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ISSUE 116 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/11/2003

Presence of sexuality dialogue at St. Olaf debated

By Annie Rzepecki
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 11, 2003

The Sexuality, Spirituality and the Church Conference, held last weekend, raised many issues, not just about sexuality’s place in the church, but also about its place on the St. Olaf campus.

Although sexuality is talked about now more than ever before, some people feel that there is still room for improvement. “Of course it’s not talked about enough,” said George Holt, department chair of family and social services.

Coordinator of Wellness Programs Renée Sauter agreed. “It doesn’t seem to be talked about a lot [at St. Olaf],” she said. Holt added that not talking about sexuality is harmful because “repression of our sexuality is a repression of human communication. Sexuality is a major dimension of who we are as people,” he said.

However, Holt and Sauter agree that drastic improvements have been made over the years concerning sexuality at St. Olaf. Sauter, a ’95 graduate, recalled that Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever! (GLOW!) used to be called Olaf Lesbian Gay Alliance (OLGA). “GLOW! sounds much more approachable than OLGA,” Sauter said.

Holt has taught at St. Olaf for 30 years, and he mentioned that homosexual students, particularly in the 1980s, “felt this was a scary place to be in because they didn’t know what being out would feel like. They were out to themselves but were afraid to come out in public.”

Holt sees much room for improvement. “We don’t know how to date each other [these days],” he said. “There are no rules and too much stress, and rejection hurts.” Holt believes that the fact that there is little dating on campus is very repressing for students. “We have a group of people aged 18-22 at a stage in which they want to reach out and love one another and express themselves,” Holt said.

But at St. Olaf, “no one talks about interpersonal relationships. How do you hit on your best friend or someone you’ve known for over a year?” Holt feels that St. Olaf should have conflict management courses. Several years ago there was a gay and lesbian sexuality class, which had close to 75 enrollees per semester, but staff cuts in 1998 forced the college to drop the class from its curriculum.

When asked what St. Olaf can do to increase awareness about sexuality, Sauter said that the conference of last weekend was a start. She also mentioned that the Community Life and Diversity office has held two afternoon sessions in the past year about how to be an ally to GLBT people. Sauter noted that continuing and increasing the number of similar sessions will help the college to facilitate more dialogue about sexuality.

“Diversity is a large part of [the institution’s] focus, and we need to address the needs of the whole student body,” Sauter said.

Holt thought that hosting the conference spoke very well of St. Olaf. He is hopeful that other Lutheran colleges will follow suit. In fact, two Concordia students have already contacted some St. Olaf professors because they want to find out how they can increase sexuality awareness in their college. Holt also said a church’s position on the ordination of homosexuals says a lot about how the church feels about sexuality in general.

Aside from conferences, Holt stresses the importance of residence hall life in developing and expressing one’s sexuality. “I don’t think we acknowledge enough the learning that goes on in residence halls. I’d like to see faculty more involved and in the residence halls,” Holt said.

Holt argues that, “sex is the most important component to self-understanding.” He also strongly believes that God created humans as sexual beings, which is why Holt feels that “sexuality and spirituality highly compliment one another.”

According to Holt, the biggest problem concerning sexuality at St. Olaf is that “there is not enough sex and sexual expression.” However, he warned against the imbalance that occurs when sex outdistances trust and honesty and vice versa. Such an imbalance causes an “incoordination in the dynamics of human relationships.”

Sauter and Holt agreed that the most important thing about sexuality is that it must be talked about more on campus and in general.

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