SOEMT: Over a Decade of Saving Drunk College Students

This past Friday, I had my first meeting with the St. Olaf EMT club and discovered some interesting information about the way the club functions as a non-profit organization on campus.  After reviewing our mission statement, we got into the nitty-gritty stuff and discussed available equipment and funding.  As an in-training EMT (I have my test on Saturday), I constantly have lots of equipment available, from heavy oxygen tanks to various occlusive dressings and medications.  As a result, when I peered into the superficially similar bag, I was shocked at the sparse pickings.  A lonely pulse-oximeter sat sprawled next to a lonely sphygmomanometer and tiny patient assessment tags were haphazardly strewn about the bag.  As I continued my assessment and chatted with the other members, I realized the powerlessness of SOEMT.  In training, we are trained as fully-trained EMTs, but in SOEMT, we are demoted to First Responder level.  We have no medications, no transportation, and no oxygen until PubSafe shows up.  As emergency medical personnel, we are fairly helpless.

For those of you who do not know, SOEMT is a club that provides free EMT-level emergency medical assistance on the St. Olaf campus. SOEMT2013rs Any funding we get from St. Olaf is immediately funneled into uniforms or equipment, but it does not go very far because medical equipment is EXPENSIVE.  The majority of the calls we respond to are drunken college students, despite being a “dry campus”. Drunk As such, most members are conditioned to expect the expected.  Oxygen, airway suctioning, blanket.  But what happens when there is a real trauma or medical problem?  Although we are trained to respond efficiently, we are not conditioned to expect serious complications.  As an individual in emergency medicine, I find that fact concerning.  Because, really, what happens when a student gets physically assaulted and gets a serious traumatic wound?  With no serious bandages, we cannot fix integral respiratory issues such as flail segments and with little funding, we cannot obtain valuable medical tools to perform efficiently.  Although I am very grateful to get the opportunity to work with SOEMT, I do have concerns about our effectiveness.  We cannot change the patient population, but we can have the equipment ready to respond to actual issues.  On a campus of 3,000 students, we have no triage tags or trauma dressings.  So what happens when a college student cracks under the stress and has a shooting spree.  As a SOEMT, the best I can do is call for help.

The Price of Sustainability in Portland: Is It Really Worth It?

When one thinks of Portland, Oregon, one often imagines a hipster city with a sustainable focus.  As a native Portlander, I can say from personal experience that environmentalism has become a major dominant culture within the city.  Government initiatives have made many citizens more sustainable and have transformed the city’s sociocultural identity through transportation, disposal, and agricultural initiatives.


Portland’s local government has proposed and implemented many revolutionary public projects in the name of environmental responsibility.  Biking and public transit are perhaps the most obvious examples of governmental environmentalism.  Funding has made many new bicycle-based transportation features that have increased bicycle use and safety.  In comparison to the national average of 0.6%, Portland has over 6% of the local population who bike to commute.  Additionally, the public transit system is an example of the government-funded environmental stewardship.  Trimet, the existing public transit system is frequently ranked in the top ten of the nation with about 11% of Portlanders commuting using public transit.  Another example that sets Portland apart in sustainable initiatives is the garbage system.  Rather than the usual weekly garbage pick-up, Portlanders have garbage picked up every other week.  In exchange, compost and recycling are picked up weekly.  While this system was initially a bit smelly, the locals soon accepted it, and it is now a thriving sustainable business that processes and reuses previously discarded debris.  Other sustainable practices involve urban farming, a system in which citizens are involved in the individual, inner-city cultivation of produce and animals.  My neighbors own chickens, gardens, and even a goat, and local public schools have created classes focusing on urban farming techniques!  While these examples demonstrate the environmentalist culture of Portland, they also demonstrate the subtle involvement of the government in promoting and shaping the local culture.


Sustainability initiatives in Portland have expanded and enriched the local culture, but they are ultimately a drain on the local government economy.  Sustainability is very expensive, and as a result, Portland’s taxation and living costs are inordinately high.  The minimum wage is elevated to appease the increase in taxes and is a shocking $8.95 per hour!  This generalized inflation and focused funding has resulted in the neglect of other necessary government services such as sewer systems and education.  Budget cuts and using cheap materials have massively decreased the comprehensive quality of city services.  Everybody poops.  Not everybody requires a bike street.  However, while electric cars and railways combined with localized farming and recycling may initially drain the local economy by requiring new materials and technologies, they have the potential to give back in the long run by creating electric and agricultural independence and lowering our impact on the environment.  Sustainability is expensive, but as a Portlander, I believe that it is truly worth it.

Quiz Culture: Who Are You?

In the past year or so, online quizzes have exploded in popular culture and mass media.  Nearly every day, I log into Facebook to discover that yet another Buzzfeed quiz has been popularized overnight.  “How Much Do You Love Pizza?”, “Which Hogwarts House Are You?”, and even “What Should Your College Major Actually Be?” are just a few of the over 700 quizzes currently on Buzzfeed.  I, of course, always give in and take them, only to discover that yes, I do love pizza, and I am Ravenclaw because I am witty and eccentric, and oh, I should actually major in engineering.   But are these statements actually accurate? Chances are that they are not.

To an extent, earlier mass media has developed human identity by tracking and catering advertisements to your interests, using social media websites to develop impersonal relationships, and even producing bias through the subversive messages of politically charged news sources.  The introduction of quizzes has only increased the extent of Internet influence on identity, actions, and relationships.  Taking a quiz that tells me that I am a cinnamon raisin bagel can mean nothing.  Perhaps I just really like sugar, but it can also influence the way I act around my friends.  If I am apparently Abraham Lincoln because I am persistent, maybe I will push even more vehemently for my voice to be heard.  Ultimately, every interaction can affect actions and mentalities.

While this influence does not pose a particular threat, it does have an interesting effect on the whole of American identity.  By relying on others to define identity, Americans may lose track of uniqueness and develop a dependence on others to determine different parts of life such as relationships.  I am one of the first to say that these quizzes are fun; however, they should not be taken as truth. Personality may be a conglomeration of public and private ideas, but it is ultimately a personal disposition.  It is not a button in the Internet.

Ultimately, the quizzes on Buzzfeed are mostly ridiculous.  They rarely hold inner truth, and even if they do, it is a generalization.  The personalized experience of taking a quiz can engage people and possibly change self-perceptions, but more importantly, they categorize people and things.  With over 18 million people taking the same quiz, there are probably at least 2 million who get the same answer.  That means that 2 million people automatically have something in common.  That’s a lot of new friends.  By allowing us to categorize our life, we make a sacrifice of individuality to gain solidarity.  We simplify our lives and problems to fit an algorithm-driven formula that can give us the identity we cannot seem to characterize.  In the quiz, we forsake our individuality and become a series of choices and categories.