence and Milan and Biology in South India.

“I think the ALSO program needs a little bit of refinement,” Arabic FLTA Mohsine Jebbour said. “To be honest, I’d really like to make the Arabic language not alternative unless necessary because it is spoken in more than ten countries. With this language you can have access to a rich culture. You can communicate with many different people coming from different cultures.”

“Arabic language study is important for the Middle East Studies program. Faculty in that program will be part of a study group that I plan to convene next semester,” Gross said.

While the ALSO program had the advantage of providing a small class size and attracting a dedicated group of students, it wasn’t a sustainable solution for providing alternative language options.

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NBC comedians cater to Ole audience

On Nov. 14 at 8:30 p.m. (well, more like 8:45 – they were late) students gathered in the Pause for comedy duo Dave and Ethan’s College Dating Coaches show. Some in the audience knew them from their online videos, which have garnered millions of views on YouTube. To others, their show was a completely new experience. Either way, their show was highly anticipated by the St. Olaf community and Dave and Ethan even tailored their show specifically for Oles. They deserved the hype.

The diverse show included musical numbers, audience participation, bad accent imitations and a fairly awkward dating game. Dave and Ethan were genuinely funny and had the audience roaring all night.

They began the show with a spot-on recreation of the typical day of a student at St. Olaf. Dave and Ethan played two stereotypical first-year girls, and went through the entire day, from eating in the Caf to going to a Pause dance. They had definitely done their research. They compared the palace that is Ellingson to the run-down mess of Kittelsby, freaked out over a sighting of John Bruer ’16, complained about the Wifi and expressed anxiety over getting “cray-cray” before a Pause dance despite the dry campus policy.

Dave and Ethan then moved on to a more serious topic: how to pick up girls. They told the audience that the only foolproof way to pick up a girl is to use an accent. Because everyone likes a foreign accent, right? Wrong. Dave and Ethan struggled with the rather obscure accents they were given by the audience – Lebanese and Czechoslovakian – but it was quite entertaining watching them try.

Next, the two asked for an audience member with a bad first date story to share it with everyone. A brave young man stepped onto the stage to share his story, which included an overeager girl and a lie he had to tell in order to get away. Dave and Ethan then reenacted the story, but twisted the ending so that instead of running away, the boy was honest with his date and told her that she made him uncomfortable. It was a hilarious, teachable moment.

Potentially the most uncomfortable part of the show was the finale: the dating game. One girl was asked onto the stage, and three men were also called up. She sat behind a screen and asked her potential suitors a series of questions, and then made her decision about who she’d most like to date. The questions ranged from “What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?” to “Show us your best dance move using your arms only.” Unfortunately for the audience, all three of the male participants were ill-prepared to answer questions on the spot. They were definitely not the best audience participants, but Dave and Ethan handled the awkwardness well and successfully diffused any tension.

Overall, the show was thoroughly enjoyable. While Dave and Ethan may not have taught audience members much about dating or love, they certainly gained some new fans here at St. Olaf.

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Starbucks holiday cups prompt undue outrage

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Yes, that’s right, it’s time for holiday drinks at Starbucks. From Peppermint Mochas to Caramel Brulee Lattes, we now have a wide variety of holiday themed sugar- saturated beverages to choose from – and as the proud owner of a Gold Card, rest assured that I too will be consuming the aforementioned drinks.

Starting every November, Starbucks replaces its typical white cup with a more festive alternative. However, not everyone is thrilled with the minimalistic red cup design this year. Some Christians have expressed outrage at Starbuck’s chosen design: a plain, ombre red cup. No snowflakes, trees or presents. Outraged customers are calling this choice an “attack on Christmas.” One evangelical pastor, Joshua Feuerstein, posted on Facebook, “Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus.”

One way that these offended Christians have been sticking it to Starbucks is by saying their name is “Merry Christmas,” so baristas are forced to say it when the order is complete. That’s right, they’re showing Starbucks how upset they are by continuing to buy their products. That’ll show them!

This supposed “War on Christmas” has been waged for years. From using the word “holiday” instead of Christmas, to anger at any suggestion that Santa Claus is not a white man, people will latch onto any idea that their traditional idea of the Christmas season could be changed.

Frankly, I’m done hearing about the “War on Christmas.” Although I do enjoy poking fun of the people who truly feel that a large corporation using a more inclusive holiday cup design is an attack on their personal beliefs, it’s ultimately a ridiculous argument. How can someone argue that they’re feeling oppressed when literally everything about the holiday season is centered around their celebrated holiday? Do Jewish people get time off to celebrate Hanukkah? Not necessarily.

What decorations are you most likely to see in stores or in cities? Christmas trees or Nativity scenes. If you’re in the U.S. in December it might seem like everyone is Christian.

I think what might confuse me most about this argument is the fact that historically, Starbucks has never used religious imagery on their cups. The patterns were festive-snowflakes, fir trees and ornaments-it is not like they suddenly decided to stop featuring crosses or baby Jesus. When did Starbucks ever explicitly push a Christian agenda?

The people that are taking offense to this really need to get a grip and reevaluate what the Christmas season is actually about. Yes, it’s fun and it puts me in the spirit when businesses, towns and schools, such as St. Olaf, put up decorations. I would be saddened if we stopped decorating entirely, but I would never put up a fight if we started using decorations that are less centered entirely around the Christian holiday.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of the plain red cup. It’s kind of boring, and I too enjoyed the cute designs and festive feel. But am I running around screaming at Starbucks employees or posting on Facebook about how horrified I am by what they’ve done to Christmas? No, because Starbucks is in the business of serving coffee, not propogating a war against Christmas.

Cassidy Neuner ’18 ( is from Carmel, Calif. She majors in history and political science.

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Administration prepares for all types of emergency

Now that St. Olaf has about 95 percent of students and 75 percent of faculty enrolled in Ole Alert, an emergency alert system, everyone can rest a little easier. If there is ever an armed gunman, the storm of the century or a chemical spill near campus, the St. Olaf community will definitely hear about it.

While students will have clear and simple instructions from administration in the case of an emergency, the administration has a much more detailed plan that it can adapt to nearly all potential emergencies, called an all-hazards approach.

“We’d provide as much instruction as we can and try not to use jargon – you know ‘shelter in place’, well what does that mean? – we’ll try to do education on what those things mean. But at the moment people need to know exactly what they want me to do – stay put or go back to my room,” Vice President for Student Life Greg Kneser said.

In the theoretical scenario of having an armed gunman on campus, St. Olaf’s administration would hand over control of the situation very quickly.

“In a situation that is that high risk, the college is very quickly not in charge. Our immediate job is to do what we can to secure students, identify where the location is, so let’s say it’s Holland Hall. We’d get that information out, tell people to shelter in place, whatever the best information is at the time,” Kneser said.

In a situation where outside help is not immediately required, administration would send out a CIRT (Critical Incident Response Team) call. This team includes Kneser, Director of Public Safety Fred Behr and Director of Residence Life Pamela McDowell. Using the same system, the people on this team would receive a text alert informing them of the situation and telling them where they need to go.

“It could be the Incident Command Center,” Kneser said, “it’s a small room that just has communications equipment. Or it could be taking place somewhere out on campus, so it could be the Public Safety vehicle that’s parked at the northwest corner of the Tostrud parking lot. Wherever it says to go, we go. And then we would debrief about what’s going on.”

This is how an incident would be handled in the first 15 minutes, and the CIRT team would decide from there what other groups need to be involved.

“All this stuff, it’s a plan that’s based on very flexible kind of things. People show up, the people are necessary, they start handling the situation, and get back up people ready.” Kneser said.

After the initial CIRT team meeting, President David Anderson’s Leadership Team gets involved too. In an emergency situation, its job is to continue the operations of the college. Classes need to continue, parents need to be kept updated, and in a high profile situation, the media would want to know what was happening.

These response teams have run drills for a variety of emergency scenarios.

“You’re sitting around a table, and you have a scenario. This summer the President’s staff did a scenario where there was an off-campus vehicle accident with an athletic team that some students were killed in. It wasn’t like a role play, it was really like a table topics where we got information and President Anderson would ask, ‘Well what’s the next thing we do?’ We went through all the processes. You find out what works and you find out where your glitches are, and at the end you fix the glitches,” Kneser said.

In the works is a more intense drill that would involve live action role play, with involvement from both the police and fire departments. However these drills can’t happen when students are on campus because it could cause a panic.

This summer several staff members attended a simulation put on by Rice County during which they faced a scenario where the entire county would need to be evacuated. This particular scenario involved the release of radioactive material from a nearby nuclear power plant.

“If we had one hour to evacuate the county, how would that happen? You have hospitals, and prisons, and schools. So we did a drill on how that would work.”

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Bon Appetit hosts “Cafonomics”

On Tuesday, Oct. 20, students gathered in the Sun Ballroom for the presentation “Economics of the Caf” given by Midwest Fellow of Bon Appetit Amanda Wareham and St. Olaf’s very own Bon Appetit Board Manager, Randy Clay. The event, sponsored by the Financial Literacy Committee, aimed to give students an inside look at how Bon Appetit operates financially, and more specifically how Stav Hall runs.

“I think any opportunity we have to teach people how we operate, we like to do that,” Clay said.

Clay opened the presentation by addressing a common misconception on campus regarding the daily cost of our meal plans, which is roughly $2.96 per plate.

“The typical response I see – I’ve seen it on comment cards several times this year already – is that basically your meals cost about $10 apiece…The economic reality is that the money you pay through the school for your board plan is shared between Bon Appetit and the school. We do not get all that money to spend on food. In reality we get a portion of that money, roughly half, to run our entire operation from the top down. That includes all our salaries, payroll, purchasing your food and preparing your meals,” Clay said.

St. Olaf students are often busy, and it isn’t unusual to miss a couple of meals a week. Many students wonder why their missed meals don’t rollover into the next week or why they don’t get the extra money back at the end of the semester. Stav reports that students on average use only 75 percent of their allotted meals each week. This is called the “missed meal factor,” and it is incorporated into Stav’s food preparation schedule.

“If we had to base our purchasing and our prep on 100 percent usage of meals, it’s a much different meal plan, it’s a much more expensive meal plan,” Clay said.

Wareham’s half of the presentation focused on Bon Appetit as a whole, explaining some company-wide policies and talking about how the company makes a concerted effort to buy from local farms.

“As a company we wanted to take a stand against this consolidation of farms, and the way we strategized to do this was by creating our Farm to Fork program in 1999,” Wareham said. “With the Farm to Fork program, we use 20 percent of our budget in each of our cafes. So 20 percent of the money here at Bon Appetit St. Olaf is spent on ingredients from small, local farms. So that means owner-operated farms within 150 miles of the cafe, with less than $5 million in annual revenue.”

After the presentation, Wareham and Clay had an open Q&A session with the audience, and much of the time was spent discussing the recent egg shortage and Clay’s plea to students to return their plates and mugs.

“You can still get eggs at the tortilla station, but Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday you can’t get an omelette. Well guess what happened? Our egg use went up… After the first six weeks we’ve gone through more liquid eggs,” Clay said.

Clay had been warned before the beginning of the semester that there would most likely be egg shortages, so he and the chefsdiscussed what breakfast alternatives could be offered instead of omelettes.

“We’re probably going to add omelettes back on there, because you all are seemingly more willing to wait in line for an omelette,” he said. “Because it’s cool and you like Carla and you get to pick your own stuff. It’s an omelette, I guess. It’s funny because we can actually spend less money having an omelette station than by doing it the way we’ve been doing it. So lesson learned.”

Unprompted, Clay launched into a lengthy discussion on the student body’s habit of hoarding cafware in their rooms.

“One thing that I wish we didn’t have to spend your money on, but we do, year after year after year: coffee mugs.”

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