Author: Nina Hagen

Relevant resume includes failures, not successes

As this semester on the Hill draws to a close, it is that time of the year when many college seniors begin to take the last few steps that will lead them into the real world, where they can – ideally – give back to the people around them. However, this task is always much easier said than done. In a society where there are 20 people fighting for one piece of pie, all graduating seniors want to be sure that they have the best chance to claim it.

In many ways, the workforce is like a battleground in which the resume is one’s weapon of choice. A document that lists all of one’s best qualities, highest achievements and widest-ranging capabilities as incentive for hiring corporations and businesses, the resume – in theory – should make every candidate seem like the best one for the job.

Earlier this month, however, advertising executive Jeff Scardino created the concept of “The Relevant Resume,” that, unlike a regular resume, does not list all of one’s accomplishments, academic achievements, general talents, extracurricular activities and so on. Instead, Scardino’s resume lists one’s learning experiences through the mistakes that one has made, one’s failures and conflicts one has had that can pinpoint one’s flaws and defects.

Scardino points out in an interview with Business Insider that the resume “provides a template for job seekers to ditch the inflated skills and not-so humble brags of their careers in favor of setting them apart by showcasing their failures.”

Interestingly, he came up with the idea for the “relevant resume” as he was conducting job interviews and realized that asking for references from people that failed to see eye to eye with the candidates would perhaps give him a more accurate representation of them as well-rounded individuals.

For most of us, Scardino’s idea would probably be seen as a creative, yet overly optimistic, to the point of naïveté. If every employer used the relevant resume instead of the version that is used now, and valued candidates for their failures rather than for the way they present their accomplishments, then more and more potentially under-qualified people will be able to fight for the ever shrinking piece of pie.

Still, it may be valuable for experiences gained through failure to be taken into consideration, both by the employer and the applicant. Would it not be better to have gone through a lot of failures and learned about the harsh reality of life than to have succeeded in almost every way possible and failed to learn anything?

As Aunt Billie said to Lewis in the Meet the Robinsons: “From failing, you learn. From success….eh, not so much.” May all of us Oles be able to own up to our failures as we begin our own search for success.

Samuel Pattinasarane ’18 is from Jakarta, Indonesia. He majors in political science and Asian studies.

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Safe spaces in college discourage victimization

Last fall, when Brown University announced it would host a debate between a feminist blogger and a rape culture skeptic about campus sexual assault, members of the school’s Sexual Assault Task Force responded by creating a “safe space” for survivors or those otherwise affected by these issues to use during the event. Safe spaces are commonly used as supportive environments for intellectual debate about certain issues that incite vulnerability or trauma, such as rape or sexual assault.

According to the New York Times, Brown’s safe space took a different approach.

“[It] was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.” One student, a rape survivor, needed to use the space because she felt “bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against [her] dearly and closely held beliefs.”

The article goes on to mention other instances of college students demanding safer spaces on campuses in order to keep trauma survivors from feeling victimized. A question emerges: is shielding oneself from potentially threatening ideas beneficial in that it prevents further trauma or harmful because it prevents intellectual growth?

This article was a recent topic of discussion in my philosophy class and many of us took issue with its victim-blaming tone, especially when the author calls out safe space users as “eager to self-infantilize.” Much of the article’s comments section takes a similar stance, calling today’s college students weak for being increasingly sensitive to issues like trauma and triggering. My view is that the survivors in question should not have had to feel unsafe enough to the point where they refused to both engage in important discussions and take opposing viewpoints into consideration, because doing so serves as a valuable learning opportunity for people on both sides of an issue.

Judith Shulevitz, the article’s author, does make a fair point about the deficiency of Brown’s safe space in particular. Rather than infantilizing them, I would argue that the space further victimized the trauma survivors and forced them to ignore the issue at hand rather than facilitate a supportive environment for discussion and sharing ideas. Safe spaces should not make people feel like victims; they should empower them and provide a non-threatening setting for facilitating dialogue and increasing people’s understanding of complex and sensitive issues.

Trauma survivors absolutely have a right to avoid undergoing further trauma, such as situations that can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder or painful memories of abuse. These demands for safe spaces clearly show a rising sophistication in college students’ vocabulary about nuanced emotional issues that have until recently largely gone undiscussed or ignored. But what does it say about today’s college campuses if students are consistently feeling threatened enough to need a safe space in the first place?

In light of the recent acts of vandalism and intolerance here at St. Olaf, it is more important than ever that we keep in mind the importance of creating an accepting community on campus that makes everyone feel safe and supported. While safe spaces serve a practical and valuable purpose and responses to events like the debate at Brown point out their continuing necessity, the ideal scenario would be to cultivate a campus-wide discussion that touches on all viewpoints but victimizes no one, making the need for safe spaces obsolete.

Colleges are built to encourage the thoughtful and respectful sharing of ideas and a willingness to encounter unfamiliar perspectives and worldviews. If anyone’s perspective is overlooked or not valued, its loss does the whole campus community a disservice. St. Olaf tries hard to cultivate a community of acceptance and equality of perspectives, though obviously more can be done. Hopefully through continued advocacy work by student organizations, the facilitation of events like Sustained Dialogues and a greater effort among students to respect unfamiliar points of view, the need for safe spaces – especially like the one at Brown – will diminish.

Nina Hagen ’15 is from Saint Paul, Minn. She majors in English with a concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies.


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“Pointergate” story ignites embarrassing media firestorm

In an act of goodwill, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges joined volunteers prior to election day in their mission to encourage Minnesota citizens to vote. What began as an innocent act of civic engagement ended in controversy and embarrassment when a photo of Hodges posing with a volunteer was misconstrued – by the Minneapolis Police Department, no less – as an endorsement of gang activity. The photo features Hodges a white woman and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change worker Navell Gordon a black man pointing at each other, a gesture that the Minneapolis police force called a known gang sign. After local news station KSTP-TV aired what was meant to be an exposé of Hodges’ gang associations using these unfounded accusations as a basis, the story was nationally circulated and widely ridiculed for its obvious racism.

Mockingly dubbed “Pointergate,” the story comes on the heels of an open letter Hodges sent to Minneapolis residents that accuses the Minneapolis police of abusing the public’s trust. Police union chief John Delmonico, a source of the allegations against Hodges, has traditionally responded combatively to those who criticize the conduct of the Minneapolis police, and this occasion was no different. Delmonico reacted to this criticism with bitterness, as he displayed in an interview on the KSTP report.

“Is [Hodges] going to support gangs in the city, or cops?” But there are more troubling factors at work here. Gordon was first identified by the news report as merely a “convicted criminal,” which would support the police’s fabricated claims about Hodges’ gang associations. In reality, Gordon does have a criminal record but has been trying to turn his life around by working for Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. All of this reinforces the fact that every one of these allegations was pure speculation, based on nothing more than bitter rivalry and the convenience of Gordon’s physical appearance.

This story only legitimizes Hodges’ distrust of the police. That police officers would allow a grudge to get in the way of clear-headed, unbiased investigation does not speak very highly of their dependability. What’s more, there was no investigation required at all in this case because no criminal activity occurred. The “Pointergate” moniker is completely warranted due to the situation’s complete absurdity; however, this absurdity is tempered by its disturbingly racist undertones that speak to obvious bigotry on the part of the Minneapolis police as well as the ostensibly unbiased news source that ran with the story.

While “Pointergate” is slightly more amusing than other recent stories of police brutality and racial discrimination, it still reveals a concerning propensity toward racial stereotyping that in a city as socially progressive as Minneapolis comes across as pretty shocking. Even more concerning, both the police and the news station are standing by the report despite its widespread ridicule by everything from fellow local news sources to The Daily Show. Both Hodges and Gordon have responded to the controversy, telling the Star Tribune they were in fact just “pointing at each other” in the picture. The fact that this needs to be explained at all is troubling.

With the release of each of these stories, it becomes more and more apparent that the dream of living in a post-racial society that began with President Obama’s election is unlikely to become reality any time soon. In order to achieve it, the sort of racial stereotyping of which the Minneapolis police is guilty needs to stop. While “Pointergate” may stem more from general animosity than racism – which is obviously no less concerning – it could not have come about were it not for the fact that Gordon is a black man whose actions were categorically misappropriated in order to fit in with preconceived notions of his race.

This unfortunate story has tarnished the progressive image that Minnesota has built up lately with its legalization of same-sex marriage, its recent initiatives to combat racism in public schools and its re-election of Democratic candidates like Governor Mark Dayton, Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and State Representative Keith Ellison. “Pointergate” points out deeper social issues both outside of and within our state that need to be addressed.

Nina Hagen ’15 is from St. Paul, Minn. She majors in English with a concentration in women’s and gender studies.


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Public outrage at pregnant employee fired for inability to work overtime

When the New York City Council passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in January, it seemed like a win for feminists. The law mandates that working women who become pregnant must be given the necessary accommodations that will allow them to keep their jobs, such as allotted times for rest and a lightened workload. For women who are living on a minimum wage salary, the ability to keep working is absolutely essential because it allows them to get by without making further sacrifices.

Apart from its obvious benefits, this law also seems to at least partially make up for the widespread workplace discrimination against pregnant women, which has included firing them when they become pregnant, discounting women entirely if there’s a chance they could become pregnant or paying women less under the assumption that if they have a family, they are not the sole breadwinner and can rely on their husband’s income. With all of this in mind, the Pregnant Workers Fairness act is the kind of law that signals a huge step forward in a historically male-oriented arena of American society.

Angelica Valencia, a pregnant woman from Queens, felt none of these benefits. After she became pregnant, Valencia’s doctor told her that because there was a high risk of her miscarrying, she should not work overtime at her labor-intensive job in a potato-packing plant. When she was forced by her supervisor to work overtime and fell ill, a note from her doctor prompted her supervisor to fire her rather than give her the accommodations she needed to maintain a healthy pregnancy. What’s more, Valencia was never informed of her rights under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and did not even know that the law existed at all.

This kind of neglect is absolutely inexcusable. First of all, the law requires that pregnant women be informed of their rights, so Valencia’s ignorance is completely unjustified and unfair. Secondly, her doctor’s note should have been sufficient evidence to prove that her working overtime was for the moment impossible, but her regular work hours could have been maintained. While it is reasonable to assume that any work at her laborious job would have been risky, Valencia was presumably unqualified to work anywhere else. Especially with the law in place, it was her supervisor’s duty to keep her employed in some capacity.

Women like Valencia, whose survival is completely dependent on access to a regular, steady paycheck have so few vocational options that this law should have and in other cases has acted as a sort of lifeline, giving them financial security at a time when they need it the most – when they’re preparing to expand their family and need a way to cover all of the expenses that come with doing so. Valencia’s medical condition should have given her employer incentive to adjust to her needs rather than turn her away because of it.

Valencia has since filed suit against her former employer, saying that she was wrongfully terminated because the company failed to adhere to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. While she has been offered her job back with the company, which cites a mere “misunderstanding” as the cause of her firing, there is more at work here than miscommunication between employer and employee. The actions of Valencia’s supervisors clearly constitute discrimination. She was fired because of a natural health condition – one that, it should be noted, most readily affects women – and one that under the circumstances should have been accounted for and worked around, rather than denigrated.

I hope that Valencia’s story will act as a message for other employers to refrain from making similar discriminatory choices and instead choose to honor and accommodate all of their employees’ individual needs in the workplace. This law should represent a major step forward, and let’s make sure it accomplishes for all women what it was created to do.

Opinions Editor Nina Hagen ’15 is from St. Paul, Minn. She majors in English with a concentration in women’s and gender studies.

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Great study spaces for every mood

After a week of getting acclimated to campus life, classes will start before you know it. This means that studying will soon take up a significant though hopefully reasonable amount of your time. Here is your guide to St. Olaf’s many study spaces, one or more of which will inevitably match your individual needs.

The Libraries: Perhaps the most dependable option, the Rolvaag “roll-vahg” Memorial Library-located between Buntrock Commons and the English Department-has a variety of spaces that cater to the most social or private of studyers.

The main floor third floor has an area to the left as you walk in with clumps of tables and chairs perfect for group study sessions. To the right is the fairly quiet Reference Room, whose high ceilings and windows draw comparisons to the Hogwarts Great Hall.

The fourth floor of the library also caters to social studying with its clumps of desks and study rooms, so if you’re looking for a quieter environment, this floor may not be for you. If you venture either further up or further down from these floors, the spaces grow more and more quiet though there is less natural light the further down you go.

Regents Hall’s Hustad Science Library and Christiansen Hall of Music’s Halverson Music Library also offer nice study spots, but are not as spacious as Rolvaag. Be warned that as semesters draw to a close and the intensity of studying dials up to a ten, space in Rolvaag is scarce. Sweatpants-clad, stress-eating Oles cram into every available desk, so you may need to look elsewhere.

Tomson Hall: Located across the quad from Buntrock, Tomson is home to the Foreign Language Department as well as the administrative offices. The main floor the floor below ground level has a big open space with tables and couches for studying. This area is not the best for group studying because the tables are so small, so usually there are either individuals or two-person groups quietly studying here. It’s also important to note that this is administrative central – if you lack a filter, you may not want to study where PDA and the Deans come and go.

On the third floor of Tomson, you will find the West Lantern, a room overlooking the lawn in front of Mellby and Larson Halls, with many chairs great for quiet studying. There is a similar space, the East Lantern, on the other end of Tomson. It boasts a view of the quad, Buntrock Commons and Holland Hall.

These spaces are best for quiet studying, though when classes let out, they can be noisy for a few minutes. And if you get distracted people-watching, these windowed study spaces may not be best for serious studying – the never-ending parade of people across the heart of campus may prove to be too stimulating.

The Cage: The second floor of Buntrock Commons is always full of activity-here, you can find the campus mailboxes, Fireside lounge see below and the Cage, which is a small café under Stav Hall where you can buy coffee, snacks or any meal you don’t want from the cafeteria.

Apart from serving food, the Cage expanded last year to include more room for studying. This is mainly intended for social studying because, frankly, the space is often really loud. With all of the noise and distractions, individual studying here is difficult. However, people who struggle studying in silence may love the chaos. Also, across from the Cage is a row of window seats where one may be a little more secluded while still remaining among the activity.

Fireside: This lounge is right across from the campus mailboxes and its many comfortable chairs, couches and working fireplace attract Oles who want to hang out or nap between classes. While mainly a social space, Fireside is a comfortable spot to read a book for class or work on a paper. However, it may be hard to concentrate there during its busiest hours-during lunch and after classes are over for the day. Admittedly, this is more the place where people meet before they go somewhere else to study!

Regents Hall: With its giant windows and various corner nooks, the science building is an appealing place to study. Regents facilitates both group and individual study and, like Tomson, its empty classrooms are great for group study sessions before a test or presentation. Of all the study spots on campus, Regents probably brings in the most natural light and is less claustrophobic than the library or the Cage.

The fourth-floor study space overlooking downtown Northfield provides a beautiful view without being distracting.

Dorm Lounges: As first-years, a great way to get to know your peers is by studying in your dorm lounge. This can be an easy way to bond while still being somewhat productive. Apart from the sheer convenience of staying in your dorm to study, dorm lounges tend to have a more relaxed and easygoing atmosphere than most study spots, which makes for less stressful studying.

On the down side, the social atmosphere of dorm lounges may be distracting and any actual hope for productivity may fall by the wayside. This depends on one’s tolerance for noise versus silence during study time. Your residence hall may also begin to feel suffocating if you rely on it for studying, socializing and sleeping.

If not in September, you might start to feel it when the snowfall renders you extra lazy.

Photo courtesy of David Hastings 14

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