Friday, July 18, 2008

Twin Cities Tidbits

I am on the road in Minnesota, on my way to collect Gruntled Son from French camp. Spending the day in St. Paul and Minneapolis, I collected these fun small items, and one slightly serious one.

At Macalester College, the vegetarian cooperative dorm, with its own veggie kitchen and dining common, is under the bleachers of the football stadium. The tour guide said that the stadium was thick enough that the sound of the games did not come through. "It is just like a regular dorm," he said, "except the ceiling is slanted."

The funky business district serving the University of Minnesota is called Dinkytown. There is no agreed explanation.

In Dinkytown there was a hair salon called Hair Shaft. This might be a vulgar double entendre. I prefer to think it is a play on the German word for political domination, loved by Weberians, "Herrschaft."

Near the other half of the U of Minnesota campus, on the Minneapolis side of the river, is a coffee house that I commend to you, Mapps, in the middle of a student/Somali neighborhood. The hot tea dispenser is labeled "East African Tea," which is spiced with cardamom.

The one semi-serious observation I made was of how the Macalester tour guide spoke about the chapel. I have been to many small liberal arts colleges like Macalester, almost all of which were founded by churches. There is a significant division, I have noticed, in how tour guides account for this relation. At some schools, the normal guide rap includes explaining the college's specific church relation and how it helps support students' spiritual life. At other schools, the guide apologizes for the church relation and the chapel, and assures prospective students that nothing will be expected of them religiously. Macalester is in the latter category. Now, I think it is perfectly reasonable for colleges to loosen their church ties in order to treat a broader range of student faiths with equal seriousness. Centre has done so, and Swarthmore has gone even further. But this is not the same as treating faith as something the college should hide, merely accommodate, or even apologize for.

I have been to only one college in which the tour guide had no idea that his school had been founded by ministers with a religious mission. He was surprised to learn that the building he was pointing out to us was named for the famous evangelist who put the school on the map. But then, Oberlin has always been unusual ...


brax4444 said...

Being a tea person, isn't it cardamom?

Gruntled said...

You are right -- thank you for catching my error.

Anonymous said...

Take heart, Gruntled. There are a few evangelical Mac students, but my understanding is that they usually go off-campus for worship.

However, MN has never been a Presbyterian stronghold, and Mac hasn't had the large local population to draw from that the state's Lutheran and Catholic colleges have had. In addition to which, I often wonder what relationship size of endowment has on a school's religious identification. When I went to school (early 90s) Mac was known locally for sitting on a very, very large pile of cash, much bigger than any of the other Minneapolis/St.Paul private schools (with the possible exception of UST). Does money change priorities?

Anonymous said...

"Oberlin has always been unusual ..."

Amen to that. A friend of mine neglected to request a same-sex room. Not dorm, mind you, but room. He was originally assigned a female roommate.

There's a price to be paid for that kind of progressivism, though. Like some of the ugliest 60's modernist academic buildings I've ever seen.

-Andy said...

Interesting experience! :)