The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

An OL responds to “Kagins: Worth it?”

I agree that Macalester is in need of an open dialogue surrounding Kagin culture. Despite my sentiments falling in line with the thread of The Mac Weekly’s recent article, “Kagins: Are They Worth It?”, I finished the article feeling jaded and itching to retort with caustic, unfounded remarks. Taking a few days to let my frustration settle has brought clarity to why I found the article irksome. I was an Orientation Leader. I continue to be a leader in the Macalester community. I am hurt by the deceptive connotations that the article placed on me and my beloved orientation community.

The juxtaposition of sexual assault statistics with the name of a group that voluntarily devotes time, energy and passion before the semester has even begun leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Regardless of whether it is appropriate to devalue the positive influence that the OLs have in the Macalester community, it is underhanded to reference an event that occurred in the 2013-14 academic year without mention of the effort that was put forward this year to facilitate a safe environment. I witnessed intentional conversations prior to the dance focused on controlling levels of intoxication in an effort to end the propagation of a dangerous hookup culture.

I did not attend the OL Kagin this year, nor last year for that matter. The reality is that the article generalized a group of 70+ individuals as drunken, red dot bystanders. A bystander has two options when they see a power-based act of personal violence: do something (green dot) or do nothing (red dot). Our pre-orientation training equipped us to be green dot bystanders and to facilitate open conversations about intervention. I emphasized transparency when discussing drinking culture with my clans. Orientation allowed me to be vulnerable with a group I trusted, exposing my awkward dance moves to crowds of first years.

To me, OL Kagin is meant to be an extension of the intentionality behind stepping bravely into a space where people are held accountable for their actions. This year was meant to redirect the historic trend of drunken orientee/OL interaction by having fun, dancing like no one is watching, and acting as a green dot bystander. I can only speak to my experience, and that is one of OLs leaning into discomfort for the safety of Macalester.

I drink on a semi-regular basis and I was offended by the article portraying me as someone that gets hammered to take advantage of my peers. To imply that OLs pursue the position in order to take advantage of first years is unjust. I take issue with pulling on readers’ heartstrings by alluding to an abusive OL-orientee relationship, simply because imagining a leader in this context evokes a visceral response.

There are numerous OLs that do not drink, there are numerous OLs that occasionally drink and there are numerous OLs that drink to get drunk. This does not pertain to the realm of leadership that I volunteered for; it pertains to a private sphere to which all students are entitled. I take responsibility for my entitlement so that I do not encroach on the safety and security of others. It is my hope that others will do the same, but this is not my impression after repeat exposure to Kagin dances. It took me only one time walking into Kagin sober to recognize the predatory and uncomfortable atmosphere. This is the message that the article attempts to get across: Kagins hold the potential to compromise student safety. Agreed. A Kagin is a Kagin. No matter who hosts, attendees enter the building with preconceived notions. At this time, that comes with an inherent risk to those that host and to those that attend. Are they worth it?

We must consider the impact of the words and ideas we spread, especially when the underlying message is meant to evoke an emotional response and lead to social change. It is our responsibility to hold ourselves accountable for those we shame, intentionally or not. As we address a larger campus-wide issue, it is important not to skew the perception of a benevolent group. Ostracizing the individuals that will be instrumental to enacting a cultural shift is ineffective. I would ask that the inconvenient truth that Macalester’s social scene is flawed does not settle on the shoulders of people that strive for the reversal of sexual assault statistics on college campuses. Instead, it is time that we all advocate for the safe and fair treatment of our peers. It is time for a change, not for undermining our compassionate classmates.

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