Author: Dylan Walker

New SGA leadership emphasizes campus safety

On March 9, St. Olaf students voted to determine who will serve in key Student Government Association (SGA) roles during the 2017-2018 school year. With roughly 50 percent of students participating, Jauza Khaleel ’18 and Tim Bergeland ’18 were elected SGA President and Vice President, respectively, with 1,105 votes and roughly 77 percent of the vote.

Many see the election as a symbol of the change that Oles desire.

“The elected executive team is already such a great group of people with great ideas who are willing to challenge a set of rules and traditions and status quo,” Rhea Rajan ’18 said. Rajan was elected to be one of the new Lion’s Pause co-coordinators. “We see that through Jauza and Tim, as well as other branches. There’s an environment of change and we’re happy to participate in it.”

Next year’s Political Awareness Committee (PAC) coordinator Abdul Wake ’19 agreed.

“I think a lot of people wanted to see a different sort of change, not just with my position but especially with president and vice president. I’m super excited to work with Tim and Jauza and everyone else.”

Khaleel and Bergeland expressed gratitude for the opportunity to hear from a variety of students during their campaign. “Coming into the campaign, we had values and ideas of things to change, but meeting with people and talking with different student orgs, we were enlightened by a lot of other ideas,” Bergeland said, specifically citing conversations with club sports players and transfer students. “There were different stories I had never engaged with or heard, but during this process [of] getting outside of our social circles, you learn so much.”

The new president and vice president encourage anyone with questions, suggestions or concerns to reach out to them. Khaleel and Bergeland want to have a warm and open relationship with students, as well as the ability to have difficult conversations with administration if necessary.

“We definitely want to have a positive relationship, but we want to be a voice of students to administration, not the other way around,” Khaleel said.

One of these difficult conversations surrounds race on campus.

“Racism on campus is just horrible,” Bergeland said. “We both want to be willing to push back against [the] administration, and … getting [the] administration to better recognize that there is a culture of racism here and that acts of racism that have happened shouldn’t be framed as an exception to the rule, but something all Oles need to be critically self-reflective about.”

Khaleel and Bergeland were not the only ones who enjoyed campaigning. Rajan and fellow Pause co-coordinator-elect Mazen Abu-Sharkh ’18 were also grateful for the opportunity to gather more ideas for improving the Pause. These ideas have already begun to be implemented as Abu-Sharkh and Rajan gather feedback from their website and campaign page. The feedback includes suggestions for pizzas, one of which will become next September’s special. In the long term, the duo hopes to invest in new technological equipment for the Pause (including lighting equipment) and continue existing efforts to make Pause dances safer. Abu-Sharkh said these efforts have already started with initiatives to keep the lights brighter and allow fewer people into the Pause at a time.

“We want it to be more engaging, and for the DJ to have students interact,” Abu-Sharkh added. “There will not only be music and dancing in the dark, there will be intermissions.”

Other areas of campus will likely undergo changes next year. Wake emphasized his desire to bring a wider variety of political voices to campus, especially those outside of the two-party system and experts on foreign policy. However, he also wants to ensure that the speakers PAC invites next year will be respectful of the student body.

“I would like to emphasize that ideas presented at events and speakers will uphold [the] value of respecting people’s humanity,” Wake said. “That’s the most important thing to me, and I think that’ll be the thing I look back on and say, ‘The people who were here on my watch will have respected people’s right to self-determination.’”

The SGA elections and the platforms of the winners suggest that the 2017-2018 school year will be one of embracing change, having valuable conversations and continuing to make campus a safer place for all Oles. Many winners reiterated the charge of staying connected with the campus community.

“It’s a very versatile job. It’s not just sitting in an office, but also doing hands-on work, providing help that’s needed, instead of being a reactionary thing,” Khaleel said. “We want to be more proactive to do things, and to always be aware, and that comes with being connected with [the] student body.”

× Featured

Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

Trump’s refusal to attend WHCD reaffirms poor media relationship

President Donald Trump cannot seem to go more than two days without causing a new storm of controversy. The latest firestorm, unsurprisingly, arose from a Tweet.

“I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year,” Trump wrote on Saturday, Feb. 25. “Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!”

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner (WHCD) is a black-tie event attended by the president, journalists and other celebrities. The event honors political journalism, though headlines covering the WHCD tend to focus on jokes told by the president and a headlining comedian. Trump’s decision not to attend is very rare; the last president to skip was Ronald Reagan in 1981, as he was recovering from an assassination attempt. While this is obviously an unusual incident, some may wonder why Trump’s absence is such a big deal. Everyone, regardless of party affiliation, can probably agree that one man’s absence at a black-tie dinner party pales in comparison to the other issues this country currently faces. But this event should not be ignored, even if there are other, seemingly more pressing problems within the Trump administration.

His absence has two possible motives. This is either symbolic of Trump’s deteriorating relationship with the media, or of his thin skin and resistance to critique. Neither reason should inspire confidence. Regardless of his reasons for skipping the WHCD, this decision will backfire on him and his presidency.

Let’s first look at the issue of Trump trying to save his pride. We know that humor at Trump’s expense bothers him. For proof, look no further than his constant rants against everything from his portrayal on “Saturday Night Live” to comments made by celebrities such as Meryl Streep or the cast of “Hamilton.” We also know that skewering the president with pointed humor is a tradition at the WHCD, and Trump can expect some jokes at his expense. It seems more than plausible that his absence is an attempt to save his pride and ensure that he doesn’t have to be there to be roasted, or to somehow prove that he is “above” the jokes that will come. However, if this were the goal then it has already begun to backfire. Not facing his critics at the dinner presents an image problem for someone as image-obsessed as Trump. We are left to wonder if he’s skipping because he’s afraid of what will be said that night. In addition, Alec Baldwin – who has played Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live” since October – is hinting that he will appear in character if Trump doesn’t show up at the dinner. This will almost certainly create a bigger problem for Trump’s image than showing up would.

To be fair, this decision is not exactly surprising considering Trump’s steadily worsening relationship with the media and the White House Correspondents’ Association. From day one, Trump’s administration has attacked the press, from the much-lampooned press conference where Sean Spicer attacked news coverage of Trump’s inauguration, to banning certain media outlets from attending press briefings, to calling the media the “enemy of the people.” This behavior was already highly irregular, and not attending the dinner is just another sign of the poor relationship between Trump and the press. It may be intended as a power play to show that Trump isn’t willing to cooperate with the media’s expectations of him, but instead continues to stoke fears about freedom of the press. After all, if he can’t even attend a dinner with journalists, who is to say he will cooperate with them and let them do their jobs?

Those who are against the WHCD consider it merely an irrelevant “celebrity lovefest,” in the words of Doree Lewak of the New York Post. It is true that the event has become more focused on fashion and humor, and less so on good journalism. It is also true that journalists and politicians should be careful about becoming too close in order to ensure objective political coverage. However, it is still important that Trump is not attending this year’s dinner. No matter the reason for skipping, his absence speaks volumes and reflects much about his character and relationship to the United States media and, potentially, the legacy of the freedom of the press under his presidency.

Dylan Walker ’18 ( is from Mountain Grove, Mo. They major in classics with concentrations in film studies and women’s and gender studies.

× Featured

Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

New exhibit looks at consequences of land use, valley fever

“During California’s Great Bakersfield Dust Storm of 1977 a warm winter wind sped to 192 miles per hour. Dust rose to 5,000 feet. The sun went black.”

So reads the artist statement printed on a panel in the Flaten Art Museum for “Black Sun: Rini Yun Keagy with Miljohn Ruperto.” The exhibit opened in on Friday, Feb. 17 with a reception by Keagy and Flaton Art Museum Director Jane Becker Nelson. It will stay exhibited at St. Olaf until April 16.

“Black Sun” features the work of two accomplished artists: Rini Yun Keagy and Miljohn Ruperto. Keagy is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at Carleton College. Her work in video and 16mm film focuses on “race and labor, disease, and sites of psychological trauma,” according to the artist bio on the Flaten Art Museum website. Her work has been screened at numerous film festivals and the film and video art international cable TV station, Souvenirs from Earth.

Ruperto is an artist based in Los Angeles. His art has been exhibited in a variety of places, from the Whitney Museum of American Art to Berlin’s contemporary art museum Haus der Kulturen der Welt. He works with photography, videography, performance and digital animation. Themes of his work include historical and anecdotal occurrences, the nature of assumed facts and perception-challenging illusions.

The themes each artist works with intersect perfectly in “Black Sun.” The exhibit is based on their collaborative experimental documentary short film, “Ordinal (SW/NE).” The film examines a soil-dwelling fungus, coccidioides immitis, and its associated lung infection valley fever. The spores that cause valley fever are found in specific regional areas (Keagy and Ruperto focus on California’s Central Valley) and are stirred up by anything that disrupts soil, from human acts like farming and construction to natural events like wind – or dust storms.

Upon entering the gallery, one will see film stills, video, animation and physical objects from “Ordinal (SW/NE).” Pieces tend to fall into a few themes: examinations of valley fever itself, the way humans use land and the consequences of that land use. They also make unexpected connections from a wide variety of sources such as ancient Assyrian mythology, “The Grapes of Wrath” and “The Exorcist.”

Walking around Flaten is a visually striking experience, whether one is watching juxtaposed videos of oil rigs working in an orange orchard and a monotonous rotating residential sprinkler, or peering at an animation of Coccidiodes immitis spores replicating in a lung.

But the most chilling part of the exhibit is its namesake piece, “Black Sun.” To experience “Black Sun,” one must stand on a black carpet under a speaker hidden inside a dome. The audio piece recreates the sound of the 1977 Great Bakersfield Dust Storm, with distorted black metal music and the howl of hyenas and jackals. The experience is chilling – meant to recreate the underworld of demons according to Assyrian cosmology. It succeeds in its task.

Overall, “Black Sun” is a sensorily striking examination of the ways nature affects humanity, or – perhaps more importantly – how humanity affects nature.

Be sure to check out the exhibit, as well as some other related events: on Feb. 25, Keagy and a panel of local scholars and filmmakers will present works and scholarship at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Closer to home, Oles can catch a screening of the film that inspired “Black Sun,” “Ordinal (SW/NE),” on April 6, in Viking Theater at 7:30 pm. Both Keagy and Ruperto will be in attendance.

× Featured

Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

“Creatures of Habit” to showcase senior dance majors

As the end of the semester looms, various departments here at St. Olaf are working hard on end-of-semester showcases. The dance department is no different, preparing for “Creatures of Habit,” the senior dance concert. There will be three performances: Dec. 8, 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. in Kelsey Theater, with doors opening at 7:00 p.m. (no ticket required). In addition, the Thursday performance will be streamed live and archived.

The annual concert is part of the senior dance major capstone. Students submit written proposals for their projects during their junior year, work closely with faculty members, and have the opportunity to share their specialties with the St. Olaf community. Students have the freedom to focus on any area of dance they choose, from performance to choreography, to blending dance with other disciplines, such as visual art or music. Therefore, the senior dance concert is not always performance-based or choreography-based, as one might think, but varies in style from year to year.

Four of the five senior dance majors are performing in the concert. (The fifth, Gabby Dominique ’17, choreographed this fall’s productions of “Die Fledermaus” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for her project.) Jacob Borg ’17 and Chloe Chambers ’17 are performing solos choreographed by guest artists. Borg’s piece explores the journey of his life and the concept of home, utilizing expressive dance and text spoken in his native language of Maltese. It is choreographed by Gustavus Adolphus College dance professor Jill Patterson. Chambers will perform a dance called “The Architect,” choreographed by Mathew Janczewski, artistic director of the Minneapolis dance company ARENA Dances. Meanwhile, Julia Bassett ’17 and Shaina Andres ’17 have choreographed their own pieces, which will be performed by two groups of people. Bassett’s piece is entitled “The Edge of Somewhere,” and Andres has created a “movement-based, highly kinetic choreography project,” according to dance professor Heather Klopchin.

By participating in the senior dance concert, dancers will gain solid performing or choreography experience, a cornerstone of any dance program. In addition, their projects are shown on a formal stage with costumes and stage lighting. As for the audience, they will have the pleasure of watching a good show. But there is even more value for attendees than the show itself, according to Borg.

“The purpose of the senior dance concert is to share our artistic work with the rest of the community with the goal that the art created speaks to the attending audience,” Borg said. “The audience can find this art presented very easy to understand, whilst others leave the concert with more questions about the dances presented than they had before they watched them. Above all, we hope that the audience enjoys themselves whilst we proudly present our works.”

Members of the St. Olaf dance faculty echoed these sentiments. “The senior dance concert provides an opportunity to share the talents and hard work of our senior dance majors,” professor of dance Janice Roberts said. “I think the audience will find the 2016 senior dance concert an exciting, rich concert that fully highlights our wonderful students.”

“This year’s Senior Concert ‘Creatures of Habit’ promises to be an exciting, moving, thought provoking culmination of these senior dance majors’ journeys over the last three and a half years,” said Klopchin.

Even though the senior dance concert will be streamed and archived, you should definitely be sure to catch “Creatures of Habit” if you can. Dance is a physical art that should be seen in person to be appreciated. The beauty and presentation of the artistic works of the four students will arm you with warmth on a cold winter’s night. Don’t miss out.

× Featured

Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

Standing Rock check-ins: slacktivism strikes again

I woke up on Halloween morning and like any technology-addicted millennial, checked Facebook. One of my friends from middle school summer camp used Facebook’s “check-in” feature to check in at Standing Rock Reservation, the location of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. This surprised me; I had no idea they cared about the controversy, but I still thought it was great that they had traveled from Missouri to North Dakota to stand with the protestors.

Then I kept scrolling and saw similar posts from friends I had thought were in Northfield, Chicago, Minneapolis and other locations around the country. I realized that my circle of acquaintances had not made a mass exodus to North Dakota when I read a clarifying post stating that protest groups were calling for supporters to simply check-in to Standing Rock to confuse local authorities who were using Facebook check-ins to monitor the protests.

The clarification post read, “This is concrete action that can protect people putting their bodies and well-beings on the line that we can do without leaving our homes.”

Unfortunately, it looks like this form of online activism may have been misguided, as no protest groups have actually claimed they requested such an act of protest. When the fact-checking website Snopes contacted the leaders of the Sacred Stone Camp, they said that there are so many different people involved in this movement that the request could have come from anybody.

“There are many camps and points of contact, we can only verify that it did not originate from the Sacred Stone Camp [Facebook] page. We support the tactic, and think it is a great way to express solidarity,” one of the leaders said.

Neither the leaders of the movement nor the Morton County Sheriff’s Office officials believed that the Facebook posts actually impeded law enforcement. However, it was made clear that Sacred Stone appreciated the solidarity demonstrated through these Facebook check-ins.

Expressed solidarity for any movement is almost always appreciated. I’m sure seeing virtual support for the cause feels great to protesters at Standing Rock, especially considering that they have faced mass arrests and police brutality. Virtual support is better than no support; nothing can change if people don’t care. The problem is, people seem to think this is all one has to do to be an activist. Recently, it seems as though all Facebook users love and wish to make a difference, but nobody seems very willing to put in any real effort to do so.

This is why I believe solidarity is so popular right now, especially solidarity that takes place over social media. For some people, they feel that virtual solidarity is the least they can do to contribute to a movement or a cause. And that’s fine, as solidarity is always much-appreciated. I’m not going to criticize its expression. However, I believe that most of those expressing virtual solidarity likely have something more to give to the movements that we profess to care about. Sympathy and solidarity only take a movement so far. There are many concrete ways to support those at Standing Rock, from contributing to the camp’s legal defense fund to calling the Army Corps of Engineers and demanding that they reverse the DAPL permit. But these courses of action require more of people, whether that be time or money.

We must confront the reality that social media activism alone has not proven to be an effective method of activism. To truly affect change at Standing Rock, we must log out of our Facebook accounts and find concrete ways to become involved. At the very least, I encourage people to do some of their own research before reposting a status about any given event. I don’t mean to say that I’m not just as guilty of this bare-minimum activism as anybody else. I too have shared videos, changed my Facebook profile picture and used hashtags without actually doing anything in the real world to contribute to tangible change. However, recent events, such as the check-ins at Standing Rock, have shown me that this has not and will likely never be enough. I personally resolve to do more true activism for the causes I care about. Will you join me?

Dylan Walker ’18 ( is from Mountian Grove, Mo. They major in classics with concentrations in film studies and women’s and gender studies.

× Featured

Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye