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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The importance of public and transparent discussion

<st Thursday, two significant events happened that made it clear that right now is an important time for Carleton College. First, Carleton woke up on Thursday morning to find chalk messages around campus having to do with rape and sexual assault. Second, on the same day, the results of the Campus Climate survey was released to the Carleton community. Both events are indications that Carleton is not a college without problems, or without issues that need to be discussed publicly.

Susan Rankin was brought in by the college to conduct the survey last Spring because it was believed that Carleton had issues – such as those hinted at by the rape chalk-messages – that needed to be addressed. Indeed, the Campus Climate raised some important questions about the atmosphere at Carleton, all of which cannot be addressed in this editorial. Rather, the point of the Campus Climate was to spur discussion, and only by a comprehensive, transparent, public discussion can we all create a better understanding of what the shape of Carleton really is.

Seen in the context of the recent chalking around campus, the following are some of the more striking results of the survey:
• 111 respondents (7.3%) said that they feel uncomfortable with the climate at Carleton
• 571 respondents (37.5%) said that they had considered leaving Carleton
• 348 respondents (22.9%) said that they had experienced exclusionary, offensive, or hostile conduct that has interfered with their ability to work or learn at Carleton.
• 568 respondents (37.3%) said that they know someone who has been a victim of sexual harassment at Carleton.
• 92 respondents (6.0 %) said that they have been a victim of sexual harassment while at Carleton.
• 34 respondents (2.2%) said that they had been a victim of sexual assault while at Carleton.

These results should be surprising, and they should not be discounted. They indicate that there are serious issues that Carleton needs to deal with. These are issues that Carleton needs to address publicly and transparently, and so it should be clear that “chalking” as a method of spurring discussion is not an effective one. Rather, as Carleton observed last weekend, the chalking only created anger and disgust, and raised more questions than it did answers. If the entire Carleton community is to understand how the campus climate has become what it is, as indicated by the results of Susan Rankin’s survey, the college needs to come together and discuss the results thoroughly and transparently.

Of course, not all data gathered by the survey points towards issues at Carleton that need to be resolved. Much of the results indicate satisfaction – students with their education, and staff with their jobs. But right now, the college should be more concerned with the results mentioned above.

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