Category: News

Blast from the past: a look at gendered rules on campus

Although St. Olaf College has been a coeducational institution since its founding in 1874, its policies did not reflect its progressive beginning. In both official and unofficial capacities, the St. Olaf administration prescribed different rules for its male and female students.

In the early days of the college, professors at St. Olaf saw themselves as “moral guardians” for their students and made rules with this charge in mind. Professor Halvor T. Ytterboe recorded a set of guidelines on proper manners for his time at Olaf in the late 1800s – recently revised and compiled into the short book “Ole Voices No. 2: Etiquette 101” by College Archivist Jeff Sauve. 

Although some rules applied to everyone on campus, Ytterboe felt it necessary to divide certain rules into gendered categories.

In the section “Rules for Boys,” Ytterboe insists that a male student with proper decorum is still “just as manly, just as full of fun, just as fond of sport” as any other boy. Some highlights of these “Rules for Boys” include Rule 87: “Don’t walk in the trough [the Main gutters]” and Rule 88: “Don’t throw water or anything out of windows.”

In his “Rules for Girls,” Ytterboe reminds female students of campus-wide policies about relations with the opposite sex. There is no riding or boating together, and “evening association is forbidden.” Boys are not permitted to take girls out on Sundays – not even to church.

Ytterboe asks female students not to  read novels: “Good novels are good things, but how can women hope to occupy an equal place with men if their intellectual life is given over to one branch of literature solely?”

Girls also should not “affect merriment” when they feel none, or use slang words – those “coarse and fast terms” – and thus give into the “vulgar fashion of the time.”

The official rules for women were perhaps even more strict. During the 1909-10 academic year, women were supervised by a “preceptress” and consulted with her about nearly every aspect of their lives. They needed special permission to be absent from their rooms in the evening, to attend social affairs outside of the college and to go riding or boating.

In 1919, women could receive gentleman callers until 7:15 p.m. on weeknights and until 9:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

In 1931, the college decided that “smoking on the part of the women students is contrary to the standards of St. Olaf College, and therefore not permitted.” Men were still allowed to smoke.

Thora Phelps ’47 recalled the Norway Valley and the Ole Store as “favorite smoking spots for women.” She also recalled how female students had to have their lights out by 10 p.m. and the “just females” parties  [on campus] after lights out. These were “more fun” because they were against the rules.

This lights-out rule did not apply to men, but Phelps suspects this was because most of the men were older than the women in the years immediately following World War II.

St. Olaf students circumvented other campus rules such as the infamous Footloose-style ban on dancing until 1961. Carol V. Johnson ’54 remembers how students would go to dances at Carleton College and Gertrude M. Hilleboe, the Dean of Women, knew exactly what was going on but did nothing to stop them.

A blurb from a Manitou Messenger article in 1964 quips, “a great advance in the Machine Age – computers, satellites and now, women smoking at St. Olaf.” Ironically, 1964 was also the year when the US Surgeon General issued a warning about the dangers of smoking. 

The 1960s also saw changes in residence life regulations. In the early 1960s, first years were allowed to stay out until 10:15 pm and upperclassmen until 10:30 pm on weeknights and Sundays. On Saturdays, first years could stay out until 11:30 p.m. and everyone else could stay out until midnight.

Susan Hvistendahl ’68 recalled how men would give their dates a rose for every minute they kept them out past midnight. Cheeky Carls would sometimes substitute the flowers with Four Roses whiskey. 

In 1967 dorm hours were “liberalized” for all and eliminated for seniors. The following year, women and men could finally visit the rooms of students of the opposite sex.

St. Olaf decided it was ready to try co-ed housing on alternate floors in 1971. That trial clearly went well. St. Olaf made all dorms co-ed in 1987, and they have remained so ever since.

What will be the next revolution in gendered rules at St. Olaf? On campus gender neutral housing options available to all? An easier process for changing your name in campus records? Only time can tell, but it’s certain that students will find ways to work around these policies before they change officially.

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Examining student attitudes toward war a century ago

Founded in 1874, St. Olaf has its roots in American history. Student publications, such as the Manitou Messenger, begun in 1887, and the Viking Yearbook, started in 1904, offer a record of campus response to changing tides in U.S. history. This article will specifically track U.S. military actions, beginning around the turn of the 20th century and continuing to the First World War.

From April to August 1898, the United States backed Cuban insurgents in an uprising against their Spanish colonizers, a conflict called the Spanish-American war. After a joint U.S.-Cuban victory, Spain agreed to cede a number of colonies to the U.S., including the Philippines. A number of Messenger articles contended with the conflict, with the majority discussing its value for the country.

One article, released in April 1898, focused on the war as just and as a demonstration to the world of the United States’ role.

“Above all, the United States must stand for right; the president has shown to the world that we stand for right and justice in the impending conflict,” the article read.

Another article, released in May of that year, emphasized the war as an ideologically unifying force.

“The war will cost much in money and perhaps in blood, yet it will not be without good results even beyond the freeing of Cuba … it has demonstrated that the great rupture between the North and South is completely healed so that now the Gray as well as the Blue are ready to defend and, if necessary, die for ‘Old Glory;’ and finally it will … add fresh lustre to the name of our young republic, the champion of the oppressed, the destroyer of tyranny,” the article read.

Other articles focused on the impact the war had on American citizens.

“It was not a long war, nor was it a close struggle, but it gave birth to heroes, and opportunity for achievements to which Americans both now and in the future may point with pride and admiration,” read another article from October of that year.

Another controversial element of the war was the U.S. acquisition of colonies from Spain and whether those acquisitions were just. Few, if any, St. Olaf students were in vocal opposition, evidenced by an editorial by Lawrence Grimsrund in December of that year.

“America cannot consistently with her own interests let go the foothold she has secured in consequence of the late war,” Grimsrund wrote.

The general attitude of St. Olaf students appeared to favor this war as a reflection of American ideals and as a positive good for the country domestically and internationally.

Following the turn of the century, student discussion of war shifted to greater focus on the role of patriotism and the reasons for involving the nation in conflicts.

“In 1898 an army was marshaled, not to swell an eastern despot’s pride, not to devastate the country and make the sky glow with burning towns, nor to leave whole cities of dead; but to march to distant climes against oppression and tyranny, to give the privileges and liberties which they themselves enjoyed to a people driven forth to battle,” C.C.A. Johnson ’06 wrote in November 1905.

In the edition of the Viking Yearbook for the classes 1913, 1914 and 1915, a multiple page spread is dedicated to the celebration of St. Olaf alumnus Captain Alfred Bjornstad. He is described as “one of the many ex-students of St. Olaf who have ‘made good’” because of his military service in the Philippines. The dedication continues with a strong endorsement of Bjornstad’s ability.

“We are ardent believers in Carnegie’s peace movement, but if there is to be war we shall find Captain Bjornstad ever ready with his daring and skillful head to fight for the right,”  wrote C.A. Mellby.

In 1914, the First World War officially began. The conflict had little initial impact on the published works of St. Olaf, and very few considered the United States as having a role. The Viking Yearbook for the 1916, 1917 and 1918 classes did not make much mention of the war, save for a testimonial from Mabel Jacobs ’13, an alumni speaking about her experience as a student in Germany. Written in April 1915, the piece displays pro-German sentiment and downplays any impact of the war.

“The student in Germany this year does not need to become stagnant, nor a nervous wreck, if he has any strength of mind,” Jacobs said. “Brooding over the war, or trying to solve political problems much beyond his horizon is neither profitable, nor elevating, and altogether unnecessary so long as he has work, operas, concerts, and plays to keep him busy,” Although German sentiment is strongly opposed to the selling of arms and ammunition to the belligerents by the United States, still the Germans do not force us into defending her stand.”

However, some students on campus condemned the war, such as Herman Bakken ’15, in an article titled “the Economic Detriment of War.”

“The present day sees Europe as a vast amphitheater of waste and devastation. The combined pent-up militant energies of no less than eleven nations have been released to wage a war unparalleled in history,” Bakken wrote. “Thousands of cheerful and happy homes have been draped with sorrow and discontent where mothers and children are eking out a most miserable existence.”

Anti-war sentiments grew in 1916, when Joseph Lee ’16 wrote an article condemning nationalist patriotism as a force sustaining the war, singling out Germany.

“The evil of this autocratic power is well illustrated by the patriotic devotion to the German State,” Lee wrote. “Here we find a patriotism asserting itself in duplication of Napoleonic conquests; a patriotism enlivened and vitalized by a desire for national aggrandizement, both in terms of territory and industry.”

He also expressed hope at a close end to the conflict, emphasizing different nations plans.

“Evidences of a coming victory of peace is shown by the growing and effective sentiment that is being expressed in peace organizations thruout (sic) the world. England has organized a union of democratic control for the settlement of peace; Germany, a union to oppose land-grabbing; Switzerland is effectively modifying public opinion thru her International Peace Organ, and Norway is making valuable contribution to the cause of peace by her Nobel Foundation Fund.”

Despite hopes for a swift end to the conflict, the U.S. entered the war on April 6, 1917, marking a severe tonal shift in St. Olaf publications. Articles, such as “The College Student and the War,” published on April 10, 1917 were not given a named author and focused on individual duty to participate in the war effort.

“Our nation has reached a serious crisis. As college students we will be vitally affected by our country’s recent action in regard to entering the European conflict,” the article read. “The only test of whether patriotism is genuine or not is its willingness to make sacrifices … We believe that when the Nation needs them the college men of America will be ready to defend the Flag and the heritage of Democracy which it stands for.”

After over a year of U.S. involvement, the war ended on November 11, 1918. In commemoration, the Viking Yearbook for the classes of 1919, 1920 and 1921 focused greatly on the war. Uniquely titled “Victory Viking,” the yearbook incorporated an eagle symbol on the cover.

Among the first dedications is to alumnus and then-General Bjornstad and the “650 students and ex-students of St. Olaf who took part in the World War.” Bjornstad and the others were described as having “made good” through their participation in the war.

The book also includes a history of the class of 1921, written by “Chris” ’21 and “Maia” ’21, which describes the effect the war on those conscripted and those not.

“With the call to colors many of the boys of ‘21 were numbered in the ranks. Those who remained at school substituted military drill in their former recreation periods. But while our class thus decreased in numbers our loyalty and pride for country and class increased. We returned to our Sophomore year under new and strange conditions to which all readily adapted themselves,” they wrote. “After the armistice was signed, and the beginning of the year 1919, the entire college was put back upon a normal basis. Besides our class members in the S.A.T.C. many returned who had seen active service.”

The yearbook also included a dedication titled “Fighting for Old Glory,” which expressed the College’s support for those who fought.

“St. Olaf College will cherish always the deeds and sacrifices of the men who went out to fight for God and Country. It was our proud privilege to contribute over six hundred college men to the forces of the nation in the hour of her peril.” wrote A.O.L. ’20.

Another part of the yearbook focuses on the role of women during the war, documenting first aid classes and a checklist of activities women students could pledge themselves to. Elements of the pledge included volunteering for the Red Cross, “reducing lunches to an absolute minimum” and maintaining “the highest standards of womanhood, physical, intellectual, social and spiritual.”

Following the war, the yearbook suggests  classes and other scholastic activities were resumed as before. However. some questioned the lasting impression the war may have on people, including an article in the Messenger asking “Will the Lessons of War Be Made Permanent?” focusing on rationing.

“Will Americans return after the war to their pre-war extravagance? Or will they learn to abide by the lessons of war? Extravagance, not needed during the trying times of today, cannot be necessary during peace,” the article reads. “When normal times are again resumed by a democratic world, will it be too much to expect that banquets and receptions will retain the simplicity acquired during this war?”

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Students stand in silence

Students Advocating Reproductive Rights (SRR) held a silent protest at a fundraising event for the Northfield Women’s Center in a St. Olaf ballroom on Thursday, Oct. 26. At 6:15 p.m. students lined the hallway leading to the ballrooms, holding pro-choice signs and literature.

The Northfield Women’s Center is considered a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC), one of more than 4,000 that exist in the United States. The goals and ethics of CPCs are widely disputed among those who identify as either pro-choice or pro-life. CPCs generally function as federally funded centers which provide reproductive wellness resources to women facing an unwanted pregnancy. The Center offers several free services, including pregnancy confirmation, one-on-one mentoring and post-abortion support. One such service offered by the Center is the “Surrendering the Secret” program, an eight week group session that, according to the Center’s website, is designed to promote healing after having an abortion.

“Our medical services are overseen by a MD and our staff includes a registered nurse and a registered sonographer,” Center director, Liz Blanchard said. “We serve to meet the needs of each individual woman or family to the best of our ability by providing resources that help them continue to pursue education, careers and financial independence.”

However, CPCs around the country have long been regarded with skepticism by many women’s advocacy, feminist and pro-choice organizations. Many of these clinics lack licensure and employ no licensed medical professionals. Furthermore, CPCs are frequently understood as pro-life organizations that discourage women from having abortions by providing misleading counseling and literature under the guise of medical reproductive wellness information.

These concerns were among Sophie Wang ’19’s motivations for protesting the Center’s fundraising event on campus.  Wang is an executive member of SRR.

“[At] a clinic like Planned Parenthood or a regular OB-GYN’s office, they provide reproductive health services – STD testing, checkups, pap smears and abortions. These [centers] are not federally funded, and they are staffed by doctors and nurses,” Wang said. “Crisis pregnancy centers are religiously, politically-based centers. They do not hire health care professionals, they are federally funded and really emphasize abstinence-only education. They don’t give you all the options when you’re pregnant, they give you one option: have your baby. If you don’t want a baby they really push adoption.”

In regards to the religious affiliation of the Center, Blanchard said, “We have served clients of many faith affiliations including Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Native American, WICCA and Atheist and are respectful of each person’s belief. Our Christian foundation guides our actions in meeting needs and serving in love.”

The Center has hosted their annual donor event at St. Olaf for seven years. Members of SRR, as well as other students, voiced their opposition to the mission of CPCs, as well as the Center’s presence both on campus and in Northfield. SRR’s Carleton counterparts have also protested the Center in light of the fact that for several years it has leased its facility from Carleton.

Blanchard commented that the Center has not renewed its lease with the Carleton for the next year. This was done in anticipation of expanding “the resources and services available to pregnant and single women in our community.”

“We based the protest off of anti-abortion protests outside of clinics. We lined the halls outside of their banquet holding pro-choice signs, and we had literature to hand out too,” Wang said. “The goal was to make them uncomfortable, the goal was to have a presence and to [communicate] that at least the student population is not okay with them, even if [St. Olaf] lets them fundraise here.”

Protesters stood in silence as guests of the Center walked into Buntrock Commons and through the hallway leading to the Black and Gold Ballrooms.

“We were aware of the planned protest and advised St Olaf events coordinators so that any necessary preparation could be done on their part. The protest had no impact on our guests or event,” Blanchard said.

Protesters offered pro-choice literature to the guests, and guests and protesters interacted as they proceeded into the event space.

“It was an interesting experience,” Wang said. “I was holding flyers and one woman asked me for some of my literature. They were pretty condescending. One man walking through said to his friend, ‘Oh this is their right, just ignore them.’ At some point, someone brought out their baby, and was walking down the hall very slowly and showing people their baby. I don’t know if this was the same person or someone else, but someone was asking some of the [protestors], ‘Aren’t you glad that your mothers were pro-life and didn’t have abortions?’ and were just trying to goad protestors and start fights.”

Aside from several interactions, Wang felt that the protest was successful as it went very smoothly.

When asked about the possibility of the event taking place on campus next year, Wang said,

“It’s hard to say, I don’t know, If it [is held on campus again], we’ll do the same thing.”

This article has been updated to include comments from the Northfield Women’s Center.

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ADC and SGA will not censor music at events

After weeks of deliberation amongst the Student Government Association (SGA) executive team, student leaders decided that music at Pause dances and during other SGA-sponsored events would not be subject to censorship.

“We brought it up in an SGA exec meeting – we brought it up at three meetings, it was a super long discussion,” Music Entertainment Committee (MEC) Coordinator Kjersa Anderson ’18 said. “After a really close vote, we decided to not censor Pause dances.” 

Earlier in the semester, MEC and the SGA executive team considered a policy to censor the N-word in DJ sets during Pause dances. According to Anderson, SGA had been approached by a student of color who said that they were uncomfortable with the idea of white students singing the N-word at Pause dances. The comment sparked a conversation about Pause dance safety and possible language censorship was just one idea. 

SGA executives knew that a music censorship policy would need to be enforced across the board, but that posed potential issues for other branches of SGA.

“We can’t be hypocrites and censor one thing and not another, but that would include fall and spring concerts, and that just wouldn’t really work out,” Anderson said. 

After Dark Committee Coordinator Sam Brunclik ’19 agreed. 

“We were thinking that … as SGA, if we decided to censor music at Pause dances, we should hold ourselves to the same standards that we hold DJs to,” he said.

The conversation about how to ensure students are comfortable at Pause dances is ongoing.

“We’re definitely trying to think of ways we can address those concerns without sweeping them under the rug,” Brunclik said.

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Ole Biz event fosters connections

One of the many ways in which St. Olaf fosters connections between current students and alumni is through the Ole Suite Events, which include: Ole Arts, Ole Biz, Ole Cup, Ole Law and Policy, Ole Social Impact, Ole STEM, Ole Health and Making it in the Arts. 

On Wednesday, Oct. 25, dozens of students attended Ole Biz at the Minneapolis Club. The event was designed for conversations and connections with alumni in several business fields: advertising, PR, communications, business analysis and data analytics, consulting, entrepreneurship, finance and banking, human resources, management, manufacturing, logistics and operations, marketing and sales and technology. Associate Director of Career Development and Coaching in the Piper Center Bryan Shealer helped plan the event.

“Students are able [to] explore and learn about opportunities in business through meaningful conversations,” Shealer said. “We hope and encourage students to follow up with alumni so that relationships and opportunities can continue after the event.”

This year, the event was revamped to make it more fast paced and interactive. 

“While the purpose of Ole Biz hasn’t changed, the original model created one large networking space for students and alumni to connect,” Shealer said. “After analyzing feedback from students and alumni, we realized that students needed a more efficient way to find the people and conversations they needed.” 

In response to this feedback the Piper Center integrated a more innovative model that breaks down business into the aforementioned fields. Students were able to choose the areas of greatest interest to them, connect with those alumni directly and build deeper connections. Each student was able to specify two breakout sessions they’d want to be included in. Rather than searching a large room for the alumni in a student’s area of interest, they could see each of the alumni in specific fields in one location. 

In terms of future Ole Suite events, the Piper Center is hoping to implement similar changes, as well as the small-scale Showcase events occurring throughout the year.

“So far the feedback has been positive and is allowing students to find the people, information and connections in a more efficient format,” Shealer said. “At the end of the academic year we hope to aggregate student and alumni feedback so that we can assess the new format and determine what, if any, changes remain to be made.”

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