“Presidential inaugurations are important markers in the history of a college, as they happen relatively infrequently, and they mark a new chapter for the institution,” explained Elise Eslinger, member of the Carleton College Inauguration Committee. On the weekend of October 15 and 16, Carleton celebrated the inauguration of President Alison R. Byerly, the 12th president of the college.
The occasion was marked through a variety of events focused on community and togetherness, with a central focus on Carleton’s “Story Core.” This focus created a different celebratory experience than other occasions.
“It is often tradition for colleges to host large, formal events, including seated meals focused on visiting delegates and special guests; however, we wanted to capture a less elaborate and more campus community-entered approach to President Byerly’s inauguration,” explained Eslinger.
However, a less elaborate approach does not necessarily entail less expense. Eslinger said that “many of the expenses are very similar to what we spent 11 years ago when we held President Poskanzer’s inauguration.” The large tent on the Bald Spot cost $39,000, and the fireworks cost $5,000.
The price of this inauguration celebration, however, is different from previous occasions. Susannah Ottaway, member of the inauguration committee, explained, “Costs will look different for this inauguration than others because it coincided with family weekend, so we had an additional group on campus for whom it was important to provide welcome and hospitality.”
Eslinger added, “We are still gathering the costs of the various components of the recent events, but our aim throughout has been to focus on activities (and allied expenses) that bring the community together after so much time apart during the pandemic—and this time that included some extended community by also welcoming visiting families into the mix.”
Many of these community-gathering events were inexpensive. “Some of the entertainment was held outdoors to be COVID-safe and also had the benefit of not being very costly,” Eslinger said. This included the majors relay, the bonfire and smores and the trivia events, among others.
Costs were also saved by focusing on students’ needs, Eslinger explains. “The street fair was a new event; we could not afford to foot the bill for all guests to eat for free, but we did think it was important that students each receive a free meal, so we were prepared to pay $15 per student for that event.”
Although the College took some cost-saving measures, there were students who were critical of how much money was spent. Nicolo Del Negro ’25 said: “I was pleased to see Carleton’s initiatives taken to celebrate President Byerly’s inauguration, but it is like Carleton spent another large sum of money on Christmas lights… it adds to another questionable purchase of the college, whose funds could most certainly be used in better ways.”
These expenses are covered by the President’s Office from their departmental operating budget savings, which is collected over a number of years. This fund enables extravagant events like the firework show. As Sam Wege ’22 describes, “They were a pretty neat way to end a fun weekend.”
The inauguration celebration would not have been possible without the help of faculty and staff, as Ottaway states, “We have heard many lovely responses from people about the events! We feel really grateful to all of the staff, faculty and students who put so much time and care into planning and ensuring that everything ran smoothly.”