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Is this how Carleton responds to nonviolent demonstrations?

For several months, we as members of the Sunrise Movement, along with other climate justice and Indigenous groups, have led sustained actions against Wells Fargo because of their investment in Enbridge, the company building the Line 3 pipeline. When the Career Center hosted an event titled “Inclusion, Diversity, & Equity at Work: Corporate Culture & Individual Identities at Wells Fargo” on January 27, we knew we had to speak up. In response to our protest, the Career Center has blocked our access to all career resources, including internship funding.

 This punishment is inequitable and illegitimate, in that it disproportionately affects students on financial aid and was executed without procedure in violation of Carleton standards.

Line 3 is a tar sands pipeline, currently under construction, that will stretch across northern Minnesota. The carbon dioxide emissions from extraction and transportation of tar sands, a heavy type of crude oil, through Line 3 each year is equivalent to that of 50 coal plants. Additionally, Line 3 will irreparably destroy the delicate waterways and wild rice beds held sacred by the Indigenous nations whose treaty-protected land is being violated for construction.

Wells Fargo is one of five “lead agents” that lend money to Enbridge to complete the pipeline. We know that claims of promoting “equity” and “diversity” in any company that profits from the destruction of Indigenous treaty land are empty. 

At the Career Center’s event, we demanded transparency from the alumni-employees representing Wells Fargo, urged for divestment from the pipeline and made Wells Fargo’s despicable investment and business practices clearly known to everyone on the call. Our goal was not to shame anyone for participating, but rather to disrupt Wells Fargo’s recruiting efforts, especially when based on inclusion, diversity, and equity (IDE), and to pressure Carleton alumni working at Wells Fargo to bring the issue up in their workplace. 

In a discussion about equity, oppressive business practices must be the headline, not a footnote. Our protest effectively changed the conversation to adequately address just how oppressive Wells Fargo’s investments in Line 3 are to Indigenous communities and our planet. 

We knew that our protest was a bold and controversial step, so we reached out to the Career Center and all the students who attended following the event to clarify our motivations and encourage further dialogue. The Career Center responded on Friday, January 29, punishing the students who had written the email by blocking access to Career Center resources until each had individually written a public apology, approved by Career Center, to the panelists and the student attendees. Our Handshake accounts have been shut down and we are blocked from Career Center services and funding. We do not intend to apologize on these terms.

This restriction of resources violates the official complaints process as laid out in the Carleton Community Standards, which states that, in the absence of a formal complaint, which would require an investigation by the Dean of Students’ Office, a meeting between both parties must occur before a punishment is administered.

The actions of the administration model how they respond when groups speak out in ways they deem unacceptable—by deploying the full force of institutional power to silence and intimidate us, without regard for equity or for Community Standards. Our treatment has ramifications for all future protests at Carleton. We recognize that the students protesting were a predominantly white group interrupting an event aimed at and attended by BIPOC students and panelists. Two of the students present did express frustration in the moment at how the event played out. 

However, after the first 45 of 90 scheduled minutes, the Sunrise-affiliated students left the call and allowed the panel to proceed as planned. We maintain that without our protest, the issue of Line 3 would not have been given the attention it demands in the discussion, and that attendees would have received a woefully incomplete view of the state of IDE at Wells Fargo. 

Our action was a preliminary attempt at political organizing in a novel medium. We acknowledge that our organization has space to grow and do better, and we are reflecting and receiving feedback on how best to do that. Future demonstrations will be more effective and responsible. 

This is a call for transformative justice. Such a call has no legitimacy without all parties involved committing to introspection, reflection, and change. The Career Center must reflect on how the events they hold can better help Carls pursue careers in which they can influence their own employers and find financial success. Just as importantly, they must reform their procedures for doling out punishment to students to align with College standards and to be more equitable in their practices.

In solidarity,

Aashutosha Lele, Carsten Finholt, Ellie Zimmerman, Greta Hardy-Mittell, Maya Stovall, and Natalie Marsh, members of Sunrise Carleton

Correction: Feb. 27, 2020 — the original version of this opinion piece submitted to the Carletonian misstated the name of the event. In consultation with the writers, the Carletonian has corrected this information.

19 Comments

  1. Anonymous Carl Anonymous Carl February 13, 2021

    The email I have says the event’s name was “Inclusion, Diversity, & Equity at Work: Corporate Culture & Individual Identities at Wells Fargo,” and “How do the issues of Inclusion, Diversity, & Equity (IDE) show up in the workplace, particularly at a large organization, such as Wells Fargo?” That is easily verifiable! Apparently facts aren’t checked when two Carletonian staff write the article. On top of lying about that, I heard they attacked and harassed the alums the whole time.

    • Anonymous Carl 2 Anonymous Carl 2 February 14, 2021

      This article comes across as petty, immature, and unprofessional. Rather than talking to the career center in private, the authors chose to call attention to their plight without providing all of the facts.

    • Also an anonymous Carl Also an anonymous Carl February 18, 2021

      The panelists were very open to having a discussion about Line 3 when it was brought up and many openly expressed that they were not in support of Line 3. However, the discussion quickly derailed from productive when the protestors harassed the panelists and made personal attacks. How lovely of the group to conveniently leave that part out.

  2. Outside observer Outside observer February 15, 2021

    This sounds like a huge collaborative learning moment that the school has bungled. This article suggests the students realize they could have done things differently and better, but rather than approaching them as coaches and collaborators the career office has treated them as enemy intruders.

    • Anonymous Carl Anonymous Carl February 15, 2021

      Easy to say with a one-sided piece of propaganda. They’ve been caught falsifying the name of the event, what else are they misrepresenting here? And the “full force of institutional power” is… let’s see… “blocking access to Career Center resources… until each had individually written a public apology.” A written apology. That is definitely Draconian punishment.

  3. glad I didn't go to Carleton glad I didn't go to Carleton February 15, 2021

    Good on the Sunrise students. Line 3 is a catastrophe waiting to happen and a Wells Fargo approach to DEI is a laughable notion. The people in charge at Carleton College seem blissfully unaware of the world they’re living in.

  4. Irony S. Dead Irony S. Dead February 16, 2021

    Interesting to see a casual mention of a “predominantly white group interrupting an event aimed at and attended by BIPOC students and panelists” that spends several paragraphs whining about a loss of access. I hope the irony isn’t lost on anybody.

    • Wtf Wtf February 19, 2021

      Lol white Carleton liberals and telling minorities what’s in their best interest… a perfect combination. It truly amazes me the level of fragility and lack of personal responsibility here coupled with a holier than thou attitude as the cherry on top.

  5. Need A. Job Need A. Job February 17, 2021

    If the Carletonian is going to act as the media arm of Sunrise, when will it be publishing its list of Sunrise-approved jobs so we know what jobs we can apply to? I hope the people who performed this stunt are going to help a whole lot of people find jobs after driving away employers in the middle of a pandemic. Let’s talk about being privileged, ok?

  6. Anonymous Carl 3 Anonymous Carl 3 February 18, 2021

    Just a question and a thought,

    The MN gov website describes the Line 3 Pipeline “as an integrity and maintenance driven project that would involve the construction of 330 miles of new 36-inch diameter pipeline to replace 282 miles of the existing 34-inch Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. (https://mn.gov/puc/line3/summary/)”

    Obviously the tar sands industry has a lot of problems as is- and we can all be sure that the original pipeline was built without much recompense for the indigenous people living on the White Earth reservation- but I’m unclear what the problem of the construction of a newer pipeline to avoid a spill on the old pipeline is? There seems to be some risk of environmental degradation in the act of decommissioning the old pipeline according to the Honor the Earth website (https://www.honorearth.org/sandpiper_line_3_corridor), and that seems like something that could be engineered around. But given the presence of an existing pipeline with over 900 faults, the risk to the indigenous community and their lands seems to go down with the new pipeline. My question is: what about the new pipeline is posing a new environmental threat? (It is not clear from what is easily found online)

    In an ideal world, the old pipeline would be decommissioned and no new one built, but given that oil runs through the pipeline everyday (760,000 barrels/day to be exact)- not exactly something you can just cut the tap on- my logic leads me to think the construction of a new pipeline is the best solution for the indigenous tribes.

    Lastly- given the goal of EDI initiative is to bring more under-represented people into Wells Fargo corporate world, and that corporate world is where decisions like ‘let’s loan fat stacks to Enbridge’ are made, and under-represented people might include an indigenous person who is probably less likely to make that decision due to greater appreciation for negative externalities, then isn’t wholesale support of Wells Fargo’s EDI initiative in order for someone who totally prioritizes the environment? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t one of the reasons why representation (the goal of the EDI session) is so important, is so that decisions don’t get made with total disregard for certain communities…

  7. Irony S. Dead Irony S. Dead February 22, 2021

    Does it really take 12 paragraphs to say a group of (mostly) white students got caught belittling alumni and disrupting an event clearly for people of color? Full force of institutional power? That’s some melodramatic overreaction if I’ve ever seen it. On top of that they’re crying and whining because they have to say they’re sorry? They need to get over themselves already.

  8. Irony S. Dead Irony S. Dead February 22, 2021

    Wells Fargo is far from perfect, but they’ve sure as s*** done way more for Black-owned businesses than Sunrise, which has the audacity to say they get to decide where people work? GTFO. To top it off, Sunrise whines that an apology is some sort of abuse of institutional power? They’re just going to drop two sentences about the impact on BIPOC folx. How does this get made up for them? Or are they just collateral damage in Sunrise’s movement? Two sentences of “oops, our bad” seems to say just that. That’s some privilege right there.

  9. Irony S. Dead Irony S. Dead February 22, 2021

    Well, well, well… two of my comments on this article have been deleted after I pointed out that the impact of Sunrise’s actions on BIPOC folx has not received sufficient scrutiny. The only comment guideline violated was posting anonymously, but every comment here is guilty of the same. The comment above about the Carletonian being media for Sunrise is PROVEN 100% RIGHT… I’m sure they’ll delete this comment, too, but they know they’ve been exposed and no one should have any doubt where the Carletonian stands. Shameful!

    • Amelia Broman Amelia Broman February 22, 2021

      Your two previous comments were not approved because you submitted each of your three comments under a different username, thus falsely representing yourself as three separate individuals. We would be happy to approve these comments if you resubmit them under your initial username or your true name. You are correct that our comment guidelines strongly discourage anonymous posting; however, for this article we have opted to be more lenient with granting anonymity due to the contentious nature of the issue. Anonymous posting on our forums is not a right. We are willing to grant anonymity at our discretion when it fosters campus discussion, but the use of anonymity to misrepresent oneself or to post exceptionally rude comments has never been accepted on any of our articles. This is a general policy and has nothing to do with the content of this specific piece.

      If you have further concerns about our comment policy or this viewpoint piece in particular, please feel free to get in touch with us directly under your true name. This applies to other members of the Carleton community as well — we welcome discussion and feedback on the issue.

      • Amelia Broman Amelia Broman February 23, 2021

        To clarify, neither of the two comments in question was “exceptionally rude.” I was just posing that as a second example of an inappropriate use of anonymity. The only reason these comments were not approved was that the poster was attempting to misrepresent themselves as, now, four separate individuals on this forum. As stated above, we are happy to approve these two comments if the individual resubmits them under their initial username or their true name.

        The Carletonian welcomes feedback from members of the Carleton community on this issue, but we will not engage with anonymous posters. Individuals are welcome to contact us under their true names via email, through our “Contact” page, or through the Carletonian’s Facebook DMs. Further posts attempting to engage with us directly under anonymous usernames will not be approved. For those who wish to provide feedback, identifying oneself when doing so is the minimum acceptable standard.

      • Amelia Broman Amelia Broman February 23, 2021

        Update for readers: the two comments in question have now been approved after the individual agreed to have all their comments on this forum appear under the same username, rather than under four separate names as originally submitted.

  10. Anonymous Carl Anonymous Carl February 24, 2021

    Is 45 minutes of shouting at people and calling them “hypocrites” and “murderers” who take “blood money” really nonviolent language?

    • Anonymous Carl Anonymous Carl February 25, 2021

      Maybe Sunrise should be required to complete a training in nonviolent communication techniques? If they are as open to learning as they say, this is an obvious solution that addresses the issue instead of deflecting and making excuses.

      https://www.cnvc.org/learn-nvc/what-is-nvc

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