A POLITICA SEAS A POLITICA SEAS September 2004 19 AT ST.OLAF, THE DEBATE ABOUT ISSUES AND CANDIDATES HAS LONG SINCE BEGUN. CLASSROOMS MAY BE EDGY THIS FALL AS FACULTY MEMBERS STRIVE TO HONOR ALL VIEWS. BY MARC HEQUET ILLUSTRATIONSBY NILS OISETH 901 PHOTOSBY TOM ROSTER AL ON S T.
OLAF HAS ALWAYS BEEN A READY setting for political discourse, where conversation turns quickly to candidates and issues.This election year is the same.Only more so. A close presidential election looms, and parties are vying for the youth vote.Terrorism and jobs are imminent issues for young people.Their favorite entertainers have taken sides.Student activists who remember the election of2000 know that every friend they can talk into voting may be the one who puts their candidate over the top. It will be a very political autumn at St.Olaf 4 andthose who think politics matter relish the occasion.
AL ON L ast January, 15 St. Olaf political sci- ence students spent three weeks in New Hampshire as volunteers for the presidential campaigns of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, for- mer Vermont Governor Howard Dean, retired General Wesley Clark and North Carolina Senator John Edwards. The internships were part of an Interim course, cThe New Hampshire Primary and American Presidential Politics.
d cMost of my students had little cam- paign experience, d says Dan Hofrenning, an associate professor of political science. cThe biggest immediate impact was the chance to meet candidates face to face. New Hampshire offered students a chance to look the candidates in the eye and to ... more.
size them up in ways that televi- sion exposure can 9t offer.
d In a larger sense, though, New Hampshire was a chance to engage more deeply in American public life. cThese are very idealistic students asking big questions about health care, tax policy and the war in Iraq. They see presidential campaigns as a way to get involved, d says Hofrenning, who teaches classes in pub- lic policy and American politics, and plans to run the New Hampshire Interim again in 2008.
He likes his students to be engaged, whatever their party predilection. cIndifference, d says Hofrenning, cbothers me more than bias. d Leading students out of indifference and beyond bias to a point of view that takes in multiple perspectives is part of the classroom mission at St.
Olaf. Moreover, asking provocative questions is a time-honored teaching practice. That means classrooms may be edgy places this autumn.
The political layering is particularly intricate just now at St. Olaf. The college prides itself on open debate, but last February, during the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, nearly two-dozen conservative students claimed their views were squelched in classes where liberal faculty and students, they said, held sway.
The allegation drew strong reactions from faculty, administration and stu- dents, and prompted a vigorous campus- wide self-examination. Professors call their classroom practices balanced, but some say they now face renewed scruti- ny. Conservative students themselves acknowledge their own responsibility to speak up and say what they think.
Many argue that political rough-and- tumble belongs in the classroom. cIt 9s the job of a college professor to ask provoking questions, d says Hofrenning, though teachers shouldn 9t try to trans- form students cin their own political image, d he adds. Nathan Mueller 907 calls political dis- cussion in class ca huge part of people 9s intellectual development.
d One course that Mueller took last year covered the medieval poem cSong of Roland, d which vilifies Muslims. Class discussion of the poem quickly turned to whether such anti-Muslim language persists today. Some students squirmed through that part of the dialogue, says Mueller, cbut I think it was a really valid point to bring out and to think about.
d Such discussions are difficult balanc- ing acts. Director of American Studies and Professor of History Jim Farrell takes conservative or liberal sides in class depending on the circumstance. cI don 9t want people to get shut down in the classroom, d Farrell says.
cI 9ll side with people in the minority. But they won 9t know that in advance. d The point is to challenge all learners.
cMy job, d says Farrell, cis to make them think twice. What they do after they think twice is up to them. d Students have already done a lot of thinking.
They know Iraq matters and that a healthy economy means jobs when they graduate. They have strong feelings about civil rights, women 9s rights, gay rights, abortion and the environment. In short, 2004 isn 9t going to be one of those ho-hum elections.
cThe conse- quences of being indifferent are probably more apparent this year than any other year, d says Hofrenning. cFor citizens of all perspectives, there 9s a feeling that some- thing 9s at stake. d INTERESTING TIMES A t St.
Olaf, the political temperature spiked in March 2003 when the pending Iraq war triggered both protest against and support for the war. Heated discourse has continued in hall- ways and Stav Hall. In the process, stu- dents have made new friends in spite of political differences.
The stickers on the water bottles told the story for two members of the editori- al board at the Manitou Messenger , St. Olaf 9s student newspaper. Julie Gunderson 9s vessel bore the Bush- Cheney decal, Meg Anderson 9s the human rights emblem.
cWe were careful not to drink out of each other 9s water bottles, d quips Gunderson 905. Adds Anderson 904: cSometimes we had to just kind of agree to disagree. Sometimes that came after pretty heated discussion.
We both feel passionate about politics. d Their exchanges were fruitful in edi- torial board discussions, forcing the dis- cussion away from extremes and toward cviable solutions, d says Anderson, now working as a teacher in Chicago. Gundersonwishes more political polar opposites would discuss issues 20St.
Olaf Magazine cSt. Olaf is a very politically active place, perhaps the most political campus in the state. d 4 DAN HOFRENNING, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE [CONTINUED ON PAGE 54] THE ODD COUPLE N athan Mueller 907 first learned about his roommate 9s politics when the National Rifle Association (NRA) mailing arrived.
Philip Rossing 907 cdidn 9t want to renew his membership until they sent him all the free stuff, d Mueller says. Before long, the autographed photo of former NRA President Charlton Heston went up in the hall outside the room. cI didn 9t really want to be associated with that, d says Mueller, cso I put up a Howard Dean poster on the other side, and it kind of grew from that.
d A political odd couple, Mueller and Rossing became known campus-wide for the spectrum-spanning political hoopla outside the door of their room in Ellingson Hall: Mueller 9s Democratic declarations on the left, Rossing 9s Republican rejoinders on the right. Rossing says that a daily dose of liber- alism has made him more conservative 4 but now he has to think harder about his conservative positions. cHaving a liberal roommate has forced me to have a more open mind than I think I had back home in South Dakota, when I was in a conser- vative family surrounded by conservative friends, d Rossing says.
cI see things from both sides, which often makes my own beliefs more solid. Being confronted causes me to strengthen my arguments and also think harder about my position. d The luck of the draw placed Mueller and Rossing together as first-year room- mates.
Remarkably, it worked. The mix of hallway propaganda changed during the school year as Dean, the former Vermont governor, dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Mueller and Rossing, however, remained staunchly polar opposites 4 and friends.
cWe disagree on political issues, d says Mueller, cbut personality-wise we get along great. d And they have changed one another 9s minds. Rossing, a nursing major from Sioux Falls, S.D., has budged Mueller on affirmative action: Mueller now is open to the merits of a color-blind society.
And thanks to Mueller, a biology and environ- mental studies double major, Rossing now acknowledges that global warming may be happening 4 though Rossing still won 9t back the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to limit green- house-gas emission. So the debate goes on, as does the unlikely friendship. They 9ve learned to avoid sensitive issues.
cWe can talk about anything but the environment, gun con- trol and abortion, d Rossing says. They do agree on one hot-button issue: the death penalty. Both are against it.
Was that a surprise? cA little bit, d Mueller concedes, cbut his basis for that is religious. Same with mine.
d They 9re rooming together again this year, by choice. 4 Marc Hequet Nathan Mueller '07 (left) and Philip Rossing '07 became known campus- wide for the political hoopla outside the door of their room in Ellingson Hall. September 2004 21 22St.
Olaf Magazine directly the way she and Anderson did last year. cThere needs to be more humil- ity on both sides, d Gunderson says. cWe tend to cluster together and start affirm- ing each other.
I think if everyone can just draw to the middle, it 9s all defused and we can talk honestly. d The same passion that drove those editorial-board discussions at the Mess may bring out more college voters in November. Young voter turnout rose almost 60 percent in New Hampshire 9s 2004 Democratic primary, and participa- tion in this year 9s Iowa caucuses quadru- pled among 18- to 24-year olds over 2000, says Circle, a nonpartisan group at the University of Maryland that tracks youth civic engagement.
Apathy won 9t be easy: Favorite enter- tainers have already been in young vot- ers 9 headsets with political messages. cRock Against Bush, d a CD anthology of performers, spent seven weeks on the Billboard charts earlier this year. Country singer Toby Keith, whose patri- otic songs have millions of fans, backs President George W.
Bush. But turnout isn 9t a given for young voters. Super Tuesday found youth par- ticipation in Democratic primaries down 10.5 percent from 2000, according to Circle.
So both major parties will be scrambling for young voters 9 attention. An Ole leads the Republican effort. Eric Hoplin 901, chair of the College Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C., this autumn will send 60 field representatives to campuses in battleground states, including St.
Olaf, to recruit volunteers and mobilize Republican votes. Hoplin learned his craft at St. Olaf.
He says his two most compelling political memories are from 2000: organizing College Republicans to hand out, collect and mail more than 600 absentee ballots from students; and going through the dorms to wake up volunteers at 4 a.m. just before the 2000 election to plaster the campus with Bush-Cheney yard signs. College Democrats, a little more laid back than the highly organized Republi- cans, will likewise find themselves hus- tling as they did four years ago.
Rachel Ricker 904, then a first-year student, was startled at the sudden volunteer turnout for a Democratic rally on the Buntrock Commons Plaza with U.S. senators Bill Bradley and Mark Dayton, Sheila Wellstone and candidate Al Gore 9s daughter Kristen as speakers. cSomehow in less than 24 hours we got about 60 volunteers, and they were just all over campus, d Ricker marvels.
cThat was kind of shocking. d Observers think students in both parties are just as poised for action this year, if not more so. The sense of urgency may date to November 2000.
Laura Wilkinson 904, who worked for the Kerry campaign in New Hampshire, thinks the election that came down to a few hundred votes in Florida sends a clear message. cYes, d says Wilkinson, cyour vote does matter. d For students who need convincing, peers have ready arguments.
Why vote? cYou have people making laws that dic- tate several things about how you run your life, d says Megan Blair 905, active with the College Republicans. Adds Philip Rossing 907, also a Republican activist: cIf you don 9t do your part in the political process, somebody else is going to pick up the slack and do it for you.
d Not all Oles are political, of course, and that can exasperate those who are. Kristin White 905, who served on the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Forum planning Eric Hoplin 901 (left)will send 60 Republican field representatives to campuses in battleground states this autumn. DAVID GONNERMAN 990 cSometimes we had to just agree to disagree.
Sometimes that came after pretty heated discussion. We both feel passionate about politics. d 4 MEG ANDERSON 904 [CONTINUED] September 2004 23 committee 4 she introduced former President Jimmy Carter as the event 9s keynote speaker 4 remembers a discus- sion about the impending Iraq conflict.
cLadies, d she asked her friends, cdon 9t you have some sort of view on this? d One responded: cYou know, Kristin, I 9m just so busy with school, I don 9t feel I can have an opinion on it at this time. d For White, the indifference was jarring.
cYou find that a lot, d she laments, cand it frustrates someone like me who is so supportive of campaigning and being involved. d DEMAND FOR LEADERS G lobal politics overtook this genera- tion one sunny Tuesday morning four years ago when members of the Class of 2005 were still getting used to being on their own at college. The Sept.
11, 2001, terrorist attacks cast international affairs into sharp relief on campus. cI was patriotic before 9/11 but probably more so afterward. I think it moved every- body, d says Brittany Larson 906, a College Republican.
College Democrat Niels Knutson 904 says 9/11 became ca part of the everyday conversation. d Ember Reichgott Junge 974, a former state lawmaker and now a lawyer and political analyst, thinks public demand for leaders who are effective against terrorism has reversed a years-long decline in government 9s image. Since 9/11, public service has regained some of its luster, she says, and cpeople are understanding the true importance of government.
d That trend may be hard to gauge at St. Olaf, because Oles have always gone on to public service. The joke at Minnesota 9s state capitol, says former legislator Reichgott Junge, is that St.
Olaf has cway too much influence. d Republican Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum 973, Republican House Majority Leader Eric Paulsen 987 and longtime Democratic Senator John Marty 978 are among alums currently in office. Reichgott Junge was part of that potent lineup herself for 18 years.
The New Hope, Minn., attorney served in the Minnesota Legislature from 1983 to 2000, including a stint as senate assistant majority leader. Her St. Olaf political science classes and a 1974 internship with U.S.
Senator Walter Mondale led to Reichgott Junge 9s legislative work on domestic-violence issues. Mondale, then chair of the Senate 9s Select Committee on Children and Families, shaped her ideas on laws to address family violence. To rebuild government 9s reputation as a problem-solver, Reichgott Junge urges alums in public service to return to St.
Olaf as mentors and role models. cNothing replaces the one-on-one or one-on-20 communication, d she says. cPeople get fired up when they hear about why it 9s important to serve in government.
d Such an encounter, though not with an elected official, was a key for Minnesota State Senator Satveer Chaudhary 991. His big political moment at St. Olaf was an afternoon with Dith Pran, the journalist and interpreter who survived four years of imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge as the tyrant Pol Pot 9s minions mur- dered 2 million Cambodians.
From Pran 4 subject of the 1984 film The Killing Fields 4 Chaudhary says he clearned more about Vietnam and Southeast Asia than in any class. d Chaudhary, a Democrat and majority whip in the Minne-sota Senate, is of Asian Indian descent, the first of that background elected to the Minnesota Legislature. Being ethnic at St.
Olaf cencouraged an activism to push for more diversity, d Chaudhary says. That helped set a course for him in politics. St.
Olaf offers freedom to make one 9s own political mark. cIt was a blank can- vas, d Chaudhary recalls. cA person who wanted to make a difference had the opportunity to take the initiative and register 2,000 students to vote, like we did in the 1988 presidential election.
d As this suggests, St. Olaf students get a political education both in and out of Julie Gunderson 905 (left) and Meg Anderson 904 discovered their political differences while working together on the Manitou Messenger. cIf you don 9t do your part in the political process, somebody else is going to pick up the slack and do it for you.
d 4 PHILIP ROSSING 807 24St. Olaf Magazine the classroom. And this mix of diverse influences is inten- tional.
cThe college never plans to be partisan, but it always hopes to be political, d says Farrell. cIndeed, a college rooted in the gospel and committed to the liberal arts and a global perspective could hardly do otherwise. d According to St.
Olaf 9s Identity and Mission for the 21st Century , a book that Farrell co-authored, cgood citizens must understand the complexity of issues facing their political institutions, know how to formulate a constructive response and have the will to do something. d The college has held fast to the ideals of a classic liberal arts education, dedicated to goals of personal enrichment and social service, for nearly 130 years. Despite the occasional light-hearted comment that St.
Olaf doesn 9t measure up to the activist nature of Carleton College, across the river, cSt. Olaf is a very politically active place, per- haps the most political campus in the state, d says Hofrenning. cPaul Wellstone told me in his last visit to campus that he always liked to end his campaigns with a rally at St.
Olaf because they were so spirited. d Students here do grow polit- ically. The trajectory sometimes surprises them.
Julie Gunderson thought she would rebel against her con- servative parents during her college years. cWhen I came here I really wanted to become liberal, d she says. cAnd I 9ve gone the opposite direction, which is amazing to me and a little frightening.
d On the other hand, conservative Brittany Larson 906 has cbecome more liberal d on civil unions as a result of sociology studies and seeing The Laramie Project, a film 4 and a 2002 St. Olaf theater production 4 about the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man in Laramie, Wyo. cI 9m not going to say I 9m in favor of gay marriage, d says Larson, c but I 9ve been more inclined to support the argument for civil unions.
And I don 9t think I would have thought that way until coming to St. Olaf. d Brynne Howard 906, a county delegate for Democratic presidential contender Dennis Kucinich in her hometown of Waukee, Iowa, has shifted on abortion.
Before college she was cstrongly pro-life, d Howard says, but a women 9s studies class prompted rethinking. cIt made my black-and-white ideas much more murky, d Howard says. POLITICS [CONTINUED ON PAGE 54] cThe college never plans to be partisan, but it always hopes to be political .
Indeed, it could hardly do otherwise. d 4 JIM FARRELL, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY September 2004 25 FRIENDS FIRST A manda Allen 906 and Samantha Gruner 906 became friends before they discovered one another 9s politics. cInteraction beyond your own accustomed political boundaries is a key to greater under- standing, d says Gruner.
cIt 9s when you don 9t know who the person is sitting across from you that something actually happens. d Allen is from a conservative family in Red Wing, Minn. In April 2004, her father returned home after serving a year in Afghanistan as a colonel in the Army Reserve.
Coming from that background, her encounter with political liberals at St. Olaf was ca complete shock, d she says. cIt probably made me more conservative, just being on the other side.
d One of the liberals she met was Gruner. Allen and Gruner enjoy talking about the issues. cIt sometimes is difficult, d says Gruner.
cWe check each other on the way we are arguing, the sorts of arguments we 9re using, and make sure that neither of us is going too far. Amanda and I are at completely different ends of the spectrum, but we already have something 4 a friendship. d How has St.
Olaf changed Allen? cI can see the other side, d she says. cI can see where they're coming from.
d And Gruner? cSome issues have been sharp- ened for me, d says Gruner. cI have other ways of arguing now.
My positions are stronger. It 9s not just, 8Let people do what they want to do. 9 d Campus-wide, Gruner hopes for a cchange in the way we talk about issues, a change in the lan- guage we use.
I hear both sides, conservative and liberal, using words that are too divisive. Polarization keeps people from talking. d 4 Marc Hequet Samantha Gruner 906 (left) and Amanda Allen 906 are fast friends, despite being political opposites.
cIt 9s when you don 9t know who the person is sitting across from you that something actually happens. d 4 SAMANTHA GRUNER 905