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College leadership crucial to improve campus climate

Despite the incredible work done through offices such as Disability Services, the Gender and Sexuality Center, the Office of Intercultural and International Life, and many others, diversity and acceptance are still not core threads in the fabric of the Carleton institution.

Monday’s “Documents that Guide Us” town hall forum led to compelling personal testimonies on how the institution has fallen short in upholding its own community standards. The documents are the result of noble work from dedicated individuals, and the wording is certainly not the issue. Carleton does not have the administrative infrastructure to hold community members accountable to those standards, nor the dedication to apply them to all aspects of community life.

The very premise of our curriculum’s RAD requirement, for example, is that Carleton students need specific classroom time where issues of affirming difference are thoughtfully recognized. If our community standards and statement of diversity were fully realized at Carleton, students would find differences thoughtfully affirmed in all classroom settings. Our community standards (as embodied in the RAD requirement) cannot be separated from the rest of our academic experience. The shortfalls demonstrated at the town hall meeting are due to unwillingness on the part of administration, staff and faculty to frame these collective issues within every interaction at Carleton.

The sincere and noble efforts of certain administrators to tackle student concerns are not enough. At Monday’s forum, as well as other discussions of difference like Chili Night, faculty and top administrators are notably absent. For students to accept that Carleton is fully committed to creating a diverse and welcoming community, we need to see active participation from all staff and faculty. Prioritization of these issues can only come from the top. Until the highest levels of administration attend and engage in issues of diversity and acceptance, the themes will never be fundamental values in the fabric of Carleton College.

The topic is most relevant as a select group of community members hire our next president. We hope they see the value in choosing an individual who is committed to engaging publicly in these conversations and working to make progress in campus climate as fundamental to Carleton as its academics.

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