Author: Emma Whitford

Pro-black display highlights police brutality

“Does our citizenship not hold enough value? Or does our education not speak volume?”

These are the questions written on the bottom of Tia Schaffer ’20’s cardboard sign, which she wears around campus to raise awareness of Terrence Crutcher’s death in Tulsa, Okla. on Sept. 16, and its implications for black Americans.

In the days following Crutcher’s death, news media fixated on the deaths of both Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott, a black man who was shot four times by police outside of his parked SUV in Charlotte, S.C. after they repeatedly demanded that he “drop the gun.” It is unclear whether or not Scott was holding a gun at the time of his death.

Crutcher was shot and killed by policewoman Betty Shelby after the Tulsa police station received calls that Crutcher’s car was stalled in the middle of the road and blocking traffic. He was unarmed and police helicopter footage showed that his hands were in the air before Shelby fired her gun. Crutcher had been on his way home from Tulsa Community College, where he studied music.

“People have this stereotypical idea of black people, like ‘Oh, they’re hoodlums,’ and ‘He was doing something suspicious,’ or ‘He probably just came from doing this or doing that,’ but this particular individual was going home from class,” Schaffer said. “He was enrolled in Tulsa Community College, so this is actually a student that we’re talking about – regardless of his age – he’s a student.”

Crutcher’s identity as a black student resonated with Schaffer. She was inspired to speak out about the injustice and to call on St. Olaf students to take a photo with her as a symbol of alliance.

“‘Take a picture with me as a symbol of alliance.’ I think I wrote that too small because [students are] like ‘Oh is it okay if I take a picture with you?’ I’m like ‘Yes, okay, that’s the purpose! I want you to take a picture and I want you to post it again on social media,’” Schaffer said. “This is a predominately white institution, so I expect most of the students I come in contact with to be white, and I think that union and that partnership is very crucial to making progress because we can’t do it by ourselves.”

Though Schaffer is the only student participating in this particular demonstration, she hopes that social media will further her cause and she encourages students to post photos with her to spur discussion.

Schaffer has been a vocal activist for much of her life. She takes pride in her race and does what she can to speak out against racial injustice.

“I consider myself very pro-black. Not anti-white, not anti-anything else, I’m just for the progression of my people,” Schaffer said. “I’m also unapologetically black, and that’s how I was able to just walk around and be extremely annoying with this big board from class to class.”

In high school, Schaffer launched an online business and movement called Reincarnating Black Life. She sells T-shirts on her website with the goal of empowering black Americans and inviting the community to talk about the T-shirts and what it means to be black.

“On the T-shirts are different slogans that promote black life, that promote the progression of the black race,” Schaffer said. “I just have people buying them, sporting them. Every day you walk up to your place of work, you walk into restaurants, you walk into the store and people are like ‘Hey, what does that mean?’ That opens the gate for conversations.”

Schaffer hopes to expand this initiative once she graduates college.

“I kinda want it to be [a] movement – an actual movement where our everyday lives are literally [dedicated] to do nothing but advance ourselves and just advance in this country, period.”

Schaffer has received positive yet hesitant responses from the St. Olaf community, but said that more and more students and faculty are approaching her to show solidarity or to engage in conversation about Crutcher’s death. She plans to continue wearing her sign, or some version of it, indefinitely.

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Theater professor’s departure claimed unfair

This spring, the St. Olaf community will say goodbye to Assistant Professor of Theater Jeanne Willcoxon. Her departure was finalized after the theater department was reconfigured to include a new tenure position that will ultimately absorb the teaching responsibilities that Willcoxon currently holds.

The theater department is currently made up of two and a half tenured faculty – Professor Bill Sonnega spends half of his time in theater and the other half in media studies – and five non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty. The new tenure position is extremely valuable to the department and is considered a significant investment in both the department and the incoming tenure-track professor. The more tenured faculty in a department, the less freedom the college has to significantly change or eradicate that department.

Willcoxon is currently an NTT faculty member, meaning that her position will not lead to a tenured position, and her employment at St. Olaf has consisted of one, two or three year contracts. According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), 76 percent of all faculty in American higher education are non-tenure-track. This number is rising – today’s statistic shows a significant increase from 50 percent in 1993.

When the new tenure position was announced, Willcoxon made an argument to the Provost and the Associate Dean for Conversion to convert her current position into a tenure track position. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) advocates for such conversions. In a report about tenure and teaching intensive appointments, the AAUP claimed that “the best practice for institutions of all types is to convert the status of contingent appointments to appointments eligible for tenure with only minor changes in job description.”

Willcoxon’s argument was denied on the basis that the new tenure position would be different from her current role in the theater department. Shortly afterward, St. Olaf began a search that allowed anyone to apply for the open tenure position. After the denial of her proposal, Willcoxon submitted a letter of resignation to the college but was convinced by her colleagues to withdraw the letter and apply for the tenure position along with the other candidates. “For a brief time … I was very depressed. I thought, ‘Why even apply?’ I think I had a pretty strong argument for con- version and I’ve been very active with the non-tenure-track faculty members, and I sort of felt that [conversion] was the ethical thing to do,” Willcoxon said.

The hiring process, especially for tenure positions, is extensive. After submission of application materials, all applicants must pass a series of interviews – one by phone and, if they are chosen as a finalist, one in person with a panel of faculty members and administrators.

“They had five members on the selection committee and the selection committee went through and did a first cut of telephone interviews. I was interviewed by telephone. They did that with all of the candidates; they have to re- ally maintain that everyone gets the exact same treatment,” Willcoxon said. “And then, when it came down to the three finalists, I was not one of the three finalists. From there they selected someone for the position and that person ac- cepted the position, and that was that.”

Willcoxon decided that it would not be feasible for her to return to St. Olaf next year. Few courses would remain for her to teach with the addition of the new position.

“I could hypothetically teach in American Conversations or Great Conversations, but the problem is I wouldn’t be able to make a living out of it. And I’m a theater per- son. Though I love AmCon and GreatCon, my roots are in theater and … that’s also my forte,” Willcoxon said. “No one has outright said, ‘No, you can’t teach,’ but my contract runs out this year, and I don’t see any reason that it would be renewed.”

Some theater students were upset by Willcoxon’s departure. Jenna McKellips ’16 helped organize a written campaign in support of converting Willcoxon’s position to ten- ure track.

“[Willcoxon] definitely didn’t want us to get involved, because she was kind of like, ‘This is just something that’s going to happen.’ But I talked to her and asked if we could put together a written campaign of students’ work,” McKellips said. “So we had a bunch of students basically write her letters of [recommendation] – like a professor would write – for Jeanne and her staying here at the school, and for how much she means to the community and how much she meant to us personally.”

Students have no say in deciding which candidate will be given the tenure track position.

“Me and two other students ended up going to two of the deans to talk to them and explain how much it would hurt the school if she left and tried to ask if there was anything that we could do to help her in any way,” McKellips said.

“They basically said ‘no.’” With Willcoxon’s departure comes the end of the theater

capstone project. Currently, there are no plans to continue offering the course.

Despite their disappointment with the situation, students are thinking positively about the incoming theater professor.

“The new professor that they are bringing in, people really like her. Of all the people that could have been chosen, people really like her and I think it’s good that she’s coming in,” McKellips said. “A lot of people are trying to mediate their anger so that when that person comes in, she’s not sad and feels alone, because it’s not her fault at all.”

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Vargas questions American identity

On Thursday, March 10, prominent journalist and immigrant rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas spoke to a crowd of students, staff and Northfield community members about the reality of being an undocumented immigrant in America. Vargas was hosted by St. Olaf’s Political Awareness Committee (PAC) as its spring speaker.

He began his lecture by explaining his story. Vargas was raised in the Philippines and sent by his mother to America when he was twelve.

“She told me I was going to Disneyland,” he said.

Upon his arrival in the United States, he joined his grandparents, who were already naturalized citizens, in Mountain View, Calif. with a false green card. When he was 16, he found out at the local DMV that his papers were fake. Throughout his schooling and well into his career, Vargas kept his illegal citizenship a secret. It wasn’t until 2011 that Vargas revealed his immigrant status in an issue of New York Times Magazine.

Vargas’s speech centered around the idea of American identity and how immigrants contribute to it and are affected by it. He addressed many of the misconceptions that Americans have about immigration. For example, he noted that many Europeans are living in the United States on an outdated visa or have stayed here illegally, but they are prosecuted far less than immigrants of color, especially Mexican immigrants.

Since he revealed his undocumented immigrant status to the world, Vargas has spent a lot of time fighting for the rights of undocumented immigrants and raising awareness about the immigration problem in the United States.

As part of his activism, Vargas has produced a number of documentaries. In 2010, he co-produced and wrote a film called “The Other City,” which shed light on the AIDS epidemic in Washington, D.C. PAC ran his newest documentary, called “White People,” in Viking Theater the day before Vargas’s speech. Directed by and starring Vargas, the film dissects white privilege. During his speech Vargas promoted a new project that he has been working on called #EmergingUS. The website and video commentary aim to discuss evolutions in American identity.

After his speech, students were allowed to ask questions. A couple of students brought up racial issues on St. Olaf’s campus and requested his input as to how to proceed with similar conversations.

“Your being silent, is it complicit to [racial injustice]?” Vargas asked. “When we question the incarceration rates and we question the drug laws, when we question all of that, I guess it appeals [to me] that we have to question that. But… if you can’t have these conversations at college, when are you going to have it? When? Are you going to have it when you’re working and maybe somebody would fire you?”

Vargas emphasized the importance of bringing conversations about race and identity into the classroom, rather than saving those conversations for optional extracurriculars.

“I actually think that we’re now getting to a point where [conversations about race and identity] should be a part of the curriculum. They should be a part of general studies,” Vargas said. “Conversations about race and identity, to me, are the heart of how people view themselves. To not try to deconstruct it and study it, to me, is a mistake.”

Vargas also encouraged students to find their own ways to push their own messages and activism.

“I feel like we’re living through the golden age of storytelling,” Vargas said. “But the struggle is, how do we actually tell stories to connect with people and not just tell a story to tell a story? I’m not in the whole ‘art for art’s sake’ camp. I feel like stories serve a purpose, and a really good storyteller knows what that purpose is.”

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Female politicians face unfair scrutiny over public image

The President of the United States serves as a political, moral and cultural leader for the country. Over the course of the next year, America will roll out arguably the most intense and comprehensive vetting system in the world. We will choose our next president. Each candidate will be made to jump through political and social hoops, trying to win the country’s favor. However, there is more to the selection process than approving of a candidate’s political platform. Image is of utmost importance. I don’t want the person representing my nation to be incapable of dressing themselves or properly combing their hair.

The President of the United States holds the most esteemed elected office in the world, so I struggle to understand why those who aspire to the Oval Office should be exempt from scrutiny. Representing an electorate of 320 million people is no simple feat, and candidates should be prepared to fully disclose relevant details of their private lives.

I believe that any critical evaluation is fair game as long as it is distributed evenly among the candidates – with the exception of offenses made before they are eighteen and their sex lives. It is our right as voters to evaluate the candidates on cultural, moral and political grounds. Has the candidate accepted money from Goldman Sachs in return for the implicit promise of soft financial regulations? Did they pass controversial zero-tolerance policing policies during their time as Governor? What’s their senate voting record with the NRA? Have they struggled in their marriage? How does their Christian faith play into their policy? Are they the zodiac killer? There’s no such thing as a stupid question in a presidential election.

It’s the job of the campaign team to field these questions and answer strategically in order to market their candidate to the American public. In other words, you shouldn’t feel bad for presidential candidates because they all know what they are getting into.

All of that being said, the way that America vets its candidates is dated and reeks of sexism. I don’t worry about sexism in the race because I feel bad for Hillary Clinton, I am concerned because it says something larger about the way we evaluate women compared to men. A recent article in The Atlantic begins with Bob Woodward critiquing Hillary Clinton’s speaking style. Woodward describes her as a “screamer” and claims that her delivery signals a lack of self acceptance.

If we are going to criticize the way that Hillary Clinton asserts her policy, then, by those standards, Bernie Sanders, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump are all “screamers.” The entire Republican field, (save Ben Carson), is full of screamers. Hillary Clinton is a woman and America is not used to women being assertive. So while Sanders and Clinton debate on our television screens, the media, the analysts and the American people form distinct characterizations. Sanders’ passionate hand waving and rhythmic delivery paints him to be a lovable, zany hero, where Clinton’s passion and assertion apparently make her sound like she’s compensating for her “lack of self acceptance.” It is described as “unnatural.”

Female candidates are not the only ones who face unequal forms of criticism. Candidates of color and those identifying with minority religious groups are also overly scrutinized for their backgrounds.

America is a nation with an increasingly diverse population and our President should reflect this fact. Finding a political and moral leader doesn’t mean finding a white, male and Christian one, but someone who is compassionate, who can solve problems big and small and move our country in the direction defined by the American electorate.

Emma Whitford ’18 ( is from Middleton, Wisc. She majors in political science.

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Democrats swarm on-campus caucus

On Tuesday, March 1, otherwise known as “Super Tuesday,” voters gathered in Buntrock Commons to cast their presidential preference ballots and caucus in the Democratic primary. St. Olaf’s turnout was impressive. A total of 702 students showed up to caucus, rivaling the 730 that turned out for the 2014 midterm elections. The group formed a line that wound up stairs and through hallways from the Pause to Rolvaag Library.

According to Students for Sanders organizer Taylor Lightman ’16, Rice County saw a 22.3 percent increase in voter turnout from 2008 for the Democratic caucus. After a last minute location change, St. Olaf students and other Northfield community members who live within 1st Ward, 1st Precinct used the Pause Mane Stage as their caucus location.

Senator Bernie Sanders swept St. Olaf ’s caucus with a whopping 83 percent, former Secretary Hillary Clinton took second with 16.4 percent, Governor Martin O’Malley received two votes and Rocky De La Fuente received none. Sanders ultimately won the Minnesota caucus and also took Colorado, Oklahoma and his home state of Vermont. Clinton was victorious in the remaining Super Tuesday states, winning Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

The Northfield Republican caucus was held at Northfield High School. St. Olaf students who wished to attend the Republican caucus were provided transportation to the high school. In Rice County, Senator Ted Cruz won the preferential poll with 32 percent of the vote, Senator Marco Rubio followed in second with 29.6 percent, Donald Trump took third with 22.3 percent, Dr. Ben Carson got 10.6

percent and Governor John Kasich won five percent. There were four write in votes, three for Senator Rand Paul and one for Jason Lewis. Rubio won the Minnesota caucus with 37 percent of the vote statewide. Donald Trump was the winner of Super Tuesday nationwide with victories in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. Ted Cruz picked up Alaska, Oklahoma and Texas.

Students for Sanders, St. Olaf ’s Bernie Sanders campaign group, was quite visible during caucus time. They had volunteers handing out stickers, rallying supporters and canvassing caucus-goers throughout Buntrock Commons. Students for Sanders has been active for quite some time on campus and has hosted phone banks, canvassing sessions through Northfield neighborhoods and “dorm storm” canvasses.

Students also took to social media to advertise the caucus and encourage their peers to vote. Though Minnesota’s caucuses do not require formal voter registration, the rules for eligibility can be complicated. To participate, voters had to reside in the precinct and be of eligible voting age by the November general elections.

Both Students for Sanders and Oles for Clinton had tables set up inside the Pause on caucus night with campaign materials and in- formation. Students from Students for Sand- ers, Oles for Clinton and St Olaf’s College Democrats, along with members of the Rice County DFL, helped run the caucus. A small but dedicated crowd stayed after casting their preferential ballots to elect delegates for the precinct.

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