By KATIE WILSON
This upcoming spring break, our very own Laurentian Singers will be jetting off to Puerto Rico to partake in the Discover Puerto Rico Choral Festival. The Festival, which is organized by Burlington-based Music Contact International, unites various choirs from Puerto Rico and the United States in a three-day festival.
This will be the Laurentians fifth time in Puerto Rico; there will be nine other Puerto Rican choirs involved in the festival, but the Laurentian Singers will be the only American choir present. The Laurentians have also been chosen to sing in the final celebration, an honor not awarded to all participating choirs. While the Laurentian’s trip represents a momentous cause for celebration, there have been some minor impediments to the process. Three of the student members of the Laurentian Singers come from the international community, and as such, there has been some concern about their flying to Puerto Rico. While Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, the Singer’s original intent was to fly out of Ottawa, thus generating concerns about how SLU’s international students would be received at the Canadian border and by Canadian TSA officials.
President of Laurentian Singers, Thressa Zimmerman ’17, said their initial plan was halted when President Trump put the travel ban in place. “The school’s ultimate goal is to protect students, and even though it may be fine for us all to fly through Canada, it is safer to take this precaution as we just do not know what is going to happen in the coming weeks.”
Although the aforementioned concerns began at a lower level in the SLU administrative body, they quickly flowed to the top, stopping with Lisa Cania, Vice President of Community & Employee Relations. Many insisted that the international students should not partake in the festival at all. They were fearful of the possible ramifications of allowing international students to cross the border in the midst of our uncertain political climate.“We have been singing together all year,” Zimmerman says, “and we wanted everyone to have this incredible experience of traveling to Puerto Rico and participating in the festival.”
“We have been singing together all year,” Zimmerman says, “and we wanted everyone to have this incredible experience of traveling to Puerto Rico and participating in the festival.”Despite this, the international students will be going to Puerto Rico come March 18th. In an effort to calm anxieties, the three students will be flying out of the Burlington International Airport while the other students will be departing from Ottawa. Nathan Torres ’11, a former Laurentian Singer and son of the Director of the Laurentian Singers, Barry Torres, will be flying with the three international students to Puerto Rico. However, all of the students will be returning together to Burlington.
“While I cannot talk on their behalf, I believe that the international students that have to take a different flight to Puerto Rico understand that it is better to be safe than sorry,” Zimmerman said. She added that the change is all about taking the proper precautions to avoid issues while traveling with a large group.
All in all, a minor change to the Laurentians flight itinerary is a miniscule problem. As B. Torres points out, however “It represents a larger problematic undercurrent present in our current political climate.”
B. Torres states that one of the largest problems plaguing Americans in the present day is “I” thinking. Rather than recognizing issues that are affecting people from different walks of life, individuals choose to focus solely on topics pertinent to them; because of this, injustices are often overlooked or rationalized.
This pattern is present in all aspects of modern life, including academia. As B. Torres points out: “We’re not going to progress if some of us are left behind, and who knows when that someone is going to be you.”