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ISSUE 118 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/22/2005

Return "Time" to students

By Executive Editors
Executive Editor

Friday, April 22, 2005

In February 2002, the Messenger editors published an editorial debating the merit of the newly-established Community Time. After three years of discussion, task forces and general malaise relating to what President Christopher Thomforde has called “the saga of Community Time,” it is imperative that the issue once again be considered.

Community Time arose from the need to facilitate intercommunity discussion and provide a time when everyone could assemble. Adding an hour-long block after chapel time on Thursday would allow faculty to hold their monthly meetings at a time other than in the evenings – when conflicts are more likely to arise – and students a chance to attend mid-day events aimed at furthering campus discourse.

It was great in theory, but has Community Time actually provided such a forum? And if so, does it truly serve the whole community?

A faculty task force, assembled in summer 2003, polled 650 students and found that 75 percent “almost never” attended Community Time events. In addition, several students interviewed for a March 20, 2004 article in the Messenger were not even aware of Community Time’s purpose, let alone its subsequent activities.

Before turning over their report, the task force concluded that Community Time was only serving its intended purpose for faculty and “it serves those purposes only modestly.”

Aside from having some extra time to do homework, chat with friends or catch a nap, students either don’t take advantage of Community Time activities or are ill-informed about them. Community Time makes Thursdays almost unbearably long, pushing back co-curricular activities and causing some students undue distress because of the disruption in their normal class schedule.

Why, then, has Community Time been allowed to continue when it only marginally serves one group at St. Olaf and completely disrupts another?

We believe that increasing community conversation is a crucial element to a successful campus, and applaud the administration for striving to do so. However, Community Time is not the permanent answer it was once envisioned to be, and it continues to fail for a number of reasons.

For one, it is difficult to schedule worthwhile and engaging speakers over the Thursday lunch hour. Also, an hour is a rather short amount of time for such an activity and the inflexibility of the day’s schedule doesn’t provide students a large enough window to work on various projects, so they end up doing nothing instead, killing time until their next class.

There may never be a time when everyone on campus can get together to discuss issues. This is not cynicism, but simple fact. Instead of striving to cram the community together for an hour or so every Thursday, our energy would be better spent keeping multiple communication channels open, giving myriad ways to discuss and debate various subjects.

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