Author: Cassidy Neuner

Nobel Prize winner’s application raises qualms about SATs

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate and champion for women’s right to education, has expressed her interest in going to Stanford University. However, Stanford has issued a statement that she will not be able to attend without taking the SATs.

The Guardian reported that Yousafzai did well on her GCSEs (the British equivalent of the SATs). Clearly, she is an extremely intelligent woman, so the SATs are unlikely to be a serious obstacle for her.

The real question here is why Yousafzai should have to take them in the first place. After all, this test is strictly a formality as I cannot imagine she would ever be rejected, even from a selective university such as Stanford.

Many others feel this way and have expressed their astonishment on Twitter. It is strange that such an accomplished young woman would be made to fulfill such an arbitrary bureaucratic requirement, especially considering the recent scrutiny on standerdized testing in general. What began as a standardized measure of intelligence for high schoolers across the nation has become a defining force in college admissions.

Jill Tiefenthaler, president of Colorado College, shared her opinion on standardized testing with US News and World Report.

“Standardized tests were never intended to measure the complexities of intelligence,” she said, “and over time they have drawn the center of gravity in college admissions away from things we value.”

What Tiefenthaler says is true. High school students spend a ridiculous amount of time, money and effort preparing for the SAT. This either distracts them from their true interests and passions, or results in stress and overcommitment.

Many top colleges in the US – Bates College, Smith College and Wesleyan University – have implemented flexible testing policies. It would not be surprising if Stanford waived Yousafzai’s SAT requirement.

One Twitter user, Rachel Syme, summed up my feelings quite succinctly.

“Sure, she is the global face of the female education movement and stood up to the taliban by herself, but how’s her reading comprehension?” Syme said.

Sarcasm aside, if Malala Yousafzai is not accepted into Stanford, then who is good enough? Winning a Nobel Prize before hitting adulthood and risking your life for a cause you believe in outweighs a perfect 2400 on your SAT.

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

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Film historian recreates nickelodeon experience

On the evening of Friday, May 1 in Tomson 280, film historian Rick Altman presented to his audience a recreation of early film exhibition through a program of short film clips, illustrated songs and interactive sing-alongs titled The Living Nickelodeon.

Not to be confused with the popular childrens’ TV channel, the “nickelodeon” of the program’s title refers to the 19th century colloquialism for the earliest form of movie theater. The nomenclature originates from the five cent admission cost and the Greek “odeion,” meaning roofed-over theater.

“[The films] help us understand the early years of cinema, when cinema wasn’t yet cinema,” Altman said. “We – looking retrospectively – we easily assume that cinema is in the center, because it is now, and anything else is embroidered around it. But in fact during this early period, cinema was not yet really its own identity. It was still thought of as an offshoot of other systems and media.”

What started as research for his book, Silent Film Sound, quickly evolved into a larger project.

“I looked into finding this cache of illustrated songs and I knew that they were important, but that there had not been enough of them available for people to see,” Altman said.

In 1998, Altman, along with two of his colleagues, put together The Living Nickelodeon as a way to show modern audiences what film attendance was like for people living in the early 1900s.

“[We wanted] to show people how the programs actually worked. They were not just film programs; that the film was pretty much secondary,” Altman said.

Altman’s message was infused throughout the hour and a half long presentation. Altman, accompanied by Kjersti Anderson ’17, began the show with a musical number, and continued with a variety of silent short films, illustrated slides with live musical accompaniment and silent films that also involved live music.

One of the first silent films featured a large man and a small man engaging in a dramatic fight. The film sported impressive effects: at one point the larger man threw the smaller man high into the air. Though the smaller man had obviously been replaced by a dummy, the cut was clean and surprisingly convincing given the fact that the clip was over 100 years old.

This style of editing did not seem to change the overall effect of the film’s slapstick style that had much of the audience in fits of laughter.

As the program progressed through the 1900s, Altman began to inject music into silent films when appropriate.For example, if someone on screen began to play the piano, Altman would also play piano to give the effect of diagetic sound, since recording audio was not possible at the time.

One of the most enjoyable and unique parts of the presentation were the illustrated slides. Intricately designed, often strange and funny, and painstakingly hand colored, these slides were accompanied by songs performed by Altman. At the end of every song, the audience was asked to join in a round of the chorus. This aspect of The Living Nickelodeon differentiated the performance from most other lectures.

Altman was an overall engaging speaker, often injecting jokes into his performance and occasionally going into the audience during the short film screenings.

Altman’s appearance at St. Olaf was sponsored by the Film Studies Program. Altman has traveled around the world, both individually and in a group, to perform The Living Nickelodeon. The list of performance venues ranges from college campuses such as New York University, to international music festivals like the Bologna Festival in Italy, to world-renowned museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Louvre in France.

Altman is also the author of several award-winning books regarding film and cinema studies, including Silent Film Sound, recipient of the Society of Theatre Librarians Prize for best book published in 2004 on recorded performance and the Limina Prize for best film book published in 2004.

When he is not performing, Altman is a professor of cinema at the University of Iowa, and continues his research on early cinema.


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New Manitou Maple club taps into the sap

Over a period of six weeks this spring, several students dedicated much of their free time to the collection of sap from St. Olaf’s very own maple trees.

“I tapped maple trees for a couple years with my dad just growing up,” Henry Raether ’15 said. “It’s something I’ve been doing for a while, and I wanted to bring it to the Hill. There have been a few other people who have done it, but I wanted to do more of a bottling process and actually sell it to students.”

Getting the project off the ground was a challenge in itself.

“Olaf is pretty protective of the land and the trees, so getting approval to do the project was pretty tough,” Raether said. “We had to prove that we were organized, knew what we were doing – I think the fact that I’d done it before was kind of convincing as well – and that we were actually going to benefit the St. Olaf community with this project.”

After gaining approval and funding through St. Olaf, Raether, along with fellow students Rachel Lee ’15, Ben Marolf ’15, Alex Bauch ’15 and Liam John ’16, quietly placed 25 taps throughout a grove of maple trees by Heath Creek, which is a part of St. Olaf’s Natural Lands. Over the course of six weeks, they were able to collect over 300 gallons of sap.

“We would just go out there everyday or every other day, depending on how fast the sap was running, and check all the trees, and empty the bags if we needed to,” Lee said.

The collection of the sap alone was a labor-intensive project, but the cooking process turned out to be even more difficult.

“We did a boil by ourselves using propane, and that took eight hours to boil only 30 gallons, so we made pretty much nothing,” Raether explained.

The team realized that they could not realistically cook a significant amount of sap on their own, and that’s when they approached Randy Clay about using Stav Hall’s kitchen to cook their sap.

“[Randy Clay] was integral to our success,” Marolf said. “Because we had these industrial boilers up in the kitchen we were able to do it in three and a half or four hours to get it from fifty gallons [of sap] down to one gallon of syrup.”

The hard work certainly paid off for the Manitou Maple team. Their most recent batch of syrup sold out after less than an hour and a half of tabling in Buntrock.

“A lot of people don’t know the process, and don’t have an appreciation for how maple syrup is made,” Raether said. “We really gained perspective about [how] tedious and meticulous the methods are to make maple syrup.”

“You learn a lot about where your food comes from, what food is around us and how it does take a lot of effort to make that food, and I think we don’t appreciate that,” Lee said.

In an effort to give back to the community, Manitou Maple partnered with, and donated all the proceeds from, their maple syrup to the Chloe’s Fight Rare Disease Foundation.

“We decided it would be nice to give back to the outside community in some way and raise awareness, and I felt like this would be a good way to do that,” Raether said.

Though many of the team members will be graduating this May, Raether is hopeful that the project will be carried on for years to come.

“The hope is that this will be a continual thing and that every spring weekend we can sell maple syrup.” Raether said. “I think the local aspect is really cool. It’s literally our backyard and we’re just harvesting the sap that occurs every year. The flow occurs every spring and people just don’t realize it.”

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