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ISSUE 119 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/7/2005

Pet policy problematic

By Maura De Chant
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 7, 2005

Ah, St. Olaf: A college where skirts rather than sweats are the norm and everyone arrives at 8 a.m. classes perfectly coiffed. Life on the Hill could be described as pristine, even unsullied by the outside world. The perfectly-dressed students match the perfectly-manicured grounds, and nary a false note jars the sweet harmony that is St. Olaf.

But something disturbing is going on beneath the campus’' tranquil surface: A melodious voice has been forever silenced. This year the administration decided to ban animals from buildings. Why now? Have professors'’ pets suddenly become dangerous? Or is there something more insidious going on?

When I first heard that animals had been banned from buildings, I set out to find out why our beloved pets were no longer welcome on campus. Art Professor Matt Rohn pointed me in the direction of the squirrels, and, quite frankly, I think he'’s on to something.

Without dogs on campus, the squirrels have life a lot easier. They are free to roam wherever they please, at whatever pace they choose. Campus squirrels are slowly becoming more and more brazen, and I would not be surprised if it becomes common for Oles to have to sprint to class for fear of being pelted with acorns, or otherwise attacked by squirrels.

Although I admit I would probably enjoy seeing that girl with the perfect hair run blindly to class with a squirrel on her head, I am not looking forward to acorn-shaped bruises.

So is the new pet policy the first move in the squirrels’' eventual takeover of the Hill? Or are there other factors at play? The more I think about it, the more I can'’t help but shake the feeling that Olaf’'s own preoccupation with appearance may have played a role.

Oles are instantly recognizable around Northfield for their impeccable hygiene and clean-cut style. Given this attention to aesthetics, I could easily see the administration banning pets out of simple concern for appearances. Animals have basic needs (if you don'’t know what I’'m talking about see the children's book “"Everybody Poops"”) and those needs would add an unsightly aspect - -– not to mention aroma - -– to our beautifully groomed hill.

If professors were continually allowed to bring pets to campus, Olaf would become a veritable minefield of droppings, which, of course, are distinctly unfriendly to heels and to flip flops, the Ole footwear of choice.

In the end, what caused this policy shift? The increasing pressure of the squirrel lobby? The classic Olaf preoccupation with looks? Or is this just another case of lawyers and rulemakers gone amok?

Whatever the reason, I must disagree with it. Personally, I think Olaf could stand to have just a little more crap.

On a more heartfelt note, however, our own Philosophy Professor Charles Taliaferro also had something to say about the policy: “The advantages of having our animal companions on campus are immense. "For five years, my sheltie (Tiepolo) attended almost every class I have taught here at St. Olaf. He brought love and humor to each situation, and brightened the days of hundreds of students in Holland Hall who would come by the office to see him. He has also been in every administrative office, including the registrar's office, and has been entirely pacific and loving. If he is allowed back on campus, I would take full responsibility for him and guarantee at 100 percent that his presence would only bring smiles.”"

Honestly, are pets on campus really that big of a deal?

Staff writer Maura De Chant is a junior from West Bend, Wis. She majors in English and history.

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