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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

First Chili Night of the year focuses on social relationships

<e something about chili that makes people think deeply about relationships and their connections to personal backgrounds? The Office of Intercultural Life (OIL) was hoping that this would be the case last Wednesday night when it held its first Chili Night of the new year.

As soon as one walked into the Goodhue Superlounge, a bowl of chili and possibly some cornbread could be found in hand. People of different backgrounds gathered with their dinner together in circles all around the lounge discussing various topics. One group kneeled around a nightstand- sized table because of the lack of furniture to support the group of over forty individuals. Joy Kluttz, Director of Intercultural Life was surprised by the large turnout, “[the attendance at] this winter one…You never know with getting people to come all the way to Goodhue.”

The formal discussion as each person was asked to move to a certain corner of the room based on the racial group that composed the most of their friends. Many felt that they were unable to decide what race the largest amount of their friends represented. This “limiting exercise” immediately set the tone for the discussion that was soon to follow. The OIL-peer led discussion, “Friends and Lovers: Whom You Socialize With” focused on the factors that created relationships and culture’s role in connecting people. The participants were split up into three discussion groups with each group being mode rated by a program leader. Groups focused on topics such as whether Carleton is a place that is integrated or segregated, the difficulties facing cultivating intercultural relationships, an how important it is to make friends with people from different backgrounds.

Overall, the process of making friends at Carleton composed the largest portion of discussion. The beginning of the Carleton experience, New Student Week, was touched upon. Students argued over whether the fact that international students have their own New Student Week before the rest of first-year students isolates foreigners from Americans. Many also wondered whether nervous freshman were open at all to becoming close to anyone during New Student Week. Some suggested that friends were made not by similar cultural

backgrounds but by having something in common at Carleton, such as being on the same floor or in the same groups. At times, people on your floor are those you spend the most time with, especially during the Minnesota winters. “People who always meet up on the Bald Spot find that when winter comes, they will be hanging out with their floormates.” Arnav Durani ’11 described at the discussion. However, Carleton students on the same floor or in the same group do not always become fast friends. A female athlete attending the meeting, who is one of only two minority members of her team, talked about only being friends with the other minority on her team. Some expressed the belief that there was still a type of racial or cultural segregation in the dining halls. A
few students commented on the difficulty students have of approaching a table that is composed of a racial group different from their own. A female student said, “We are all afraid of being vulnerable…If there are
barriers between races, it’s because of [a lack] of common background.”

Many felt that the process of making friends in general was a complex practice. Some lamented how other students would ignore one another despite the fact that they may have had several conversations with each other previously as classmates or floormates. One student expressed that one never knows who a person is going to be friends with until the two people meet. Another stated that while making friends with someone from a different background is honorable, it does not mean that a person should try to make friends with someone else in order to have a diverse campus. Still, most participants felt that the most important factors in making friends with another person were character and common interest; race and ethnicity took a backseat if it even fit into the vehicle at all.

“I hang out mostly with people who play video games with me,” said Jared Evans ’10 during the discussion.

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