Author: Dylan Walker

Departments host screening of Caribbean LGBT+ films

On Thursday, Sept. 29, St. Olaf will host a powerful interdisciplinary and intersectional event. Film directors and activists Dr. Celiany Rivera-Velázquez and Carlos Rodríguez will screen their respective documentaries “Queen of Myself: Las Krudas d’Cuba” and “Trans’It” from 6-8 p.m. in Viking Theater for an event called Caribbean and Latinx Queer Lives on the Reel, followed by a Q&A and open discussion. The screening is sponsored by the Leraas Fund, the Race and Ethnic Studies Department, the Women’s and Gender Studies Department and the Romance Languages department.

Professor Kristina Medina-Vilarino brought the directors to campus. She first met Rivera-Velázquez in grad school.

“We were working on completely different things, but we met in an organization for Puerto Rican students,” Medina-Vilarino said. “We never worked together, but there were certain topics we both discussed in our work, like immigration, gender and sexuality.”

Medina-Vilarino actually has not met Rodríguez in person, but she became familiar with his work through a book she is writing about the Dominican Republic and human movement. She contacted him because of this connection after she saw “Trans’It” and thought the St. Olaf community needed to see the film. So she brought Rivera-Velázquez and Rodríguez to St. Olaf as part of a college tour for their films.

“Queen of Myself” (directed by Rivera-Velázquez) tells the story of Krudas Cubensi, a queer and feminist hip hop trio formed in Cuba in 1999 and later emigrating to the United States in 2006. The film chronicles their lives between 2004 and 2009. It was completed in 2012 and shows the group’s journey through hip hop, community theater and art, as well and the group’s immigration experiences. So far, “Queen of Myself” has been screened everywhere from Dartmouth University to the 2011 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Conference in Minneapolis. Meanwhile, Rodríguez’s 2015 film “Trans’It” follows three transgender teenagers living in the socially and politically conservative Dominican Republic: Geisha, Thalia and Tommy. Their lives as openly transgender people are criticized in the Dominican society, and they advocate for the rights of all Dominican transgender people. The film is currently on the festival circuit and has won several awards, including Best Documentary Short at an LGBTQ+ Santo Domingo film festival and Honorable Mention at a Caribbean international documentary film festival. Medina-Vilarino refers to each film as “a counterargument to more conservative narratives about what a family is, what does it mean to be Caribbean, how your identity ties into political context and cultural values that are assumed to be common.”

Medina-Vilarino was able to elaborate on the background of each director and the unique perspectives each one brings.

“[Rivera-Velázquez] started as an academic. She works with cultural studies and music more, but she also does visual media – that’s how she connects with [Rodríguez]. He didn’t do a Ph.D. He’s a photographer. He identifies as someone concerned about human rights and especially trans communities, and he’s also working from a visual media angle, but he’s not a professor,” Medina-Vilarino said. “They’re both the embodiment of transit, constantly moving from the United States to the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. They are very aware of what’s happening everywhere and can provide all those perspectives.”

Apart from the screening and Q&A, the directors will a visit the Spanish 273 class Cultural Heritage of the Hispanic U.S. and meet with Wellness Center staff. The directors will also be present at a 12:45 p.m. lunch event in Buntrock 143 with Gay, Lesbian Or Whatever (GLOW) that is open to all students. On Friday, Sept. 30 they will visit the Social Work 246 class. If you have the opportunity to meet with Rivera-Velázquez and Rodríguez, you should definitely do so — not only because of the awesome work they do, but also because Medina-Vilarino believes they will bring something special to St. Olaf’s campus. She encourages everyone to come to the screening with no limitations or assumptions, because there is something for everybody to learn.

“[People who attend the screening] will be able to think about the same topics from multiple angles. They’re going to be able to find connections and open a conversation that will allow us to make what we usually do more complex, and everyone will find something that will speak to them,” Medina-Vilarino said. “For students, that may have to do with a Spanish class. Maybe other aspects will have more to do with women’s and gender studies or social work, but usually those things are in silos. Not all those things are combined all the time. Here you will see all those side-by-side. To think about sexuality and gender and identity, you have to consider, more than anything else, the multiplicity of identities. This will push us into that conversation of making things more complex and real, not just categories. Regardless of where you’re coming from, you’ll get something out of this conversation.”

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Sexism in Olympics detracts from female success

You know, I was really looking forward to the Rio Olympics this year. I admit that this was partly to see if anything would crash and burn in light of the Zika virus, infrastructure concerns and other such controversies, but I was also genuinely interested in watching the sports. This love runs contrary to my bookish exterior, but it’s true – watching Megan Rapinoe, Tom Daley and Usain Bolt dominate their events is exhilarating. However, nothing killed this pleasure quite like the awfully sexist coverage of this year’s Olympic games.

Most of the exceptionally bad comments probably dominated your social media feeds. The Chicago Tribune introduced trap shooting bronze medalist Corey Cogdell Unrein as the “wife of a Bears lineman,” and an announcer gave credit for Hungarian gold medalist Katinka Hosszú’s feat to her husband and coach – referring to him as “the guy responsible.” Not to mention the constant comparisons of women to girls at the mall or the labeling of breakout swimmer Katie Ledecky as “the female Michael Phelps.” It was easy to feel overwhelmed as constant reports of Olympics sexism rolled in and it made me wonder what was causing seemingly every reporter and announcer to transform into a sexist pig. The vast amount of outrageous stories and reporting that came from this year’s games, however, points to one main conclusion: sexist reporting is still a problem that needs to be addressed. At the same time, we saw how social media can help the general public hold the media accountable.

It is quite disheartening to read and hear example after example of sexism in sports coverage. We like to think that we have advanced beyond blatant sexism in reporting, yet devaluing the accomplishments of elite female athletes shows that our culture is still deeply biased against women. People have tried to defend these gaffes in various ways. For example, it has been pointed out that Hosszú’s husband did in fact play a significant role in her training and coaching and this is perhaps what the announcer was trying to convey. That doesn’t change the fact that she is the one who was in the pool and she is the one who responsible for winning the medal. Crediting her husband minimizes her accomplishments. Is this 1950 or 2016?

Aside from the transferring of credit from female successes to male counterparts, the constant fixation of the commentators and general public on the bodies of the female athletes cannot be ignored. The media needlessly focused on the athletes’ appearances, such as having far-to-detailed discussions of female gymnasts’ leotards. If that doesn’t scream “pointless and objectifying,” I don’t know what does.

There is a deep, underlying problem of sexism in Olympics reporting, and sports reporting in general, that became all too evident in Rio. For me, this raises the important question – why is this happening? Why haven’t we heard such a wall of frankly offensive coverage before 2016? I would argue that this is not a new problem, but that we now live in a culture that is becoming more aware of sexism. We have become ready and willing to call out bad reporting. We truly have social media to thank for increasing awareness of these headlines and comments more quickly than ever. One would hope that this fact gives news reporters a catalyst to improve their reporting and rethink their sexist rhetoric, but it appears that we now have a way to fight this phenomenon until that happens.

A final question ought to be posed now – are we going to actually do anything to fix this problem with the power of the internet, or will we simply make angry posts on Facebook that do not accomplish anything? Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s an easy solution to ending sexist reporting in athletics or in general. Simply tweeting at NBC executives, for example, will accomplish very little. This is a question worth further exploration. If we can figure out how to harness social media in a way that raises visibility of these problems in the first place, perhaps change can actually occur. Anger only gets us so far. Now it is time to make the next step: change the way we talk about female athletes, as well as women in general, and give them the respect they deserve.

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

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Administration reworks Title IX Policy

Madeline Wilson ’16 and the the gray shirt team, who wore shirts reading “Ask me how my college is protecting my rap- ist” for two months last year, graduated in May after turning their shirts into honor cords. Yet their legacy remains and the conversation that they opened around sexual assault at St. Olaf continues today.

The Title IX Working Group formed by President David Anderson ’74 met from May 5 to May 26 to review St. Olaf’s sexual assault policies, listen to students and experts and make recommendations for change. The group’s goal was to gather information, collect data and analyze everything it learned in order to write a report commissioned by Anderson. During these meetings, the group spoke to representatives from the gray shirt team, Sexual Assault Resource Network (SARN), Gay Lesbian Or Whatever (GLOW), It’s On Us, College Ministry, Boe House, domestic abuse treatment facility HOPE Center, the Northfield Police Department and individuals who have reported sexual assaults through the college. The report was drafted during the summer.

The 116-page Working Group report and an eight-page ex- ecutive summary were released on July 14, along with a state- ment by group chair Tim Maudlin ’73.

“St. Olaf is a community of diverse beliefs and ideas, and we have heard many and varied perspectives through this process,” Maudlin wrote. “We expect that there may be many responses to the Working Group’s deliberations and recommendations. Some may feel that we have gone too far; some, not far enough. In reality, there are many ‘right’ ways to respond. Our goal was to find the right way for St. Olaf to respond.”

Soon afterward, Anderson also released a statement an- nouncing that the group’s recommendations would soon be

implemented and the college would be held accountable to do so by the Board of Regents.

“I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the members of the Title IX Working Group for the commitment and diligence they brought to this task, for the care they display throughout their report for the welfare of our students and for the research-based and reasoned approach they took to a difficult and emotionally fraught topic,” Anderson said. “There is no place for sexual mis- conduct or sexual assault at St. Olaf College. We are determined to prevent them from occurring, to stop them if they do occur and to ameliorate their effects.”

The report is broken into ten categories: Title IX team and leadership, policy revisions, reporting and intake process, complaint resolution process, sanctioning in Title IX cases, ac- countability for policy implementation and revision, inclusivity and accessibility of the Title IX policy, availability and quality of support services, training for the Title IX team and St. Olaf community and ensuring adequate communication and trans- parency in the Title IX process. Suggestions include an annual review of the Title IX policy, the hiring of a full-time Title IX case manager “to assume intake responsibilities and case man- agement of Title IX matters,” the usage of an affirmative consent definition and the formation of a Title IX advisory group.

When students returned to campus this fall, the effects of many of the report’s suggestions were obvious. Physical cop- ies of a Title IX Quick Guide, including links to the college’s Title IX webpage, contact information for the Title IX team and other sources of support were posted on every student’s desk. The Ole Student Portal and St. Olaf homepage feature links to the Title IX page and information about the training of Title IX team members is now public knowledge.

The college has also implemented many new changes behind the scenes to reform the way sexual assault is handled at St.

Olaf, according to a progress report posted on the Title IX page. This development includes three new hires. Kari Ogrodowski, most recently a staffer with the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, now holds the position of Title IX case man- ager and began her work on September 19. The HOPE Center is now contracted with SARN to provide professional coordina- tion services. Finally, Area Coordinator of Ytterboe and Hoyme Halls Sarah Joslyn will now serve as Gender and Sexuality Co- ordinator, a ten-hour-per-week position. Vice President for Student Life Greg Kneser and Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Pamela McDowell will now serve as an adjudicative panel during complaint resolution rather than a single adjudicator, and a new policy about affirmative consent is under development. Many policies are also under review or be- ing created, such as the complaint resolution process and a pro- tocol for communication with complainants and respondents. New policy material to improve understanding of affirmative consent is under development.

According to the administration progress report, every working group suggestion has been completed, initiated or scheduled for change. Right now, short-term changes have fo- cused on publicizing Title IX policies and the ways team mem- bers can help the campus community.

As the 2016-2017 school year progresses, the St. Olaf com- munity will continue to evaluate how the changes make the Ti- tle IX reporting process easier, reduce the rates of sexual assault and ensure transparency in Title IX policy.

To continue following the progress report, learn more about St. Olaf ’s Title IX policy or read the full working group report, visit St. Olaf’s “Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, and Sexual Assault: College Policy and Resources for Prevention and Support” page at

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Lyric Theater’s muscial revue recieves positive reviews

diences with their production of the opera Der Vampyr. Luckily for everyone who left that show wanting more, Lyric Theater is back at it again with their 2016 spring show, Light. This year’s production features a unique design and an original concept that should not be missed.

Several years ago, co-directors of the Lyric Theater James McKeel and Janis Hardy decided that Lyric Theater should provide student directors, choreographers and composers an opportunity to showcase their work by directing a spring opera, operetta, musical or musical revue. Ever since, the spring show has been produced exclusively by students.

The Music Department provides financial support and mentorship to students selected to direct a production but gives them as much creative freedom and responsibility as possible. Student directors are responsible for handling auditions, rehearsals, set, lighting, costume design and public relations. This year, Devon Steve ’17 was selected for the honor.

“Devon’s idea for Light was intriguing because it wasn’t just a musical revue, but a careful choice of musical songs that revolved around mental and physical health and gender issues. He asked Kjersten Lukken ’16 to write a script that would weave a story around the numbers and unify it,” McKeel said. “The issues involved are delicate and timely so they are working hard to be sensitive to them while still creating an entertaining revue.”

Lukken’s original script tells the story of eight intertwined individuals in New York City: Katie (Bee Lauer ’18), Levi (Gabe Salmon ’18), Marco (Zach Kubasta ’19), Jamie (Julia Woodring ’19), Ava (Samantha Noonan ’17), Clara (Julia Holden-Hunkins ’19), Johnny (JW Keckley ’17) and Dylan (Trevor Todd ’18). Each character deals with their own emotional, mental, and relationship struggles. The show features music from A New Brain, Avenue Q, Jekyll and Hyde, The Last Five Years, Next to Normal, Songs for a New World and motion pictures Moulin Rouge and Once.

A very talented creative team has worked on Light. Besides Steve as stage and musical director and Lukken as librettist and script supervisor, the show also boasts Garrett Bond ’19 as assistant music director and Emily Hynes ’18 as stage manager. In addition, Steve brought in three guest artists to help make the show better: McKeel for acting, Jared Miller ’17 for music and Gabrielle Dominique ’17 for movement and acting. McKeel praised this team highly.

“Devon and his creative team have been very good about auditioning, rehearsing, organizing schedules, etc – and they have been very good about taking constructive feedback. This bodes well for the production,” McKeel said.

Light will be performed May 12, 13 and 14, at 8 p.m. in the Christiansen Hall of Music Urness Recital Hall. Each show is free and open to the public, with first-come first-serve seating. Viewer discretion is advised, as the revue does include mature content and language. In addition, there are trigger warnings for physical abuse, bipolar disorder and suicide. The performances are sure to be enjoyable, but Steve emphasized that to get the most from the show one should come prepared to truly enter the world of the characters.

“An audience member will be taken on an emotional journey through the lives of these eight characters, only if he or she is willing to invest in the story,” Steve said. “The story is powerful and in order to really love a character, understand a character, identify with a character or even hate a character, the audience members have to allow themselves to enter into the story from the first note played on the piano.”

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Coloring books not just for children anymore

They are sweeping our nation, giving our brains mindless pleasure and our hard-working RAs the tools for a relaxation floor event. They appear in forms from cards to posters, and picture everything from mandalas to gardens to pop culture phenomena. You can find them everywhere, even in St. Olaf’s own bookstore. You know what I’m talking about – adult coloring books. The pastime once reserved for children has become a favorite hobby for people of all ages.

In the past two years the hobby has become so popular that it may be more accurate to call it an “obsession.” The adult coloring book industry, sparked by artist Johanna Basford’s 2013 release of “Secret Garden,” has never fared better. Sales have dramatically risen from 2014 to 2015. These books are regular bestsellers on Amazon and their success is also affecting the colored pencil industry.

Why are adult coloring books suddenly so popular? Fans of the books say they remind them of their childhood, provide a method of easy social bonding and reduce anxiety. Critics of this trend say that the books are a symbol of America’s declining maturity, are simply a waste of time or can backfire and become addictive.

Writer and art gallery curator Robert Pela believes that coloring books are simply an immature coping mechanism. In a Phoenix New Times article, he wrote “I’m a snob. But I’m also an adult, one who remembers when adults relaxed with bourbon, not Crayolas and an outline of My Little Pony.”

I am personally not enchanted by this fad. While I recognize that coloring can be relaxing for some, the activity usually increases my stress level. Thoughts that run through my head while I’m coloring include: “What colors do I use?” “What if I go outside the lines?” and “I’d better copy these pages twelve times in case I mess up, and under no circumstances should I color the original book.” It is almost easier for me to just look at the pretty black-and-white pictures. But I have plenty of friends who do love to color, and they appear to have lots of fun with it. They are all productive and successful people, and the fact that they enjoy a hobby that is labeled “childish” does not affect that. When used in moderation, the trend seems to inflict no apparent harm. Does it matter whether someone relaxes with bourbon or Crayola crayons? Coloring books do not harm anyone, so I fail to see why there needs to be objections over adults enjoying them.

I think the key to the trend, however, is “moderation.” There is definitely a limit to how much time one should spend coloring, although I have yet to hear of many people spending six hours a day engaged with the books. I would hesitate to call “coloring addiction” a widespread problem. However, my biggest qualm with the coloring trend is the idea that people in need of professional help for stress relief or anxiety disorders can turn to coloring for relief and feel fine. The truth is, we live in a very passive culture. We assume that we can make a difference in our own lives or those of others with very little effort. A hashtag automatically saves the children, our friends understand we love them from one smile and a “hello,” all of our problems and worries are resolved with a pack of pencils and a piece of paper. Unfortunately, this is not true. Relaxation and everything else that the avid colorists seek will not come from a simple distraction. Sure, mindless activities have been shown to reduce stress, but that alone does not cure any underlying problems. Hopefully anybody coloring for these reasons recognizes this.

Overall, coloring books are great fun but attaching excess significance to their completion (whether that involves claiming they are cures for psychological maladies or are leading to the rot of civilization) leads to focusing our attention on things that don’t really matter. Let people have their fun, and enjoy the trend until it inevitably dies out. Life’s too short to do anything but.

Dylan Walker ’18 ( is from Mountain Grove, Mo. They major in Classics with a Film Studies concentration.

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote