One of my favorite episodes of the early 2000s TV drama “The West Wing” centers around fictional Senator Howard Stackhouse’s marathon filibuster to add funding for autism research to a six Continue reading “Filibuster exacerbates polarized politics”
On March 9, the St. Olaf faculty voted to approve a new category of employment. Called “teaching specialist,” the category will serve a handful of professors who have lingered between visiting and tenure-track for years. A teaching specialist will be granted three-year contracts and faculty review and will have access to a special set of research funds and opportunities.
The college utilizes different types of employment categories to serve different needs in each academic department. Tenure-track lines create long-term positions, whereas non-tenure-track (NTT) positions are created to fill short-term teaching needs, such as sabbatical vacancies.
Occasionally, short-term needs become long-term ones. There are a handful of NTT professors at the college who have taught at St. Olaf for decades, but continue to receive one-year contracts without the benefits that typically come with long-term positions, such as job security, research opportunities and faculty review.
The teaching specialist category serves to alleviate those types of situations. Teaching specialist positions will be granted to departments that demonstrate the need for a longer-term professor but not a tenure-track position.
“These teaching specialist positions should be filling a different kind of need,” Provost Marci Sortor said. “In both cases they’re teaching needs, and in both cases there is expertise that’s needed. But, typically someone who is a teaching specialist might provide something that no one else can provide, but the department doesn’t need a full-time person doing it. Or it could be that what the department needs is a really great person who can fill in and serve all different kinds of courses.”
One of the aspects that differentiates a teaching specialist position from a tenure-track line is the emphasis on teaching. While hiring processes for tenure-track positions often include a focus on research and published work, those factors won’t play into teaching specialist hiring processes as heavily.
The proposal reflects eight years of work by the Faculty Life Committee (FLC) and Faculty Governance Committee (FGC) to provide longer contracts and more fair compensation for long-term NTT professors at the college.
“I’m happy with the result,” FGC chair and Associate Professor of Political Science Tony Lott said. “It will mean great stability in student/faculty interaction, as well as provide greater stability for our colleagues.”
There was some contention within the FGC over the titles for teaching specialist professors. Currently, it’s impossible to distinguish between categories of employment based on title; all professors, regardless of appointment category, are granted visiting, assistant, associate or full professor titles. The new system will refer to teaching specialists as “professors of practice” and continue to use different rank distinctions. For example, a political science professor who is hired as a teaching specialist may be called “Assistant Professor of Practice in Political Science.”
“We had a certain constraint that we had to kind of act within, which was that administration said that they needed the title to be distinct from assistant, associate, or full [professor],” Associate Professor of Religion Mara Benjamin said. “So, given that, we went with what we felt the NTTs, who made themselves known to us, what they preferred. I think a number of them and a number of us, our ideal solution would be what we currently have, which is identical titles.”
There are a number of professors who will likely move from NTT to the teaching specialist category, but it hasn’t yet been decided who will move when or how that will happen. Department chairs will be charged with submitting applications for these transitions, and that application process is still in the works.
The proposal faces one final hurdle before implementation in the fall – the Board of Regents must vote to approve the new category in May.
Students gathered in the cozy living room of the Wendell Berry House on Tuesday, Nov. 29 to read, listen to and appreciate poetry and prose. Wendell Berry House and The Quarry hosted a joint literature event at which many students shared their own written works while others recited classic favorites, including poems from John Keats and Wendell Berry himself. The readings ranged from emotional to beautiful to funny.
Wendell Berry House is located in Lincoln Manor, an honor house just off campus. Wendell Berry’s mission is focused around sustainability and community, particularly related to food.
“The mission of the house is to reestablish the link between people, communities and the food that we eat, in accordance with Wendell Berry’s dedication to the land and sustainable agriculture,” resident Rita Thorsen ’18 said. “However, another really important part of his work is to communicate that dedication through literature and justice. Essentially, our goal is to create more just and holistic communities.”
Thorsen was pleased with the event’s turnout. One unique aspect of the reading was the willingness of readers to be vulnerable and the strong sense of community among a diverse group of students.
“It was really pleasing to see how many people were enthusiastic about the reading,” Thorsen said. “It’s inspiring to get so many people who don’t necessarily know each other together to read. It was especially awesome to hear people read their own work and know that we had created a space in which people felt comfortable enough to get to that level of vulnerability.”
The event was co-sponsored by the Quarry, St. Olaf’s literary and visual arts magazine. This is one of the Quarry’s first events of the year leading up to the release of the magazine this spring.
Though the magazine is only produced once a year, The Quarry staff aims to help campus create spaces for enjoying literature, art and poetry throughout the year.
Executive Editor Josh Torkelson ’17 is still planning events for this spring, and encourages students to submit their creative work for publication consideration and to attend the release party this spring.
“February begins our submission period for our online and print publications. This year’s release will feature a gallery show in the Groot Gallery of the represented student work,” Torkelson said. “This new format [of the release] allows more exposure for contributors as well as a space for music, performance art and space-based works. Also in February, there will be a surprise installation collaboration with Sigma Tau Delta in the Buntrock Cage Gallery, so stay tuned for that.”
Over the past few weeks, students have been tabling outside of Stav Hall, petitioning to make St. Olaf a sanctuary campus. Similar to a sanctuary city, a sanctuary campus would refuse to cooperate with and/or assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents if they were to come onto campus. At press time, the print petition had close to 700 signatures and an online version of the petition was expected to have a couple hundred signatures.
“We ask that St. Olaf refuse to allow ICE agents from conducting activity on St. Olaf property as allowed by a 2011 U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement memo,” the proposal read. “We ask that St. Olaf protect all individuals in the St. Olaf community, including its students, faculty, and staff … doing so will demonstrate that St. Olaf takes the safety and wellbeing of the St. Olaf community seriously,” the proposal read.
Samantha Wells ’17 is the go-to student contact for the petition. The organizing students’ intent is not to demand that administration make policy changes, but rather to bring to administration a proposal that already has significant student support. Wells plans to share the proposal first with Student Senate and then with college administrators. Wells has been in contact with President David Anderson ’74, who connected her with General Counsel Carl Lehmann ’91 for assistance in understanding the legal details surrounding current college policies. Anderson said that he is supportive of protecting student privacy and would be interested in supporting students in any way that is legal and appropriate. As of Dec. 2, the petition and proposal had not yet been brought to St. Olaf administration.
The definition of “sanctuary” is flexible; there is no legal definition for a sanctuary city or sanctuary campus, but most often it refers to a city or institution that refuses to cooperate with ICE officials. For a city, this could mean limiting how extensively government employees and law enforcement will work with federal immigration officials. For a campus, it often means refusal to disclose private student records and limiting the access that federal immigration officials have on campus.
College campuses across the country have been pushing to become sanctuary spaces. Unlike cities, campuses have special privileges under a ICE memo that allows them to refuse to cooperate with ICE officials in some circumstances. A memo issued by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Oct. 24, 2011 states that ICE agents are not allowed to perform actions including “(I) arrests; (2) interviews; (3) searches; and (4) for purposes of immigration enforcement only, surveillance” on “sensitive locations.” The memo defines a college campus as a sensitive location.
That being said, immigration agents are still able to do some things, including “obtaining records, documents and similar materials from officials or employees, providing notice to officials or employees, serving subpoenas, engaging in Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) compliance and certification visits or participating in official functions or community meetings.”
St. Olaf already has student privacy policies in place that protect student information from being handed over to federal agents.
“Under our current policies, we do not disclose information about students – except in very limited circumstances – and that would include a student’s immigrant status,” Lehmann said. “So if a government agency came to campus and said ‘we want to know the names of students who are not legally authorized to be in the United States,’ that’s not information that we would voluntarily provide without a subpoena or a court order, or if there was some emergency.”
One of the biggest bargaining pieces in the sanctuary city debate is President-elect Donald Trump’s threat to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities. Because St. Olaf isn’t a public institution, it doesn’t necessarily have a horse in this race. Whether or not federal aid for St. Olaf students would be included in this threat is unclear.
“Our students certainly receive a lot of federal aid, and our ability to participate in Title IV programs, grants and student aid, is something that all our students should be concerned about,” Lehmann said. “We would want to continue to participate in federal financial aid programs.”
Lehmann is still waiting to see the final proposal but is encouraged to determine how administration might be able to work with students to soothe some of their immediate concerns.
“If students want assurances that their right to privacy are going to be respected, we can certainly provide those assurances,” he said. “If the initiatives are aimed at defying federal law or a court order or something like that, I think that would be something that the college wouldn’t be interested in being a party to because we have to abide by court orders and the law. In the proposals that I’ve seen with other colleges, that’s pretty consistent with the positions that other institutions are taking, too.”
The sanctuary campus petition comes after the Northfield city council decided to further discuss making Northfield a sanctuary city. At the Nov. 16 city council meeting, members agreed to further research sanctuary cities and the council will likely begin discussions on the topic at its Dec. 13 meeting.
Who would have thought a film festival could happen within the span of six minutes? The 24 Hour Film Festival, featuring a single film titled, “Reach,” proved this possible.
The 24 Hour Film Festival is an event hosted by the St. Olaf Film Production Society that gives student filmmakers the chance to team up, conceptualize, shoot, edit and produce a film together. Though the film premiere may have been brief, the production process was not. Beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19, filmmakers had the entire day to produce their films. The final product was screened in Viking Theater on Sunday, Nov. 20.
The festival pulled a decent crowd, though significantly fewer viewers than the Production Society’s Halloworst Film Festival in October. The festival didn’t quite deserve its festival title, however. The group of ten students produced only one, nearly-three-minute film.
The film, “Reach,” totaled two minutes and 57 seconds and struck me as a creative combination of the Slenderman online game and the viral mannequin challenge. It was produced by Adam Kaiser ’19, Austin Krentz ’19, Zeos Greene ’18, Paige Dahlke ’18, Grace Fogland ’19, Kalpit Modi ’17, Chen Zhenghui ’19, Jack Schoephoerster ’19, Cookie Imperial ’19 and John Beckman ’17.
Though I couldn’t quite understand the film’s purpose, it was definitely creepy. It seemed to portray a student’s dream while they slept soundly on a couch in Regents. For the duration of the dream, characters were standing still and facing away from the camera, while a hand would occasionally reach out from the audience and attempt to grab the frozen characters. The music and camera perspective made it appear as if the audience was moving with the dreamer.
“We had no idea what it would become, but as each shot was taken, new ideas and concepts were discovered and implemented. In our last scene, we finally found some sense of resolution – at least as much resolution one can get when sending their viewers into a trippy dream world,” Dahlke said.
In the future, I’d hope that the production team might split into two or three groups to give the festival a bit more length.
The St. Olaf Film Production society is a student-run organization that encourages student film making and pursuit of the film studies concentration.
“We facilitate networking among students in all aspects of the movie making process, including acting, composing, screen writing, editing, producing, directing and filming,” their website reads. “We do our best to provide means for student filmmakers to gain experience through competition, workshops and group projects.”
If you’re interested in filmmaking, participating in next year’s 24 Hour Film Festival, or another of the Production Society’s film festivals, feel free to chat with the student organization’s co-presidents, Dahlke and Schoephoerster.