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Administration Enforces Changes to Rotblatt 156

Rotblatt is an annual campus event during which an inning of softball is played for every year the college has been in existence. The all-day event at the end of Spring Term has become a quintessential and beloved Carleton tradition marked by campus-wide camaraderie, celebration and alcohol consumption.

After being canceled last year due to college administration concerns over COVID-19, the Rotblatt Planning Committee was given the green-light this week to proceed with organizing the event. However, college administration introduced a few changes to the historic tradition in an effort to make it a more safe and contained event.

Traditionally, the event begins with mass beer distribution at dawn and continues until the final innings of the game. This year, alcohol distribution will be allowed only between 9 AM and 3 PM. Ethan Karp ’22, a member of the Rotblatt Planning Committee, explained that the change stems from administrative concerns “over early-morning and excessive drinking during the event.” Karp emphasized that this change will not affect the rest of the schedule or rules for Rotblatt: “Even though we will not be directly handing out beer until 9 AM, people playing in the softball game will still be required to be holding a cup with liquid in it throughout the game… we are thinking of supplying other non-alcoholic beverages between the start of the game and 9 AM.”

College administration is also restricting the committee from soliciting donations from students and alumni. Grace Hague ’22, another student on the Rotblatt Planning Committee, explains: “The administration has also asked that we abstain from asking for money from students and alumni, and while we can accept donations from alumni or students who approach us, our fundraising efforts are going to rely on selling Rotblatt merchandise to raise money. Since we’re hoping to build our funding pool back up, we’re looking to expand the merchandise lineup this year and have gotten some really fun suggestions from people!”

The committee will sell Rotblatt 156 merchandise in Sayles leading up to Rotblatt including sunglasses, hats and shirts designed by students. In order to increase funds for the event and to mitigate the midnight rush to secure a t-shirt that has caused safety concerns, the t-shirts will also be available for pre-order.

Besides the new drinking and donation restrictions, the Rotblatt Planning Committee has “full backing from the school,” Karp said. The only potential interference with the event may be COVID-19 or hiring enough security personnel to monitor the event. Pandemic-related labor shortages throughout the country and in Minnesota have caused a shortage of security guards, a problem threatening the possibility of large campus events that need security like Sproncert and Rotblatt.

However, Karp is hopeful that Rotblatt will not be impeded. “The only reason Rotblatt won’t happen is if they can’t get two to three security guards or COVID-19 gets bad enough to where outdoor gathering would be restricted, and since our COVID-19 numbers have been so low, I am hopeful that won’t affect it.”

The viability of Rotblatt has been in jeopardy for a while, most recently because of COVID-19, stretching back to former College President Poskanzer’s administration. Administrative concerns about the alcohol consumption associated with the event are not new. In 2014, the Carletonian reported that following administrative concerns and threats to cancel Rotblatt because of “the event’s emphasis on alcohol, the start time and overall length of the event, the lack of security and professional staff and the absence of clearly defined boundaries,” students and alumni rapidly galvanized to save Rotblatt, creating an online petition with over 1,000 signatures.

This year, the Rotblatt Planning Committee is confident in their discussions with the administration, determined to not let the tradition die. Hague, a senior and member of the only graduation class currently attending Carleton that has experienced Rotblatt said, “I think for a while there’s been an air of suspense on campus around the word ‘Rotblatt’ and a lot of anxiety that the event might not return. And it seems like those fears are compounded by the fact that even before the pandemic, during President Pozkanzer’s tenure, there was a sort of ever-present worry among a lot of students that Rotblatt might be permanently shut down by the administration. But, at least for seniors, the stakes of that fear have felt especially high this year because we’re the last grade on campus to have ever experienced a Rotblatt, and I’ve heard a lot of people worry that the event might die out if we couldn’t pass it along to future class years.”

Working with administration, Rotblatt Planning Committee member Max Vale ’22 expressed optimism for the event despite the changes this year: “Going forward, I’m really excited for the event, and I’m grateful to be able to help keep the tradition alive. Our number one priority is to make Rotblatt as safe as possible for everyone…It’s definitely imperative that the whole community follow the guidelines to ensure the longevity of the tradition. Regardless of the change, I am very hype about Rotblatt and can’t wait to be blessed by the Rotblatt Gods.”

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