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ISSUE 119 VOL 20 PUBLISHED 5/12/2006

Myth of 'bubble' bursts

By Lauren Ciechanowski
Contributing Writer

Friday, May 12, 2006

In my nearly three years on campus, I have heard people mention time and again this mythical bubble that seems to surround our campus – you know, the one that keeps us from finding out information about anything that exists beyond Norway Valley. The great catch-all of the “bubble” has now become a great excuse to avoid personal accountability at St. Olaf.

But you are in a bubble; we aren’t. I hear four primary evidentiary arguments for the existence of this bubble, and I would like to provide a counterargument for each.

Many students complain about a lack of cultural opportunities on campus. To these students, I draw your attention to Viva La Raza and Asia Weeks. Attendance for these and similar student-organized cultural opportunities is notoriously low, and it is certainly not due to poor advertising. Santa Claus doesn’t visit campus every year and dictate what events we will be exposed to: St. Olaf students (that’s you) actually decide what speakers come, what organizations exist and what said organizations do. Just because you do not go to a cultural event on campus does not mean it didn’t happen.

There are more abroad opportunities than Caf options on campus, and more abroad opportunities here than at most small liberal arts colleges. Many of you take advantage of these, and many of you actually bring back a few of your very own cultural influences. Hookahs don’t grow in Chanhassen, you know.

For those who blame St. Olaf for your ignorance about current events, I ask you this: Is St. Paul any closer to Iraq? Are free newspapers, the Messenger, The Carletonian, computers every 10 feet and a library with 1,000,000 volumes and Interlibrary Loan not enough to satiate your need for up-to-date news? Did you even know we get The Carletonian?

Some say St. Olaf is geographically isolated. I will concede this point to you, but only with a caveat: If it is so hard to get into downtown Northfield, then why is it that every time there is a “cultural event” at the Grand or the Legion, I see a mass exodus from campus? Do you know that Dawn’s is actually past Northfield, in Dundas? To you I say, thank goodness we have a dry campus – otherwise you might never leave!

Yes, Northfield is a rural community. Yes, it doesn’t have as many Thai food restaurants as your beloved hometown does. But guess what? There is rural culture too! How many of you have made an effort to participate in a part of rural culture since you have been at St. Olaf? STOGROW, the Northfield Community Action Center, Reaching Our Goals, and numerous mentoring and tutoring programs, provide opportunities for St. Olaf students to participate in activities and projects that are unique to Northfield’s diverse (what did I say?) culture.

Involvement is an “action word.” That means you have to do something. Our campus infrastructure cannot make you less aware than St. Paul’s infrastructure can. Do you really believe that all Macalester students attend every cultural event on campus and somehow know more about Darfur than we do? What about an urban setting (or rural setting) facilitates one’s ability to read a newspaper or go to a cultural event? Ignorance is not unique to St. Olaf.

I do not want to admonish anybody who doesn’t read a newspaper or ever leave campus; that’s a choice that you’re entitled to make. Certainly, I am not arguing that students should not go to bars or parties. What I am arguing is that if you do not make an effort to inform yourself – culturally and practically – about the world around you, information will not fall into your lap. Don’t blame the bubble; blame yourself.

We cannot simultaneously argue that we are responsible adults and that we are unable to inform ourselves of goings on in the “real world.” Our parents were not born with a Star Tribune in hand. Being informed and involved is a conscious process that requires habit forming as well as a willingness to step outside of “your” world. Part of being at college is transitioning from an environment in which your parents always had the news on into one in which you find out about the world outside of your bubble.

Contributing Writer Lauren Ciechanowski is a junior from Oak Park, Ill. She majors in political science and in sociology/anthropology.

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