Last Friday Carleton Chicks for Change made a sorry attempt at trying to build awareness of pay inequality here on Carleton’s campus as well as on the national level. Chicks for Change tried to entice many female (and male) students to wear black in protest of the well known statistic that on average, women in America get paid 77 cents to every man’s dollar. The student organized group played out various tactics such as throwing blue dollar bills and pink ¾ dollar bills off of the balcony in Sayles during one of the busiest lunch hours at the snack bar in hopes that people would get the message and start asking questions. However, the social movement was met with a lot of confusion, apathy, and a general consensus of failure.
It was really quite disappointing. There were many female and male students that I encountered that I knew had heard about the movement, but who had, for some reason or another, decided that it was not in their interest to support us by simply putting on a black t-shirt or sweatshirt. Many people that I talked to demanded “What’s the point?” “Wouldn’t you be spending your time more wisely if you were to call your congressman or send a petition to…someone?” “So you’re just wearing black? You guys aren’t doing anything else?” Granted, the social movement was not as well thought out or planned as say, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and we should have devoted more time to doing something that would produce end results. However, it was still surprising to see that not many people really cared about the issue or about simply supporting their fellow students who were trying to build awareness about something that is very unfair. Pay equity personally affects or will affect more than half of our student body, faculty, and staff. It’s really not that hard to put on a black t-shirt and say, “You know, I may not know exactly what this is about, but it’s obviously very important to you, and I support you.”
As supportive as Carleton students think they are to their fellow students, I’d have to disagree. I think that many of us are too wrapped up in our own personal problems and schoolwork that we hardly have enough time to think about ourselves, let alone think about others. Obviously, from the results of the Campus Climate Survey, we do not do a very good job at making each other feel safe, respected, or supported. For example, we have many diverse interest groups on campus, but very few non-members attend or support events put on by these intercultural student organizations. A lot of people use the excuse that they feel uncomfortable because they’re not a part of the group, or they see the group and event as something that further divides the Carleton community because it has a special interest. I find that to be a hunk of bull. People just want to be supported. You don’t have to be the one that’s dancing on stage, waving the flag, or behind the megaphone. You just have to show up to the event or, say, wear a black t-shirt to show that you are behind your fellow Carl, no matter how crazy their cause is.
Obviously, it’s important to challenge – to not support everything, to question and push and prod and encourage people to think realistically and practically, but that’s also what our teachers are here for. We’re challenged every day. It would simply be nice to sometimes feel like people actually cared about the issues that you stood for or the change that you were trying to lead. So I encourage all Carleton students to maybe attend or take part in something that they normally would not. You never know, it might just improve the campus climate.
-Helen Ashton is a third-year student.