Author: Nina Hagen

Assault awareness grows through discourse

A recent student protest at DePaul University elicited a campus-wide discussion about problems that often, according to the student newspaper’s website, “get pushed under the rug.” Anonymous students hung banners in the University’s Arts and Letters Building that spoke out against DePaul athletes’ “rape culture,” heightening awareness about unseen instances of sexual assault on campus. The DePaul student body’s positive response to the protest speaks to the problematic nature of this rape culture that often goes unnoticed or uncontrolled on college campuses.

DePaul is certainly not the first university to come under fire for keeping this kind of behavior a secret. A couple of years ago, St. Mary’s College freshman Lizzy Seeberg was sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame football player. Seeberg reported the crime, but after receiving threatening text messages from her attacker’s friends, she committed suicide out of fear for her life.

In a more recent case, Dartmouth University sophomore Parker Gilbert was acquitted a few months ago after being accused of raping a female classmate. Despite the woman’s testimony about the assault, Gilbert’s lawyer called the encounter nothing more than “clumsy, awkward, drunk college sex,” and the Dartmouth community’s response to her accusations was overwhelmingly negative.

So what is going on with this so-called college “rape culture?” Why would colleges and universities rather cover up these acts than address them head-on? In many ways, it is easier to pretend that sexual assault and rape do not exist, but doing so creates more problems than it solves. Pushing cases of rape and sexual assault “under the rug” is detrimental to everyone involved.

Then what can be done? DePaul sets a good example; college campuses need to facilitate open and honest discussions about these issues. More than that, though, rape and sexual assault prevention need to become a focus of campus policy. With the White House weighing in, this issue is certainly more timely – and more pressing – than ever.

Vice President Joe Biden has been doing a lot of work lately in addressing campus sexual assault. CBS News reports that after President Obama created the “White House Task Force to Protect College Students from Sexual Assault” in January, Vice President Biden turned his own focus to the issue. Last Tuesday, he launched the website notalone.gov, which provides information and resources for victims of sexual assault.

Further, the White House issued a PSA about sexual violence that features both Biden and President Obama along with famous actors like Daniel Craig and Benicio Del Toro that specifically addresses the men who perpetrate these crimes. While the focus of discussions about rape and sexual assault tends to be on women – whether it’s supporting female victims or blaming them – this kind of violence is a men’s issue, as well. Videos like this act as a great jumping off point for involving men in the discussion.

This is exactly what college campuses need to do. Rape and sexual assault are undeniable issues in college where people are in close proximity to each other and an unhealthy party culture is often facilitated and sustained. While dry campuses like St. Olaf attempt to undercut the problems that can stem from making poor choices under the influence of alcohol, these campuses usually do not stay “dry.” Thus, these problems persist.

How is St. Olaf addressing these issues? By talking about them. St. Olaf’s SARN Sexual Assault Resource Network creates a safe space for victims of sexual violence to talk about their experiences and holds events that raise campus awareness about these issues. For example, last month SARN hosted a Survival Panel during which victims of sexual violence shared their stories and hoped to change people’s perceptions about who to “blame” for sexual assault. The protest at DePaul could prove inspiring for victims of sexual violence who feel they are unable to let their voices be heard. Further, schools like St. Olaf who refuse to ignore these problems must keep advocating to change the landscape of campus sexual violence prevention around the country.

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

Graphic Credit: ALLI LIVINGSTON/MANITOU MESSENGER

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Privacy at stake in Tumblr photography blogs

The Tumblr blog “Women Who Eat on Tubes” perfectly captures the cultural climate at the moment – it speaks to our increasing belief that we can use the internet to invade people’s privacy without consequences. While this blog and others like it are meant for entertainment and are not created with malicious intent, they break down the barriers that separate public from private, capitalizing on our culture’s belief that one person’s moment of weakness is everyone’s business.

Apart from the fact that this blog takes pictures of people at a vulnerable moment – while they wolf down food on the subway – it also focuses only on women, turning what may have been a topical look at our society’s commute-driven culture into objectification. The last thing these women want is for their picture to be taken during their commute, when they are simply trying to get where they need to be and not necessarily thinking about their appearance.

If the photographer were to ask these women’s permission to take these pictures, they would almost certainly refuse him. This should act as a hint that maybe running this blog is not the best use of his time, and instead he should focus on pursuits that have actual cultural value.

The same can even be said for the campus Facebook group “St. Olaf Snores,” although this blog does not invade people’s privacy on quite the same level as “Women Who Eat on Tubes.” “St. Olaf Snores” asks for submissions from friends of sleeping Oles. At least these pictures are not being taken by complete strangers.

In a perfect world, these pictures would all be taken with consent, but that is not the world we live in. With celebrities being photographed every waking minute by paparazzi who post the pictures to the Internet and encourage public commentary, our generation has been taught that taking funny and unflattering pictures of total strangers is an acceptable practice.

However good the intentions, though, it is undeniable that taking these pictures can result in embarrassment as well as the deliberate humiliation of their subjects. Further, these photos cannot be defended as “art” – the pictures on “Women Who Eat on Tubes” are blurry, low quality and obviously taken surreptitiously so as not to be noticed and called out. Actual works of art are noticeable because of their high quality and their being taken with consent, which imbues them with cultural value and a sense of purpose.

Should we continue to approve of this practice, our culture will only become more and more invasive. One particularly aggravating picture on “Women Who Eat on Tubes” shows three women eating in a row with the caption “Three little pigs.” While hopefully meant lightheartedly, this caption perfectly encapsulates the current online mentality that posting something automatically removes the poster from blame, making the words or pictures untouchable. This kind of thinking needs to be stopped.

While our generation’s dependence on technology has its benefits – we are more adept at fast communication, we can find information at a moment’s notice, we are good at multi-tasking – the dangers created by this dependence are displayed in questionable pursuits like the creation of these blogs. If we want to prove to our parents’ generation that we are not selfish, oblivious and dependent, then we must challenge these bloggers to pursue different passions, ones that speak to our unique abilities and strengths.

As Oles, we should set a good example by refusing to condone these blogs and instead encourage positive images like the ones captured on “Humans of St. Olaf,” which shows that our online voice is not all bad. Instead, it highlights our strengths rather than laughing at our vulnerabilities.

Nina Hagen ’14 hagen@stolaf.edu is from St. Paul, Minn. She majors in English.

Graphic Credit: ALLI LIVINGSTON/MANITOU MESSENGER

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Speaker supports affirmative action

On Thursday, April 17, Dr. Liliana Garces visited St. Olaf to educate students on the current legal and social status of affirmative action. A self-proclaimed “recovering lawyer,” Garces is a professor of higher education at Pennsylvania State University. She conducts research for leaders in post-secondary education to address diversity issues in their schools.

In her talk, Garces addressed a case before the Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas. The petitioner Abigail Fisher is suing the University of Texas after the school rejected her. Fisher claims that her rejection resulted from “reverse discrimination,” a colloquial term for racial discrimination against white people. Fisher contends that the university’s affirmative action policy resulted in her being unfairly denied admission.

This case represents an opinion held by affirmative action critics: that the policy unfairly favors minority applicants in admissions decisions. However, Garces said that the Supreme Court calls the policy “constitutionally permissible.” The work that she and her fellow Penn State researchers conduct has found that the policy’s benefits outweigh its damages.

Affirmative action results in a higher level of racial diversity on college campuses which, according to Garces, “has a host of educational benefits.” Diversity reduces prejudice, makes students more racially aware and combats problems like racial isolation and tokenism experienced by minority students.

While many affirmative action opponents believe that we live in a post-racial world, Garces emphasized the problems with this claim. “These policies continue to be necessary in order to achieve racial and ethnic diversity,” she said.

Garces’ research finds that institutions – businesses, universities and medical and law schools – that cannot use affirmative action are negatively impacted because students and employees comprise a less diverse and racially aware group. Further, affirmative action usually is not a definitive admissions policy but instead acts as part of a “holistic” admissions process that considers candidates on a comprehensive basis.

However, the threat of litigation has caused many institutions to consider forgoing the use of affirmative action. Experts like Garces advise these institutions to thoroughly document racial diversity on their campuses. If they “turn inward, in a way” and think about “the conditions that are created on campus for students to interact with each other in a way that increases racial diversity,” then the benefits incurred from this awareness will show, she said.

“Numbers alone don’t produce educational benefits,” Garces said. She emphasized that having a more nuanced understanding of race and its social and cultural implications will affect people in their everyday lives. At the same time, though, Garces and her colleagues acknowledge that affirmative action is not a perfect policy.

In a perfect world, Garces explained, institutions would attempt to increase their racial diversity without the use of legal measures. Affirmative action, she said, is a band-aid solution for the larger problems of racism, ignorance and discrimination that make social acceptance of cultural differences difficult to achieve.

At the same time, alternatives like considering socioeconomic status are not perfect either because they leave some deserving candidates out of admissions considerations. In other words, many institutions are still trying to decide how they can encourage diversity without thinking about race directly. The stigma of affirmative action can make universities feel that they lack the power to actively talk about race at an administrative level.

Part of Fisher’s defense states that the University of Texas had already achieved its optimal level of racial diversity, so affirmative action was invalid. During her talk, Garces asked the audience to consider if such a thing as an “optimal level” of racial diversity exists. As a concept, diversity necessitates a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds coming together, not simply working toward what someone considers an “optimal” level and then stopping.

Garces commended St. Olaf’s Multicultural Affairs department, the sponsor of the evening’s event, for its work toward creating a culturally diverse campus. Promoting diversity can be a difficult but necessary task for institutions like St. Olaf.

hagen@stolaf.edu

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Local Natives showcase musical variety

This year’s MEC Spring Concert welcomed Los Angeles alt-rockers Local Natives to campus. The band’s April 5 performance came the night before they played their sold-out show at First Avenue, and the concert’s relatively low attendance spoke to the band’s small but enthusiastic Ole following. Known for its afro-pop and psych-folk influences, Local Natives has been compared to everything from Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend to Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes.

Before the band took the stage, two opening acts warmed up the crowd with varying degrees of success. St. Olaf campus band Toast kicked off the event with a short set that successfully projected its acoustic, vaguely folk-rock sound. Although the group seemed to be fairly new, their assuredness on stage spoke to their compatibility as a group. Further, Toast engaged the crowd with personal anecdotes and attracted a group of fans near the front of the crowd who cheered for each member by name at several points during the set.

Less engaging was the second opener, Aero Flynn, which serves as a permanent part of Local Native’s national tour. It sounded as if the band’s front man told the crowd that this was “our first show as a band,” which could have explained their lackluster and stiff stage presence.

The large amount of reverb on the microphone also made their echo-y sound difficult to relate to at times. While the band was a step up from Toast in terms of musical proficiency, their polarizing musical style made for an uninspired set.

The energetic atmosphere returned at 10 p.m. when Local Natives finally took the stage. Met with loud cheers from a growing crowd of Oles, the band launched into their dynamic, rhythm-heavy hour of music right away. The opening song “Breakers” from their 2013 album “Hummingbird,” with its propulsive rhythm and forceful guitar, made for an impressive introduction. Front man Taylor Rice was anything but stiff as he lurched around the stage, working up a sweat in the process.

Heavy with dedicated fans, the crowd sang along to several songs but was probably most audible during songs from the band’s first album, 2010’s “Gorilla Manor.” “Airplanes” and “Who Knows Who Cares,” the last song before the encore, both elicited especially loud cheers from an audience that only grew more energetic as the set went on.

The band’s least-successful effort came close to the end of their set. “Bowery” featured keyboardist Kelcey Ayer on lead vocals and, while in keeping with the band’s overall sound, was not as distinctive rhythmically and almost

lazy in comparison to their preceding songs.

Yells of “no” could be heard during the band’s initial exit from the stage after “Who Knows,” and 30 seconds or so of the crowd chanting “one more song,” prompted Local Natives to do just that. Their encore “Sun Hands” was easily the concert’s highlight. With drummer Matt Frazier’s rhythms amplified to twice the volume they are given in the recording, the band fed off the crowd’s energy and delivered a rousing closer to an already lively night of music.

While Local Natives did not leave the stage until around 11:15 p.m., their captivating set seemed to fly by in half that time. Although the turnout was relatively small, the band undoubtedly gained several new fans during their lively and engaging 75-minute performance.

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Spring break activities abound in the Twin Cities

Are you stuck on campus over spring break, forced to wait out the end of winter surrounded by melting piles of snow? Never fear! Northfield and the Twin Cities offer plenty of activities to keep your mind off the weather.

Listen to Live Music at the Contented Cow

Already a regular destination for many Oles, the Contented Cow is a friendly and welcoming Northfield institution. While incentives like the free popcorn are enough to attract college students, the bar also provides opportunities for locals to either take in some live music or play their own tunes for a receptive audience. On Mondays from 7:30 to 9 p.m., the Cow has a “Northern Roots Session,” which is an opportunity for musicians to come in and play music from the Nordic tradition. On Tuesdays from 7:30 to 10 p.m., the Cow hosts an “Acoustic Jam Session” and on Fridays at 5 p.m. they have “Occasional Jazz.” If the weather is finally nice, you can wander around downtown, have dinner at Chapati or Hogan Bros. and then end the night at the Cow which can be found at 302 Division Street.

Check out “Matisse: Masterworks from the Baltimore Museum of Art” at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

This collection of works by modernist-impressionist Henri Matisse is the largest ever assembled in Minneapolis, according to the MIA website. The works span 60 years and include paintings, sculptures, prints and Matisse’s book “Jazz,” which contains hundreds of paper collages and writings. Other ongoing collections at the MIA, which has free admission, include “Imperial Nature: Flora, Fauna and Colonialism in India” and “The Infinite World: Chinese Figure Painting of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.” Or, if you want to take in some art without leaving campus, check out the ongoing exhibit “River Doctors” in Dittmann Center’s Flaten Art Gallery.

Go see “The Grand Budapest Hotel” at the Uptown Theatre

This widely praised movie from acclaimed writer/director Wes Anderson tells the story of a hotel concierge named Gustave H. who, after being framed for the murder of his much older lover, escapes from prison and attempts to steal back an expensive painting that was left to him upon her death. Set in a fictional country around the time of World War II, this film promises to be as highly stylized and wildly inventive as Anderson’s other films the best of which include “The Darjeeling Limited” and “The Royal Tenenbaums”. As it is in limited release, The Grand Budapest Hotel can only be seen at the Uptown Theatre in Minneapolis.

Visit the Lakeville Area Arts Center

This Arts Center is the former All Saints Catholic Church that was renovated into, according to its website, “a state-of-the-art theater and arts facility” while still “preserving one of downtown Lakeville’s cherished historic buildings.” The art gallery, which features work by local artists, may be worth a look. The center also offers art classes for any age and skill level if you want to hone your own abilities. For any musical theater lovers, the center is putting on a production of “Footloose: The Musical,” which is of course based on the 1984 film of the same name. “Footloose” is playing March 21-22 and 28-30 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $13 at the box office. The gallery is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

See a concert at First Avenue

Located at the heart of downtown Minneapolis, this cultural landmark became famous after providing the setting for the Prince film “Purple Rain.” Over the following decades, it has hosted hundreds of music’s biggest names, and playing at the club is still considered a huge privilege for any musician. This week, bands playing at First Avenue include California indie band Young the Giant 3/25, country rockers Drive-By Truckers with Blitzen Trapper 3/27, dream pop band Warpaint 3/29 or, if you’re up on local bands from the 70s, new wave band The Suburbs 3/28. All of these shows are 18+, and tickets are available at etix.com.

Watch stand-up comic Amy Schumer at the Orpheum

Amy Schumer, whose show “Inside Amy Schumer” soon enters its second season on Comedy Central, is known for her edgy sense of humor juxtaposed with her wholesome appearance. A rising star in the world of stand-up comedy, Schumer has been compared to Louis C.K. and Lena Dunham, and the new season of her show will include the likes of Mike Birbiglia, Parker Posey, Paul Giamatti and Jon Glaser in guest appearances. Her tour stops at Minneapolis’ Orpheum Theater on March 27 at 8 p.m. Tickets are anywhere from $37.50 to $45.

hagen@stolaf.edu

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