Two important St. Olaf organizations were uprooted when the Center for Advising and Academic Support expanded this summer, requiring the reallocation of Buntrock Commons office space.
The College hired a new Academic Enrichment Specialist, who will manage supplemental instruction and tutoring for first generation students. As a result, the Sexual Assault Resource Network (SARN) was relocated to the former lounge space of KSTO, the student-led radio station.
The move raised concerns regarding whether the new space – located near the bookstore and the ground-floor entrance of Buntrock – would complicate organization’s mission of supporting survivors of sexual assault and intimate violence, according to SARN Co-Chair Nina Hendel ’19.
Private and accessible
“It is important to keep SARN in Buntrock and as accessible as possible,” Hendel said.
Privacy and student access were prioritized by College staff when they decided to move SARN, according to Kathy Glampe ’92, the director of advising and academic support.
“I would never consider doing a move if I felt like it hurt SARN,” Glampe said. “I feel like we really tried to make sure it was a positive move.”
After the first two full weeks on campus, Hendel feels less concerned about decreased privacy.
“There’s not a whole lot of foot-traffic,” she said.
When first notified of the move, however, Hendel and KSTO Station Manager Harry Edstrom ’19 were both concerned the newly constructed office wouldn’t be soundproof – another privacy concern for students visiting SARN. The former KSTO lounge is now the SARN office, separated from the rest of the studio by a newly constructed wall.
Director of Student Activities Kris Vatter and Title IX Coordinator Kari Hohn did a sound test of the new office after construction. The pair did not think the noise between offices was “substantially different” than it would be in any other space in Buntrock, according to Vatter.
However, when Edstrom and SARN Co-Chair Clare Mikulski ’19 did the same, music played in the radio studio could be heard in SARN’s space, and the two held a conversation between the SARN and KSTO offices. Vatter said that if either organization has noise concerns, the College will consider adding sound-absorbing panels as a solution.
“It’s unfortunate that sound carries through, but we’re working with what we’ve got,” Hendel said. “The office is mainly used during Chapel and community time, so hopefully it won’t be too much of an issue.”
Hendel suggested that while unexpected and disorienting, the move was positive because “in the old office people would sit in the hall and do their homework or make phone calls, and that was an issue in the past.”
“It’s just kind of a shame because last year our listenership more than triples, our programming more than doubled, and then they go ahead and take away a space that is really important for DJs.” – Harry Edstrom ’19
While Edstrom is in support of SARN, he said the relocation and construction has already affected KSTO’s accessibility and functioning. Radio DJs and staff now enter the station through a hallway near Viking Theatre, rather than through a door that opens into the Buntrock atrium. Edstrom also said that while construction was planned to be completed by July 31, the new entrance to the station remains unfinished.
“The only thing we asked is that KSTO be operational when school starts back up, meaning that we have full access to the studio,” Edstrom said. “Of course, the key card reader is not yet installed and will not be installed for some time, which means that students do not have access to the studio.”
A College locksmith was out unexpectedly this summer, according to Vatter, delaying the installation. Vatter also said the Information Desk staff can let KSTO DJs into the studio at any time.
“The front desk workers are consistently away from the desk and also the few times I’ve asked them to let me in, they have no idea where the key is for KSTO,” Edstrom said.
The loss of the station’s public entrance, however, was only one of several issues Edstrom raised.
“From our perspective, it’s just kind of a shame because last year our listenership more than tripled, our programming more than doubled, and then they go ahead and take away a space that is really important for DJs to meet one another, build communities, share ideas, share music,” Edstrom said. “It kind of takes the steam out of a student organization that was reaching fruition.”
Regardless of privacy concerns and key card readers – or the lack thereof – both SARN and KSTO expressed discontent with the College’s communication during the decision-making process. College spokesperson Kari VanDerVeen said staff worked with SARN before the final decision was made on the move. Hendel disagreed.
“We were just not really consulted,” Hendel said. “It would have been nice to have included all of us in the conversation.”
Moving forward, however, SARN advocate and KSTO DJ Sophie Wang ’19 said she and her fellow advocates have one focus – supporting survivors.
“I think it’s more important for us to continue trying to serve survivors than dwell on how we’ve been slighted in the past,” Wang said. “I don’t think that’s a good use of our time or energy.”