Kagin dances are ingrained in Macalester culture. On Kagin weekends, the question isn’t, “What are you doing this weekend?” but instead, “Are you going to Kagin?”
Kagin dances—notorious for their high levels of intoxication and frequent 911 calls—are themed events hosted by student organizations on a regular basis. These dances bring students together from all parts of campus, and comprise a significant portion of the hookup culture for first years at Macalester.
The statistics on sexual violence on college campus are well known yet are worth repeating. One study of undergraduate college women found 19 percent had “experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college.” Additionally, research has shown “75% of the men and 55% of the women in acquaintance rapes were drinking or taking drugs just before the attack.” These statistics point to a stark truth about sexual violence on college campuses: they frequently occur under the influence, and both parties know each other.
Personal experience suggests that Kagin dances provide first years with ample opportunity to make grave mistakes. I attended many Kagins my first year, and generally had a great time; however, I used to think drinking before Kagin was necessary because that was considered part of the culture. During my sophomore year, though, I began to understand that this space at Macalester is not a safe place for students. I specifically remember watching some of my drunken peers walking back to the dorms to have non-consensual sex, failing as a bystander to prevent the worst-case scenario.
My experience highlights a small part of Macalester, ignoring the College’s commendable efforts to prevent sexual violence. From the “Consent is Mac” campaign to This Matters @ Mac, Macalester’s sexual violence prevention programs are some of the most proactive in the country.
However, This Matters @ Mac is not first years’ only introduction to Macalester’s ongoing conversation about sexual violence. For example, Orientation Leader (OL) Kagin is a highly attended Kagin dance. During the 2013-2014 academic year, OL Kagin was promoted as a bonding experience between OLs and first years.
The event brought OLs and first years together for a night of drunken debauchery, beginning with a boozy off-campus pregame for OLs. These were the campus leaders entrusted to help first years navigate Macalester’s social scene, and they seized upon their first opportunity to socialize with first years by getting hammered.
Another annual Kagin is Campus Activities and Operations’ (CAO) “Last Chance Kagin Dance,” which is held during Senior Week for the graduating Macalester class. Last chance? Last chance for what? To attend a Kagin? To hook up with that classmate you have always been interested in?
To be fair, CAO has made modest changes to both of these Kagins. Senior Week Kagin is no longer referred to as “Last Chance Kagin,” and OL Kagin this semester saw minor improvements; however, changing the name does not change the culture. For example, at the Student Organization Leader Orientation (SOLO) this semester, several jokes were made about Kagin dances, all of which received laughter and applause. These jokes have become commonplace during large speeches on campus, demonstrating that Kagin culture is alive and well.
Last year, Macalester adopted policies addressing Kagin dances. According to The Mac Weekly, the school adopted these policies to “increase the levels of safety and security at dances, and ensure the protection of Kagin’s audio-visual equipment”. The school’s audio equipment is now well protected at Kagins, but its students still are not. While these students are arguably protected during the dance itself, all bets are off when the lights turn on at 1:30 a.m.; extremely intoxicated students pour out of Kagin into unsupervised and unsafe spaces.
As the United States undergoes a national conversation on ending sexual violence on college campuses, Macalester must continue to be proactive in preventing sexual violence. Kagin dances are one of the only school-sponsored events that facilitate sexual violence on Macalester’s campus. Let’s have a serious discussion about whether Kagins are worth it.