Author: Scott Johnson

St. Olaf tennis swept by regional rivals

This past week, the St. Olaf men’s and women’s tennis teams faced off against regional rivals Carleton College and Gustavus Adolphus College. Despite several valiant efforts on the part of the Oles, the opponents swept both teams. Now, with postseason play approaching, they must right the ship.

On Wednesday, April 15, the men went up against Carleton and, despite a few bright spots in the matchup, were largely outmatched. The contest ended with a 2-7 loss for the Oles. The men’s team was swept in all singles matchups, with the only close singles sets being between sophomore Christian Beck ’18 and Jordan O’Kelly of Carleton, and Keenan Gladd-Brown ’16 and Ezra Frankel of Carleton.

The doubles matches proved to be a much better outcome for the Oles as they came out on top in two out of three matchups. Danny Hogan ’18 and Beck defeated their opponents 8-5, while Mike Schroeder ’16 and Gladd-Brown overcame their opponents with an 8-4 win.

Wednesday’s matchup leaves the Oles with a 7-5 overall record and a 2-3 MIAC record. The men’s team will be on the road again this Friday to face Hamline University. The men will face Macalester College and Bethel University soon afterward.

The women’s team, despite several very close matches, suffered an 1-8 loss to Gustavus Adolphus. Several standout performances, perhaps poorly captured by the final score, included the three sets played by Lisa Hall ’16 against Michaela Schulz as well as Maya McGibbon ’16 falling in two close sets. The single win of the day came from Margaret Zimmerman ’18, who won handily against Lizzy Stancyzk of Gustavus. The victory for Gustavus leaves them undefeated within the MIAC conference and puts them ahead of the second place Oles.

The Ole women stand now at an overall 7-3 record with 5-2 within the MIAC conference. Like the men, the women will also be travel to Hamline University and then round out their season with games against the University of St. Thomas and Bethel University. The MIAC playoff will follow in several weeks.

johnso16@stolaf.edu

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Men’s hoops upsets top-ranked Tommies

On Saturday, Feb. 27, the St. Olaf men’s basketball team travelled to St. Paul to face regional rival the University of St. Thomas for the MIAC title. Despite the University of St. Thomas heading into the game as the top-seed after a previous win against St. Olaf, the Oles achieved a resounding 72-66 victory.

The game continued a pattern of recent success for the Oles. St. Olaf has gone 18-9 this season, winning eight of its last nine games. The only loss came by the hands of St. Thomas, making the MIAC title that much more meaningful.

Several outstanding efforts sparked the Olaf victory. Forward Ben Figini ’16 shot 10 for 13 from the field and led the Oles in scoring with a total of 20 points. Riley Aeikens ’16, Justin Pahl ’16 and Austin Majeskie ’17 contributed 13, 12 and 11 points, respectively. Majeskie also contributed six blocks, an individual best.

This win builds on the success of last year’s squad. Last year, the Oles won the regular season MIAC title. All but one of last year’s starters returned to this year’s lineup.

The performance by St. Thomas was not without notable moments. Tommie guard Grant Shaeffer led the team, scoring 20 points. Taylor Montero scored 15 points while Cortez Tillman brought in 11.

St. Thomas was hot coming out of the gates, building a daunting 22-13 lead that was quickly shortened by a St. Olaf 12-4 run. After the Oles secured a lead during the second half with just under 13 minutes left, the Tommies failed to regain the momentum they found during the first half of the game as the Oles cruised towards victory.

In addition to an impressive offensive output, St. Olaf dominated St. Thomas in several key statistics. St. Olaf was 16 for 20 at the free-throw line and secured the majority of rebounds, holding St. Thomas to 29 while grabbing 36. St. Olaf’s defense denied St. Thomas good looks on perimeter shots, with St. Thomas only making slightly over 40 percent from the field.

St. Olaf is next slated to play North Central College in the first round of the NCAA Championships this Friday, March 4 at 5:00 p.m. in De Pere, Wis.

johnso1@stolaf.edu

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Justice Scalia’s death leaves politicians posturing

The recent death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia offers the greatest opportunity for the court’s dynamic to change in years. If Scalia were to be replaced by a liberal or even moderate justice, that appointment could impact the court even three decades from now. With President Obama’s term coming to an end, the coming weeks could lead to an unanticipated victory for liberals and frustrations for conservatives.

While the President does not have complete control of the court’s appointment process, he certainly has the most important individual role. The executive branch directs the appointment, which requires a majority vote of the Senate. With so much at stake, Republicans are sure to provide resistance.

Accordingly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced his intention to oppose any nomination by the Obama administration, intending to stall the process until another president is elected. In doing this, he hopes a Republican administration will be put in place and provide the Senate with a conservative appointee. With Republican presidential candidates encouraging McConnell and his senate colleagues to do this, their threats seem to carry some weight.

In an effort to pull public opinion into their corner, both sides of the aisle have presented public arguments for their cause. Republicans reference a long-standing but not constitutionally specified precedent of not confirming or appointing Supreme Court nominees in presidential election years. Any observance of this precedence is murky. Ironically, Ronald Reagan, the sweetheart of the neoconservative movement, interfered with this purported tradition by nominating Justice Anthony Kennedy in 1987 but not receiving confirmation until 1988, an election year. Current conservatives cite a distinction between appointment and confirmation, but liberals label Kennedy’s appointment as a violation of this precedent thus validating Obama offering the Senate an appointment hearing.

Democrats also reference supposedly apolitical reasons for President Obama to proceed in nominating a Supreme Court justice. Without an appointment and confirmation, the Supreme Court would be left split four versus four along distinct ideological lines for the better part of a year with the new president only assuming power in January of 2017. Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan represent the liberals and Justices Thomas, Kennedy, Roberts and Alito constitute the conservative faction. With a split such as this, important court cases coming to the Supreme Court could be left without a ruling. In that case, lower courts would issue the binding verdicts. However, both sides of the aisle find this predicament to be less than ideal, so Obama has good reason to want to push a nominee through.

As is often the case, the status of the court appointment depends less on legality and more on public opinion. Since the Supreme Court is meant to be separate from the temporary sway of politics, as is evident in their lifelong appointments and social isolation from members of Congress, this is a disconcerting reality. Both sides have enough material to proceed on their current paths to use the vacant position for political gains. Conservatives wish to continue the status quo as it was before Scalia died, while liberals wish to change the direction of the court.

At this moment, the only thing that would prevent President Obama from nominating a justice is the solidarity of the conservative Senate. It seems that the only way to break this firewall is to nominate a relatively conservative justice or to use public opinion to shame the Senate into confirming a candidate that is clearly qualified. It seems that in this situation we can only wait until might makes right.

Scott Johnson 18 (johnso16@stolaf.edu) is from Gladstone, Mo. He majors in economics.

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Outsider candidates have inside track 

If you’ve been keeping up with this season of presidential primaries and caucuses thus far, you’ve most likely noticed something distinctly different about the race: the large suc- cess of anti-establishment can- didates. The increasingly com- plete and diligent scrutiny of our politicians – on both sides of the isle – combined with a polarized Washington has helped create this situation. On both sides of the aisle, relatively fringe individuals challenge their more moderate counter- parts, forcing greater polariza- tion on either side.

This era of American distrust of our political system can be largely attributed to the nature of media exposure and cover- age. Rather than our politicians becoming “worse,” Americans are now simply more aware of what would have been swept under the rug before.

The Clinton-Lewinski scan- dal, which gave quite a bit of ammunition for conservatives and some liberals to lob at Pres- ident Clinton, is not as unique as some may think. Dwight Eisenhower had a long-term mistress during World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt was ro- mantically involved with his cousin and John F. Kennedy’s romantic exploits are fairly well known. During FDR’s election, few Americans were aware he was wheelchair-bound because the press provided very few wheelchair photos. This kind of concealment would be near impossible now given the thor- ough press vetting presidential candidates are given.

The modern American’s dis- illusionment with the political

system can be easily tracked to events like the Lewinsky Scan- dal, Florida vote recount and graphic coverage of the Iraq War. Anti-establishment candi- dates are riding this high tide of cynicism and mistrust to secure delegates on their way to the White House.

The Gallup polling com- pany finds that the percentage of Americans expressing a fair amount of trust in the Ameri- can political institutions is even lower than in the wake of the Watergate Scandal, despite Richard Nixon being now con- sidered a slimy character.

With trust so low, Donald Trump, who has never held an elected office, and Ted Cruz, who is a junior senator yet to complete one full term, have turned this inexperience into a virtue. Similarly, Bernie Sand- ers, although having served as a Senator for decades, has a relatively thin record of achievement, and represented a marginal portion of the Demo- cratic party until recently. Cruz recently cracked that the point of his campaign was that “the Washington elites despise” him.

The other major pillar that allows the anti-establishment candidates to pose threats to the more established candidates has been the gridlock and angry po- litical climate that has haunted the Obama administration, al- beit not entirely attributable to the administration itself.

The inaction and filibusters characteristic of the last seven years has left the electorate dis- satisfied and discontented. This sentiment has led to the hunt for an unsullied outsider, free of the ideological compromise and political gamesmanship charac- teristic of career politicians.

Several groups stand to gain from recent developments. The pure ideologies of both political parties are being offered their best chance in recent memory to have the more extreme ele- ments of their party not only direct the rhetoric but also offer a legitimate chance at securing the nomination.

Nascent movements, includ- ing socialism through Sand- ers and quasi-fascism through Trump, are being given a chance to have influence in an unprecedented way. Whether these extreme policy proposals can be implemented remains to be seen and largely hinges upon the makeup of the Congress. In the meantime, these radically different visions for America continue to drift further apart.

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Shortening attention span threatens classical music

As I was back home in Kansas City for Thanksgiving break, my parents took me to see the Kansas City Symphony at a local performing arts center. Immediately, I was struck by the homogeneity of the audience; almost every attendee was elderly and white. There couldn’t have been more than 20 audience members under 30. Needless to say, such a limited demographic bodes poorly for the future of the market of classical arts. A waning popular interest in live performances of ballet, orchestral music, opera or whatever other means of expression is not simply an issue in Kansas City, but rather the country at large.

In the last decade, classical music organizations based in San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago and too many other metropolitan centers to mention have faltered financially, forcing artist strikes, layoffs and pay cuts. These fiscal issues have been reflected in plummeting attendance and ticket sales.

The accessibility of other outings such as sporting events or popular music concerts makes it easy to distract the average American, and keep them from going out to see the orchestra. The American attention span has shortened, and many now lack the patience for the slow burn of classical music.

America’s consumption habits have changed drastically from even as recently as 1990. The options offered to the modern consumer are hardly comparable to what would be available before the Internet. Netflix, HBOGo, Amazon and the myriad of other video streaming services offer movies and shows instantly. If you want any music it is at your fingertips via Spotify, Youtube or Pandora.

Unlike those online options, live performances take a certain amount of premeditation and effort.

At these events you are generally compelled to do more than throw on your sweatpants and hoodie, as well as deciding days in advance to be at a venue at a certain time. With so many forms of entertainment available immediately and without any sort of commitment, these traditional forms are struggling.

However, there are few tales of professional sports teams and major pop artists going bankrupt due to lagging ticket sales, yet viewers still have to decide often months in advance to attend, often spending as much money. Still, almost all sporting events and songs are easily and often freely available from home, the same way classical music recordings are.

The real difference comes through attention span required to enjoy attending classical music events.

Whether humans are naturally predisposed to prefer bite-sized media or whether this has been merely reinforced by current entertainment trends, the status quo is clear. Most pop songs are less than five minutes in length and social media is condensed to a photo, six second video or a certain number of characters.

By contrast, symphonies can last hours, if all movements are performed. In a live performance, the viewer must sit silently for an hour without checking their phone, truly a horrible prospect for many of us. With the focus required to enjoy these mediums, entertainment in this case can come to feel more like a chore than an escape to the short attention span of the modern mind.

Regardless of how popular symphonic music, opera and ballet may be, they are invaluable in the preservation of Western cultural heritage. Live performances are invaluable to this mission in a way that online recordings can never be. The key to solving the financial insolvency of the fine arts will have to come through public subsidies, rather than a reliance on the private market.

Among the most beloved platforms of American media such as NPR and PBS Frontline would not be possible without such funding, and classical music should be treated the same way. It would be tragic to allow such an important part of our culture to fade away.

Scott Johnson ’18 (johnso16@stolaf.edu) is from Gladstone, MO. He majors in economics.

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