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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Intimidation and threats are intolerable on campus

<ouple of weeks into classes at Carleton, an African-American male student received an anonymous box through campus mail, along with a number of rape whistles placed in his campus mailbox. He had just returned to campus from an amazing off-campus study abroad program and was looking forward to returning to Carleton, classes, and engaging with friends, and activities on campus. As he opened the box, he discovered a collection of odd items and clothing items that had been taken from his room. It was a puzzling collection, but as he began to explore each item he discovered that the book in the box was a novel detailing the brutal lynching of a black male lawyer. He later learned that the book had been stolen from the campus library. There were a number of diversity and law brochures; magazines depicting Obama and other black figures. The items were all interconnected with identifiable characteristics of his life and were specifically directed at the student who is planning on entering law school after Carleton. The contents also revealed that the sender had gone to a great deal of trouble, over a period of weeks to gather these symbols; symbols that were designed to threaten, intimidate, harass, and emotionally heighten the student’s fears and concerns for his personal safety and well-being.

As an investigation began and knowledge of the contents of the box spread throughout the community, it was determined that the sender could be anyone or any group on campus with a wide ranging motive or intentions. It was evident however that the sender underscored the racial nature of the symbols and their relevant meaning to the recipient. While the intent may have been otherwise intended, the actual impact represented a violation of personal space and a physical threat to safety, not just for the recipient, but for many others as they began learning about the incident.

The incident shocked many people in part because of our expectations that our living and learning environment is an oasis of tolerance and understanding. The incident moved beyond the boundaries of incidents that are designed to push buttons, are a prank, or make a person laugh. These were clearly designed to intimidate and threaten. In this case the power was in the silence and the meaning surrounding the symbols of lynching and rape whistles. We don’t talk openly about why a noose is such a provocative and death-threatening symbol, because we don’t talk much about our history of lynching and its implications for creating an environment of constantly living in fear for one’s life and personal safety.
We want to underscore our deep and abiding commitment to equity, difference, and inclusion on this campus, and to fostering an environment of trust and confidence where everyone in our entire community feels welcome, safe and included, “Sometimes our actions and behaviors are a result of not thinking about the impact on others. But we must always acknowledge that harmful effects of a perceived insult or act of discrimination can be the same whether it is intended to or not.”

In closing, we wish to offer an affirmation; unlike anonymous packages with unclear intentions, this student belongs in our Carleton community. He is a scholar. He is kind and respected. He still believes in and is committed to this community. He is a Carl. We also believe in the capacity of our community and its courage to strive, create and maintain an environment where safety, well-being, and celebration of difference are the hallmarks that characterize the content of our character.

Hudlin Wagner,
Dean of Students

Joe Baggot,
Associate Dean of Students

Joy Kluttz,
Director of Intercultural Life

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