As a result of discussions from the previous academic year, new guidelines have been instituted to address the numerous and often-discussed issue of Kagin culture, as well as safety issues in general.
In compliance with changes in guidelines instituted last year, this year’s current guidelines require the hosting organizations to have designated sober club members serve as hosts for the entire duration of the event. Carding is also a new change this year, requiring students to produce a student ID at the door to the dance. Those who do not have proper identification will be denied entry.
James Lindgren ’15, the current chair of the Student Organization Committee, stated that besides the rules above, “there are currently no specific plans for changes by MCSG” for Kagin dances.
Lindgren went on to state that the Orientation Leaders’ (OL) Kagin experimented with some setting changes, forgoing the typical curtain that rings the dance space, as well as leaving the light on during the dance. These changes were made at the OL Kagin coordinators’ discretion. All hosting orgs are allowed to request for and modify certain aspects of the dance as they see fit, in accordance with the form they submit when applying to host the dance.
The entirety of the Kagin dance guidelines and rules can be accessed under the Programming tab on the Student Org Leadership website.
Despite no immediate plans being in place to make changes, concerns are still present on campus.
“[There are] two main issues with Kagin,” said MCSG President Rothin Datta ’16. “The culture is definitely one of them, the second is how we — MCSG —share responsibility for what goes on at each Kagin with orgs.” He added that although the above rules are officially in place, they are not enforced as well as they should be.
“I hope to change that this year,” he said. “Everyone jokes about what a crazy atmosphere [Kagin has] and how drunk people tend to be. I have heard from first years this year already that they feel pressured to be drunk at Kagin in order to have a good time.”
“Kagin culture frequently encourages drinking to excess, non-consensual hook ups, and disrespect of people and property,” said Rosa Colman ’16, who helped to coordinate the OL Kagin. “Additionally, encouragement of this behavior is often passed down to new students from upperclassmen, which then perpetuates these issues every year.”
Datta hopes to encourage a community-based effort, letting students take responsibility for their words about and attitudes towards Kagin.
“A joke about Kagin being sloppy is a joke about every alcohol/drug related transport that occurs after and every non-consensual sexual act that occurs at Kagin,” Datta said. “[That] really takes the humor away.”
Dean of Students Jim Hoppe echoed Datta.
“I think we’re at a place where I hear students frequently talk about the need to live to a higher standard, [but] actions don’t always fall in line with that rhetoric,” he said. “ I think that it would be great if the student body could take steps to hold themselves more accountable, to change their culture in more positive ways.”
The awareness currently surrounding the negative culture of Kagin dances is, according to Hoppe, related to broader campus campaigns.
“In some respects it’s part of the work we’re trying to do as we think about the work to change the culture around sexual violence in general, increase the meaning of what it means to be a bystander, the power of individual intervention,” Lindgren said.
Lindgren echoed Datta’s and Hoppe’s sentiments on collectively and actively combatting the negative effects of Kagin culture, as opposed to singling out perpetrators.
“In community building, it’s important we all take a sense of responsibility and be active in creating community and culture,” he said. “We don’t need to walk around and police. [That’s] not our responsibility… but it is our responsibility to protect our community.”
There are mixed sentiments regarding previous and possible changes to Kagins among the student body.
“I don’t think that the ID requirements or curtain removal will change anything,” Cameron Kesinger ’15 said. “Most sexual assaults occur in bedrooms and private spaces and are between two Macalester students … We support and promulgate rape culture in some ways, and we need to own that and work to change it. We are the problem.”
“There has to be a balance between fun and safety,” said Zane Vorhes-Gripp ’17. “[But] I think this is a step in the right direction.”
Elena Lindstrom ’17 noted that some measures “might just discourage people from attending Kagins at all… [encouraging] them to enjoy themselves in less safe spaces.”
She said that ultimately, “It’ll be about determining the best combination of these solutions, hopefully with a lot of student input and transparency from MCSG and the college’s administration.”
“Students have to take it upon themselves to help change the culture, and that starts with personal responsibility,” Colman said. “We can’t preach ‘Consent is Mac’ and ‘Stop at Buzzed’ and all these other slogans if we don’t actually apply them to all aspects of campus life.”
“The great thing about being at a four year liberal arts college is that it only takes four year to completely change surrounding something,” Datta said. “I hope to hold some student forums and discussions and I hope that students will take the opportunity to really understand what Kagin is and what it should be.”