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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

LDC black tea shortage threatens structural integrity of Leighton Hall

For a while this term, East Dining Hall, located in the Language and Dining Center (LDC) seemed to run out of black tea. Until recently, Earl Grey, English breakfast, Irish breakfast and black tea have not been seen in the building, much to the chagrin of many students. 


At first, many suspected the shortage was the result of increased caffeine consumption among students. The timing of this seemed perfect: As finals approach and classes grow busier, it seems logical that students would drink more tea with caffeine. The Carletonian’s investigations, however, have revealed a different potential cause: a plan to end grade inflation at Carleton. 


Over the last twenty years, grades at colleges and universities across the country have gone up dramatically. Especially since COVID-19, professors have been more likely to hand out A’s when they previously gave their students C’s. 


An anonymous biology professor described the changes in their grading system: “I used to give B’s to the students I liked, D’s to the students I didn’t like and an A to the best student in the class. But since the pandemic, it seems like students have expected higher grades. Now, I have to give A’s to the students I like and A-’s to the students I don’t like. The best students in the class now get A’s, and I have to do their laundry for the entire next term.”


As each department has inflated their grades, pressure on other professors to do the same has increased: Professors suspect their students won’t take a class if they know they won’t do well. This, however, has led to widespread changes in grade point averages. Where the average Carleton GPA used to be between 2.2 and 2.5 depending on the year, GPAs now hover between 4.93 and 4.94. 


Various faculty members have been deeply concerned by this trend and decided that this academic year is the year to solve that problem. “I was just tired of waiting and hoping this problem would get better,” said one history professor. “We’ve seen throughout Carleton’s time that changes don’t happen on their own, and it was time for a change. Grade inflation is a problem that must be dealt with.”


Thus, starting last summer, faculty members began petitioning the administration to find a solution to decrease grades. This term, their demands became reality: on Tuesday, Oct. 24, President Byerly and a posse of security personnel arrived at LDC at 7:30 a.m. to remove all of the black tea.


Byerly’s tea removal was part of a larger experiment to see whether the removal of black tea could be the solution to grade inflation. Black tea was removed from LDC and the food truck, but not Burton: This enabled administration to compare the grades of students living on east and west campus to see if the lack of black tea would make a difference.


In the first two weeks of the change, grades dropped rapidly on east campus. “I had A students whose assignments were barely a C,” one professor said. “Students would show up in class to fall asleep. I had to remind students that class time is not nap time.”


There was a 42% increase in missing assignments for students living on east campus, as well as a 21% decline in attendance and a 142% jump in failing grades on essays and exams. Students also reported lower levels of stress and higher levels of sleep (an average of 7.2 hours per night instead of 5.48).


The results of this study seemed promising to Carleton administrators, and plans were made to completely phase out tea upon the reopening of Sayles at the start of Winter Term. This Tuesday (11/13), however, the pilot program had to be discontinued: facilities had found flaws in the structural integrity of Leighton.


An investigation was immediately opened to determine what exactly caused the structural issues. It was quickly discovered that essential load-bearing support beams had been weakened by the weight of tens of thousands of pages of essay drafts and hundreds of tissue boxes. Efforts were quickly made to reduce the weight of Leighton Hall, with students moving all of their essay drafts into their dorms and professors moving their tissue boxes into offices in other buildings.


“It was definitely harder not to have tissues for crying students in my office,” said one philosophy professor, “but I understand why it was necessary. I thought it was really thoughtful of the Carleton administration to work to address student stress by providing tissues for crying students, so I hope they continue that program even if the tissues are less conveniently located.”


To find the underlying root of the problem, Carleton staff members decided to look at the original blueprints for Leighton. There, they found the issue. When the building was initially built in 1920, architects conducted a study of Carleton students. The question they were seeking to answer was how stressed students were. They were able to then take those numbers and base Leighton around them, effectively relying on student stress as a key support for Leighton. The argument was that student stress levels are consistently high enough to create incredible amounts of tension; this tension could then be harnessed to support the building.


However, lacking caffeine meant that students were too sleepy to be stressed about their classes, reducing their grades (as intended) and the overall tension in Leighton. The result was clear: without student stress, Leighton is unable to continue supporting itself as a building.


As a result, the Carleton administration ended the anti-caffeine pilot program, replacing the black tea in LDC just in time for Reading Days and finals. The structural integrity of Leighton has since been restored, and professors were able to bring back their tissue boxes in time to support their many crying students. While the issue of grade inflation remains to be addressed, professors hope that the lack of breakfast before Sunday morning finals may help. Administrators have assured them that “we are actively searching for new ways to demoralize and uneducate students in the interest of solving this grave issue facing Carleton today.”

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About the Contributor
Becky Reinhold, Editor in Chief
I'm a junior Philosophy major, and I can usually be found in the basement of Anderson or wandering around Northfield. I like thunderstorms and writing articles around 2am. Becky was previously Managing Editor, Viewpoint Editor, and Design Editor.

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