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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The value of storytelling

El Día de los Muertos is a day filled with storytelling; It is through stories that we remember and honor our ancestors. Although el Día de los Muertos is one of the most obvious times in which we pause and reflect on our connections to the past, the stories of our loved ones live within us each and every day. I owe my name, my language, my melanin and my love for tacos de al pastor to those who came before me. But all these things that make me who I am today are not always valued. 

We live in a country that through systems of economics, politics and education have forced us to erase our identities. They have turned the best of us into our insecurities. We live and grow up within those insecurities. I did not realize the harm I was causing myself by neglecting my identity until I almost dropped out of college last school year. 

On March 28, 2022, I took a personal leave of absence from Carleton because of the mental health problems this institution had caused me. They sent their approval letter in English. They forced me to translate to my immigrant parents that their daughter felt like a failure for leaving college in her junior year. I left Carleton with no plan for my future and no desire to return. After all, why would I return to an institution that wanted to use my identity to decorate its brochures but did not want to acknowledge the pain they had inflicted on me by forcing me to be their token? 

During my personal leave of absence, no one reached out to me. No administrator at this institution took the initiative to contact me despite the fact that I had expressed my mental health concerns to the Student and Health Service Center on campus. On September 10, I decided to come back to an institution that I knew would never support me. I decided to return for my senior year but on my own terms. 

Then, on October 27, I told my story for the first time to Nicholas J. Puzak, a member of the Board of Trustees of Carleton College. Dean Livingston, the Dean of Students, was by his side. After hearing my story, he said, “I don’t feel sorry for you.” Livingston said nothing. 

I do not hate this man for what he said to me. I do not want anyone to hate him for what he said. At the end of the day, I can recognize that my reality is so drastically different from his. He cannot imagine living a life like mine. He never thought that anyone could live a life like mine and still manage to graduate from the same institution as him. So after really thinking about the incident, I recognize that ,although his response was insensitive, it is irrational for me to expect anything different from him. 

How could Mr. Puzak possibly understand my twenty-two years of life in a matter of ten minutes? As he told me my life was only “gonna get tougher,” he could not understand, but I want to give him the opportunity to try. He is a product of what he grew up with just like I am a product of what I grew up with. I see as much value in his story as there is in mine. We both know different things about the world that we could learn from each other. So when he comes back to campus in February, I plan to give him the opportunity to know me as more than the color of my skin and to invite him to tell me his own life story.

 As for this institution’s administration, I think the incident should be a real wake-up call that their Inclusion, Diversity and Equity plan is en route to being a failure before it even gets off the ground. If this institution does not already understand how harmful their 200 acres are for people of color, then they really should now. The evidence is on tape and online on the Carleton Divest Instagram. The video should make the administration think twice before they state that they are making progress. 

Carleton College cannot claim progress if a Board of Trustees member, responsible for helping create the policy that governs this institution, treats me — a first-generation, Latinx student, and daughter of illegal immigrants — as insignificant while the Dean of Students, who is employed to represent me, remains silent by his side. 

This behavior is not acceptable, and I will hold them accountable. It is about time this college walks the walk. If they talk about diversity on their admissions page, they must walk in the shoes of the students who are the living and breathing definition of diversity. After last week’s events, I plan to meet with Dean Livingston and ask her why she ordered me to be civil, respectful and polite to the man, the woman and the Board of Trustees who disregard my existence, violate human rights and perpetuate systemic discrimination.

She allowed him to be uncivil, disrespectful, and rude to the student, the race and the immigrant population I embody. His words had no filter, but my words must be filtered. His wealth bought him privilege. My poverty granted me burdens. I plan to meet with her and make demands. I do not want Carleton to hire a Vice President of Inclusion, Equity and Community to talk on my behalf. Do not waste your money. I can do it for free. I want the students of this college to have a real voice and a real impact in changing the way this college is governed. 

As I plan to meet with Dean Livingston, all I ask of my peers is to tell me their own stories and their own demands. I want to hear about your experience at Carleton. I see value in telling your story.

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