College officials evaluate Kagin dance policies

Despite what may have been heard around campus, Kagin dances are not going away. Rumors have spread around campus over the past month that MCSG is seeking to ban Kagins and other dances. Those rumors are false, and four Kagin dances remain on the calendar for the rest of the year. However, MCSG and college staff have begun enforcing new policies on the dances to ensure a safer environment at them.

MCSG not moving to ban Kagin dances

Kagin dances operated for many years without a significant degree of regulation or oversight. After conversations between MCSG and other groups, rules for dance events held in Kagin began a few years ago.

“The guidelines that oversee student orgs for Kagins were … passed in the fall of 2013. Slight amendments were made to them — the ID thing was added more recently based on feedback from students being concerned about older, non-Mac people being present, and reports that middle school kids were going to Kagins,” Student Organizations Committee Chair James Lindgren ’15 said.

The Kagin policy changes were created to improve the student experience and make sure that organization and safety remained a priority.

“The changes sprung out of a variety of concerns that we had about Kagins, from making sure that people are around from the hosting org, to who is DJ-ing, and making sure that those hosting for the first time have a resource and a set of rules to follow. We wanted to make the experience better for everyone overall,” Jolena Zabel ’16, a junior class representative, said.

MCSG drafted and approved the new guidelines, but success in enforcing the new Kagin codes was less than stellar.

“The regulations were not strictly enforced and were applied in a spotty way. The message didn’t make it to new org leaders, and as a result not much had changed,” Zabel explained.

“The rules were left on the shoulders of MCSG to enforce, [who] did not have the capacity to do so. Not until Joan Maze [Director of Campus Activities and Operations] got here this year did they start to be enforced in any real way,” Lindgren said.

CAO staff and MCSG began discussions with org leaders and administrators on how to improve Kagin dances and make sure dance hosts follow the guidelines.

“All orgs hosting Kagins this semester have been required to meet with Joan to go through the guidelines and establish what the expectations are. They’ve talked about what the building managers, security, and staff have license to do,” Zabel said.

Rumors Spreading

Macalester has an on-and-off history with dances and large social events like Winter Ball and Kagin dances. Functions such as Winter Ball existed decades ago, ceased for many years, and began again more recently. Kagin dances themselves have a more checkered history.

“Kagins used to be hosted almost entirely by cultural orgs, and included multifaceted elements like programming, food, and were more holistic overall. There were issues with large Kagin events like the Queer Union dance that resulted in damage and hospitalizations, and they were stopped for several years. Dances have always existed in someway or another, but the way that they exist now is relatively recent — in the last five to six years,” Lindgren said.

Rumors spread around Macalester last month about the future of Kagin dances, which caused confusion and worry among students. The main rumor was that MCSG is attempting to “ban” Kagins and other dance events beginning after 9:00 p.m.

“The reason there’s buzz on campus is because James and Konnor [Fleming ‘15, Student Organizations Committee (SOC) member] had talked about writing a bill on Kagin, because they saw it as a space that breeds sexual assault — we didn’t think about what a big deal it might be. Konnor mentioned it at the end of a SAC (Student Athletic Committee) meeting, and people on the SAC got upset because of the possible impact on Scot Ball, and word got around,” Rothin Datta ’16, MCSG President, said.

Enforcement of the new guidelines may have also caused worry about Kagin’s future, but they do not suggest that Kagin’s future is in doubt.

“I know the question that many students have is, ‘Are they banning Kagins? There’s a ‘war on Kagins,’ but that is not the case. I just want to make clear that’s not what’s happening right now — there is no one solution being presented or discussed. The first order of business is to apply the guidelines as originally intended, and give those a fair shot,” Zabel said.

Datta added, “I don’t think MCSG feels that Kagins need to go away, but we have a responsibility to hold ourselves as a community to a higher standard.”

Staff supervision, org participation

As part of the new policies on Kagin dances, Macalester students must produce a student ID to enter. They are only allowed one guest, who must also produce a valid form of identification.

Maze and her staff in the Campus Center have helped manage the rollout of these guidelines this semester. She and her staff have taken turns attending and monitoring Kagins throughout the year. Maze believes that application of the Kagin protocols has been successful so far.

“It’s been going really well — all of our staff have taken a Kagin, and we have four remaining this year. We wanted to have [staff] coverage for every Kagin this semester, so that is why we didn’t book any more,” Maze said.

The number of Kagins remaining this semester has been capped. This cap likely also lead to rumors around their elimination, but Maze made sure to confirm that this notion is false.

“We didn’t cancel any scheduled Kagins — there’s no need to go all ‘Footloose’ on anybody,” Maze said. “We’re not there to pick music or monitor how close people are dancing, just to make sure there’s coverage so no inappropriate behavior goes on.”

Each org hosting a Kagin must now fill out the dance guidelines and reservations form and meet with CAO staff. This meeting must take place at least two weeks before the dance to discuss their responsibilities and make sure everyone is on the same page. Organizations also need to make certain they have members ready to supervise their dance.

“Orgs need to provide four sober people at all times to help monitor throughout the event; these people also help close down the event at the end,” Maze said. “There is a minimum number of security officers for Kagin — three. If something does occur, we know that we have a plan to keep everyone safe.”

Policies affecting student participants are also included in the guidelines. Visibly intoxicated students are not allowed to enter the venue, only DJs and technical staff may be on the stage during the event, and the lights are turned on on 15 minutes before the end of every Kagin.

“Student orgs have been very helpful, and were willing to do what they needed to do to make sure parties adhere to guidelines; we’re really working together well. They don’t want unsafe things to happen at their events, and being attentive to the guidelines,” Maze said.

“Part of a broader conversation”

Conversations about drinking culture and consent, issues which surround Kagin dances, are continuing. Kagins are “part of a broader conversation” about drinking and sexual assault at Macalester.

“There’s been a dialogue on campus with several groups about the issues with Kagin — how it relates to drinking and sexual assault,” Zabel said.

Zabel emphasized that there are lots of options on how to make Kagins better on the drawing board. Important in the current dialogue, though, is student input. “Students are talking about arranging a task force, but that has not yet come into form. I can’t emphasize enough that we, as a student government really value hearing student opinions on this, from specific to general comments,” Zabel said.

All students are welcome to attend the discussions that MCSG has and will have on this subject, according to Zabel.

Students will soon have a formal opportunity to discuss sexual assault at Macalester. On Tuesday, April 4th from 5 to 7 p.m., there will be a sexual assault forum about policy, prevention, and procedures on campus. A corresponding feedback form will also be sent out after spring break.

Kagins often become enmeshed with sexual assault issues in a negative manner. Some may infer that the Kagin policy implementation is meant as a direct response to this, which is not the case.

“By no means is anyone suggesting that this is the solution to sexual assault on campus,” Datta said. “There’s this ‘I’m not drunk enough for Kagin’ idea, and the current culture is, ‘If my org’s hosting, I’ll get wasted and show up,’ instead of, ‘I’ll be sober and make sure everything’s going well,’” Datta said.

Maze echoed Datta’s comments on the controversy that seems to envelop Kagin.

“The policies [do not] solve drinking and sexual assault on Mac’s campus, but creates an atmosphere of accountability if these things happen. There’s a larger conversation that needs to happen about sexual assault, and hopefully people won’t associate Kagin with just those things anymore,” Maze said.

Moving forward

Even though rumors about Kagin’s future have caused discussion, Zabel believes the results of these exchanges are positive.

“Now it is a matter of finding the right way forward that will work out the best for everybody,” Zabel said. “There was confusion on our end, and confusion on campus, but we’ve had really good discussions in LB meetings…There’s an ongoing conversation about making it a better environment and what that will mean for the future.”

The campus conversation about sexual assault, Kagin culture and drinking culture will continue. Both Datta and Maze see their groups playing a role in facilitating these exchanges and addressing concerns.

“I think MCSG is going to be heavily involved in the future — sexual assault is an important issue on this campus, and MCSG recognizes that. I’m going to be contacting Health and Wellness after spring break to bring the idea of Kagin into the ‘Stop at Buzzed’ campaign,” Datta said.

“We will very likely have Kagins next year, but may put a limit on the number per semester to make sure we have staff to cover them,” Maze said. “Later this semester, we will review how Kagins went this year, and probably issue a public announcement about Kagins going forward,”

If orgs fail to follow the new regulations, there could be consequences, although nothing is set yet.

“If orgs don’t follow the rules, we’ll have to impose sanctions and punishment on them. There would be budgeting implications,” Datta said.

MCSG is committed to being open and receptive to all concerns about Kagin and other problems, Lindgren emphasized.

“If people have concerns about anything they’ve heard on any issue, the executive boardhas office hours, so come and talk to us if you’re concerned about something. Don’t let it sit in the rumor mill,” Lindgren said.

These issues surrounding Kagin do not appear in a vacuum, and creating change requires looking at larger issues at Macalester.

“It’s not Kagin culture — it’s Mac culture. We need to have a bigger conversation about why people feel the need to drink to excess to feel comfortable enough to dance, and discuss how you can be respectful of others in a dance situation” Maze said. “How do we encourage consent when dancing, touching, and being in personal space? The standards and values students exhibit in classrooms are the same they should exhibit everywhere on and at all events, even if that event is a Kagin.”