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ISSUE 120 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 4/27/2007

Disagreement animates

By Andrea Horbinski
Staff Writer

Friday, April 27, 2007

The impending event of graduation (presuming that, in my journalistic fervor to write articles, I don't completely neglect all my classwork and thus fail) has left me wondering about a lot of things, specifically about St. Olaf. In my four years here at the school I've been party and privy to a lot of disputes, not only about what St. Olaf is and should be, but also about who should be allowed to decide that.

I can't remember what got me thinking about this in the first place, but it seems clear that, however much we might like to pretend otherwise, all of us are simply passing through the College rather than staying here permanently. President Anderson '74 may have virtually married the College during his inauguration ceremony, but as the careers of our last few presidents have illustrated, even the presidency can be a shotgun wedding.

We students like to think that it's all about us, and while I would still argue that it should be all about us, we can't escape the fact that we as students are selected by administrators, and one day soon (very soon in the Class of 2007's case) we will magically transform into alumni, that cantankerous, deep-pocketed (or not), deeply attached, far-flung group of people whose interests the school, especially people such as President Anderson and the Board of Regents. But the Board is made up of alumni to a large extent, and our current president is an alumnus as well.

These contradictory dynamics have the potential to produce a lot of friction, but I am of the firm opinion that friction is not something that should be avoided for its own sake. Each of these different constituencies is deeply invested in St. Olaf in myriad ways, and the fact that we see fit to disagree speaks to the value we place on our experience here, whether as students, faculty, administrators or staff members. In the clash of our opinions, hopefully the best ideas will win out.

In any case, it's become clear to me in my time on the Hill that though we may argue ourselves blue in the face about the alcohol policy or the content of the Manitou Messenger, it really is true that our shared experience as Oles trumps our differences of opinion.

People are wont to mention in the same breath the cliché about our campus community and that, despite being a cliché, it really is true. I haven't experienced anything to contradict that yet. It would be a lie to say that I spent every minute of my career here as happy as a clam; in fact, I was often desperate to transfer in my first year. But I stayed, in large part due to the community and its members. I'm glad I did.

All this was brought home to me with force last week in the aftermath of the shootings at Virginia Tech.

It would be wrong to assert that something like that could never happen here, because anything is possible, but I would venture to say that, thankfully, such an event taking place at St. Olaf is not probable. But even as I say that I can't help but think how it sounds like a classic statement of hubris. If we wish to ensure that we never have to experience the pain that Virginia Tech is enduring, now and in the future, we must each do our part, on the Hill and off, to make sure that our community is not endangered.

While this means that we must respect each other and follow all the other lessons we learned in kindergarten, it is equally important to acknowledge, right off the bat, that it is impossible for us to agree completely about anything. This is not something to be deplored, and we should never let our disagreements lead us to think that anyone is less of an Ole than we are. Finally, I have come to believe that we have something to be proud of in our college (or is that city?) on the Hill. We should not hesitate to express that pride. Instead of demeaning President Anderson in his eternal quest for capital funds or sneering at the senior campaign representatives, we should acknowledge that the College is justified in asking for money because we deserve it. St. Olaf is a good school, if not a great one, but any institution can always be better, and it is for this that we should work.

Opinions Editor Andrea Horbinski is a senior from Marlton, N.J. She majors in classics and in Asian studies with a concentration in Japan studies.

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