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Speak up, be resilient: How Carleton abandoned me at my lowest

Two years ago, my art teacher asked the class to draw something for Black History Month, inspired by at least one of BLM’s guiding principles. For almost a week, I debated with myself over what to draw. I wanted to present something that was meaningful to me, something that remained true to my African roots; and, after much despair, the answer came in the form of la marimonda, an iconic symbol of my native Colombia created by African slaves and the poor working class in the nineteenth century. A mix between a primate and an elephant, la marimonda is an exaggeration of all human facial features — eyes, nose, mouth, and ears — meant to mock the white elite. It is a symbol of resistance and rebellion, of humanity’s obstinate resolve to revel in life even in the face of oppression.

When my teacher prompted me to explain my unconventional project, I replied that I had been inspired by BLM’s principles of diversity and globalism, by the movement’s determination to triumph over nationalism, to express what I consider to be the most essential characteristic of the Black community around the globe: resilience.

“There is nothing more admirable about the Black community,” I then said, “than its resilience.”

Lately, I find myself often reflecting upon this answer, ever since a dear friend called me emotionally resilient. I confess, the comment shocked me, drowned the outside world and its exuberance, the icy wind that had been biting at my ears and fingers. No longer was I sitting on a couch in a stranger’s backyard on a California winter night, surrounded by rock music and the carefree veil of youth; I was trapped within the confines of my disordered mind, thinking, Resilience: it is not a quality I would have attributed to myself.

I have, to be sure, survived my fair share of traumatic experiences, of which the most recent is my time at Carleton, this being the present subject of discussion.

Before I get any further, just so there is no confusion as regards my purpose, allow me to be clear now: this is a confession, a baring of my soul.

I attempted suicide on Monday, November 7 at my dorm in Watson Hall. Timely was I transported to the Northfield hospital, to its emergency department and later its intensive care unit. The nurses there had to plug me to two different IVs, one located on my left elbow pit, the other on my right wrist. 

Now, I will share a secret non-suicidal people do not always grasp: It takes an immense amount of pain and duress for someone to forgo self-preservation and see death as the only escape, as the only acceptable balm. It is nothing to be taken lightly; it is not just anything that has the power to shatter a person’s existence. There are few things quite as harmful as rejection and prejudice.

I came to Carleton hoping to be part of a community. After years of involuntary isolation, coupled with some good old racism and ableism at the beginning of high school, I left home for college thinking that I would finally be able to carve out a little pocket of the world for myself, that I would finally find a place where I belonged. Instead, I had to face the same prejudice that has persecuted me my whole life.

“You do not belong here.”

“You cannot thrive in Carleton’s community.”

“You are unsafe for campus and the other students.”

These are the words that Carolyn Livingston spoke to me on Friday, October 7, with my mother present in the room, the day after I was discharged from a psychiatric unit. I had been sent there because of my suicidal ideation, which worsened thanks to the numerous sleep disruptions provided by my then-roommate, and instead of offering support upon my return to campus, Livingston attempted to force me to withdraw from Carleton, for she believed that the college has no place for individuals like me, afflicted by depression and anxiety. My mother, sensing a repeat of high school, accused Livingston of discriminating against me because of my mental health and told Livingston she could not understand how an African American woman could be capable of discriminating against an immigrant family given African Americans’ long and arduous struggle for equal rights.

In response to my mother’s speech, Livingston assured my mother she knows what discrimination feels like, for she has experienced it. She then said she hoped that my mother could forget about the occurrence and that they could start anew with a payment of almost 3,000 dollars that Livingston authorized from the college to my mother to cover all of my mother’s expenses in Minnesota. My mother had to fly in from Los Angeles and rent a car to pick me up from the psych ward as Carleton never answered my calls to inform the college I was ready to be discharged.

For the following month (between my meeting with Livingston and my suicide attempt), the Dean’s Office continued to pressure me into withdrawing from the college, my request for accommodations based on my mental health was denied, and I was forced to face harrasment and intimidation from my then-roommate despite having been offered an “emergency room.” I can say that during this time of distress I received no genuine support from the Carleton representatives supposed to care for me as one of their students. Shall I, then, share Carleton’s response to my suicide attempt?

Well, while my mother kept vigil at my bedside at the ICU, she received an email from my class dean Trey Williams, supported by Sindy Fleming, asking my mother to pack my belongings in boxes, then “please put your shipping address on them and we will mail them on your behalf.” This email also contains a link to information about a leave of absence/withdrawal. With this I can say, the Dean’s Office never intended for me to return to campus, and, indeed, on December 27, the Dean’s Office placed me on an administrative withdrawal.

Currently, I inhabit a strange limbo where I am but am not a Carleton student, thus posed to lose a full-ride scholarship (the QuestBridge Match) that covers my tuition, housing, and meal plan. It is a scholarship I worked toward for four years, and I know my peers understand me when I say I spend many a sleepless night trying to ensure I would earn that good grade — secure my future.

I am the first person in twenty years at my high school to have won this scholarship. On my shoulders I carried the weight of my community’s hope — of my teachers, of my classmates, of my family — that there was something better out in the world beyond our streets. Right now, our hopes have been shattered.

My mother, a single mother, as so many before her, made us self-exiles in leaving Colombia and moving to the United States so that I and my little sister would not have to fear poverty or hunger, so that we could have an education and, through it, a shot at happiness.

Success, it has occurred to me of late, leads some people to forget their origins, but I assure you I have not. I have not forgotten about my ancestors, about their pain and toil. I have not forgotten how my grandmother was bought as a house servant in her tender childhood before being adopted, and I have not forgotten how her eldest sister, made a stranger by an early separation, has been violated multiple times, ever since she became a young woman. I think of her often, wonder about what she would think of me. Would she berate me for speaking up, tell me to lower my forehead, as my grandmother does, and that the shame of discrimination should be borne in silent suffering?

I fear she would tell me this, disapprove of me. But just like I remember her story, I remember my mother’s, how in quiet anguish she would leave my sister and I, her five and I twelve, alone until late at night. I barely saw my mother when I was a little child, with her always busy, always working, always producing.

Her hands — her fingers — have become lean now, her skin stretched painfully by deep calluses, and her nails break easily, made frail and weak from all the work to which she has applied them, though her countenance remains strong, her spirit fierce and alive. She urges me to speak up, to remember all her suffering and know that she has always only wanted me to be good, to be happy. She reminds me of how I am not the only one facing discrimination at Carleton, and I know as well as she does that although it is my story here now, it will not be the last if nothing is done.

So it is here, with the image of my mother’s calloused, stiffened hands vivid in my mind, that I leave Carleton’s community with a plea, that I beg of you, please, do not leave me alone, do not stay silent, do not be complicit.

Speak up, and be resilient.


  1. Elvira Carrillo Elvira Carrillo February 17, 2023

    How is possible that what we have been going through with COVID, shooting and all other ugly things we can protect our children to have a future and treat them like this she work hard and gone through a lot im sure that anyone part of the school staff if it was your child or family or friends it would be different they should close this school for being so brutal to students that deserve and need help. Funny fact we come to us the American dream to bump in the ugly side of how divided is this country

  2. August Lindgren-Ruby August Lindgren-Ruby February 17, 2023

    Thank you for sharing this experience. This is a deeply moving piece.

    While I wish people did not have to publicly bare their trauma to get restitution, I hope Carleton feels some heat regarding its behavior, and reviews its policies here. Discrimination based on health (physical and mental) and ability is horrifyingly common on campus. It’s a betrayal of the promises Carleton makes to prospective students of an atmosphere of inclusion, safety, and respect. Quietly forcing people to withdraw after all the work to be admitted is shameful behavior on the College’s part.

    It takes a lot of courage to speak out about your experiences. Please know the alumni community stands with you. Many of us experienced similar crises silently and did not receive the support we needed.

    What supports or resources do you need as you continue to challenge this treatment?

    • Camila Hernandez-Quintero Camila Hernandez-Quintero February 19, 2023

      Thank you so much for telling me I am not alone. In January, I was present at a Carleton meeting in Los Angeles with Allison Byerly, parents, and alumni. I told my story there, too, and, although Byerly was not empathetic, some of the alumni told me they or friends had experienced something similar. Right now, I am really just trying to make people aware of this unacceptable situation. I have no hope of returning to campus, so this, and all my efforts, is directed at helping my peers in whichever way I can. If the alumni community can help me spread awareness, I and current students would be profoundly grateful.

  3. Ariadna Molina Ariadna Molina February 17, 2023

    Camila, thank you for sharing your brave words. Thank you for sharing your story and speaking out against institutions like this. If we do not speak up, they will continue taking advantage of us. I hope you know you’re not alone in this fight, you have a whole community that supports you.

    You earned that scholarship with your hard work, they will have to pay up. Don’t let them silence you. You are strong and capable. This fight is going to be long and tough but know that you will get through this. You, your mom and your sister are strong and have been through a lot, but know that it will not be in vain.

  4. John Doe John Doe February 18, 2023

    Your story is extremely encouraging and thank you so much for sharing your experience. I faced similar hatred from Carleton’s student body and administration but I was silent out fear of being mocked or being pushed toward an unimaginable edge. After graduation I cut ties from the negativity surrounding me on campus and my mental health is increased drastically. Though I can’t provide much advice I hope you continue your journey as best you can.

    • Camila Hernandez-Quintero Camila Hernandez-Quintero February 19, 2023

      I am so sorry the student body failed you, too! Some people just do not understand what discrimination feels like and what it does to a person, but I am truly glad to hear your mental health has improved. I hope good things continue to come to you. You deserve them.

      Thank you for reading the article.

  5. Angelica Quintero Angelica Quintero February 18, 2023

    I’m so proud of you my love. Always remember that you’re not alone. I will always be here for you. Speak up as far as your words can fly and be heard because by your side there will be many others suffering alone. They need to know that speaking up is the only way for American society to wake up. I love you, my beautiful daughter. Please share with others her story, your story, everyone’s story. Life matters. Don’t accept what a college has told you that you don’t fit their mold, that you don’t belong there, that you can’t thrive in their community. Don’t admit that they have the power to discriminate against you because of your mental health.

  6. Jane Doe Jane Doe February 18, 2023

    Thank you so much for sharing your story.
    Last year I experienced severe depression after being in quarantine/isolation for a month straight due to a false positive covid test. When I went to the dean about the idea of transferring or mental health support, instead of compassion, I was met with the all too familiar Carleton money grabbing attempts. As someone who pays full tuition, they told me that I should strongly reconsider changing college plans, insinuating that if I left Carleton I would never end up graduating college. I left the meeting feeling more alone than before. Carleton administration does not support students with mental health struggles (especially ones that have been worsened by school policies).
    I have so much respect and admiration for you for sharing your experience. You are the person that Carleton needs.

    • Camila Hernandez-Quintero Camila Hernandez-Quintero February 19, 2023

      Thank you for sharing yours, too. I am sorry you had to go through that. I wish I could say I am surprised, but the most tragic thing is that I cannot, and people need to realize this: even if this behavior is expected from the administration, these actions are not okay or even remotely acceptable. No single act of discrimination is.

      I hope that you are feeling better now, that you have found support in our peers, because you are absolutely not alone. Hang in there; you are worth it!

  7. Potato Potato February 18, 2023

    thank you finallysomeone said these words. this happened to me. that’s all i can say. and every single thing you wrote in there was true. dean livingston is NOT concerned about the welfare of any of us despite being a black woman?? you will not be silenced.

    • Camila Hernandez-Quintero Camila Hernandez-Quintero February 19, 2023

      I am so sorry to hear this happened to you, too. I hope that you are doing better and that, even though the administration failed you, you found support in our peers. Hang in there.

  8. Jane Doe Jane Doe February 18, 2023

    Wow. Shame on the administration. Shame shame shame. I hope prospective students are made aware of the vile things this institution does to its students, especially its BIPOC students. Solidarity with you Camila. Would be a shame if someone made a speech about this during a prospie day……

    • Camila Hernandez-Quintero Camila Hernandez-Quintero February 19, 2023

      Thank you. I appreciate the support. If I had known that Carleton does this to its students, I would have never applied here. The only thing I can never regret is the other students I have met. They are wonderful people, and it is for them that I am speaking up, so hopefully others will not have to go through what I did.

  9. tomatopie tomatopie February 18, 2023

    at the end of the day, you feel entitled to something that the institution is not capable of giving to you. if you are struggling with suicidal ideation while on campus, then maybe being on campus is not in your best interest. it would suit you to get therapy and some personalized in-depth mental healthcare. i hope you can also be more empathetic to your roommate, it is unfair to place blame on them for your ideation. also, put yourself in your RA’s position.

    lastly, the random stuff about blm and then the way you mention dean livingston and her race is wrong, the constant mentioning of how you all expected her to act because of her race is strange. i believe she was doing the best with the situation she was presented with.

    • Jane Doe Jane Doe February 19, 2023

      @tomatopie Your comments support her point 💯.

    • Mr. Montgomery Mr. Montgomery February 19, 2023

      The lack of empathy and understanding that this is literally something many college students struggle with, often silently, is precisely the problem. The condescending attitude you assume here as if it’s an easy solution communicates volumes. Some students don’t have the privilege of getting quality care in the short span of time people expect them to, and recovery is usually a long term process to which support is imperative to an individual’s recovery and growth. I hope you’re able to learn something from Camila’s struggle so that you can move forward with a better understanding of how to support those who struggle with mental health.

  10. Jane Doe Jane Doe February 18, 2023

    I hear you, Ms. Hernandez-Quintero., and I am standing and cheering for your voice to be heard. A Carleton administrator added trauma to my daughter’s experience in 2020, and I was disgusted by the lack of compassion and gaslighting. Carleton administrators need to hear the voices of students and families. Thank you for speaking out. Please take care of yourself.

    • Camila Hernandez-Quintero Camila Hernandez-Quintero February 19, 2023

      Thank you for your kind words, and I’m so sorry that your daughter went through a similar experience. I sincerely hope she is doing better. To be sure, Carleton’s lack of compassion is utterly disgusting (I would go as far as to call it inhumane), and the gaslighting, too, is a huge problem. The deans and SHAC tried to gaslight me (and my therapist) into believing I was the only person experiencing this kind of discrimination at Carleton, but, thankfully, my peers have been extremely supportive and shared some of their own experiences. It is why I decided to write this article. This situation cannot be allowed to continue. Please take care of yourself too and your daughter.

  11. Jane Doe Jane Doe February 19, 2023

    You will always know this about yourself: that you went through something painful, hard, and unimaginable unfair, but came out on the other side and told your story that will effect change at Carleton. I am optimistic change will happen as it is happening at other colleges.
    You come from a long line of women who have endured, and you will not only endure, but fly high and far.

  12. Holly A. Stosvall Holly A. Stosvall February 19, 2023

    Doesn’t the Americans with Disabilities Act protect all disabilities, including psychological, as well as physical? And isn’t all ableism wrong? Think of Esme Wang’s famous essay, “Yale Will Not Save You.” (, because no college will make accommodations unless they are forced to.

  13. Holly A. Stovall Holly A. Stovall February 19, 2023

    How is a revoked scholarship, if due to a disability, not discrimination?

  14. Dean Livingston must go. Dean Livingston must go. February 19, 2023

    Camila – thank you for sharing your story. Reading yours was heartbreaking as it sounds very similar to any own experience. During a depressive episode my sophomore year I went to Joe Baggott and Dean Livingston. Rather than support, as you mention their response was to try to force me off campus. When I was sexually harassed Amy Sillanpa blamed and punished me for it. After my suicide attempt, they did the same as they did to you, forcing me in leave and then placing every possible barrier they could to me returning. While I am a white man and haven’t faced the same discrimination you have, it is clear to me from both of our experiences that the DOSO, and Dean Livingston in particular is not set up to support students but to protect the college. Dean Livingston is a spineless administrator who has no compassion for students. Further, the lack of an appeals process for any of her decisions gives her too much power and puts vulnerable students in an even more powerless situation. If you are appealing a course decision it goes to a panel of faculty staff and students. Why is the same right not there for administrative and disciplinary decisions? The college needs to reform the DOSO starting by firing Dean Livingston.

    I hope the best for you Camila, and I hope the college supports students like you in the future as it has not in the past.

    • Camila Hernandez-Quintero Camila Hernandez-Quintero February 24, 2023

      I am so sorry to hear you had this experience. After my bad experiences with Williams, Fleming, and Livingston, I tried to remain optimistic about Amy Sillanpa because a friend of mine suggested that I request a no contact order for my roommate. I thought she was nice during our original interactions, but then lost all faith in her when she did not respond to my last email (I did tell her not to reply with an empty commiseration if that was all she had to say to me, and she never did reply, which shows you how much she cared), so I am not surprised to hear you had this experience with her. Nevertheless, it is still awful and disgusting that she blamed and punished you for that. Also, you are right; Livingston has way too much power. When I was denied housing accommodations on campus, I inquired about the possibility to search for adequate housing off campus. My mother and I asked Sindy Fleming about it, then I also spoke with the financial aid office, and the business office, too, I think it was, and they all told me that it was ultimately Livingston’s decision and that my financial aid depended on my living on campus, so moving off campus could make me lose my scholarship. I cannot express how hopeless I felt after hearing all this. All my attempts at improving my situation were blocked because they required the approval of Livingston, the same woman who discriminated against me and left it very clear that I was unwelcome and unwanted.

      I sincerely hope you are doing better now. I hope you were able to find the support you needed.

  15. Kyler Takayama Kyler Takayama February 19, 2023

    If Dean Livingston attempted to permanently expel you from Carleton, then that would be unequivocally wrong. But I think spending some time away from the very same environment that you tried to kill yourself in is a logical conclusion to come to. I hope you get the help you need without it compromising your future at Carleton.

  16. Toshiba Yoshi Toshiba Yoshi February 19, 2023

    What exactly did the author want to come out of this? I don’t really see where the institution went wrong. Especially since it’s not clear that the scholarship is actually in any jeopardy. The author just needs to get adequate help and then return when she is in a better mental space. It seems pretty simple to me. I also am confused about the way race is brought up in this article, a bit red flaggy.

  17. A Concerned and very troubled parent A Concerned and very troubled parent February 19, 2023

    This was copied to a facebook group of Carleton parents – very troubling – hope you find some peace as you navigate forward.

    I have a somewhat orthogonal question – What if anything did Carleton’s “covid” policies contribute to such? College students (with rare exceptions) were never really at risk for covid even if they get infected by sarscov2 (any, all variants) – yet we saw quarantines, isolation, masking everywhere, repeat jabs – keeping fear and panic front and center for a very long time. College is not college if students cannot interact, learn from each other – experience something wonderful and new.

    I realize ofcourse that I may be way off base here – and the issues in question are far more complex and deep – but thought I would ask.

  18. Izanagi Izanagi February 19, 2023

    This article is misleading. First, Questbridge is more of a scholarship broker than a financial aid provider. Questbridge doesn’t provide the full-ride; instead, the institutions that admit Questbridge Match students commit to loan-free financial aid scholarships for the students. That’s what ‘full-ride’ means. Questbridge Match applications are read first (before early decision applications) to ensure that the institution can commit internal financial aid to the students they accept through the Questbridge program. Carleton financial aid is “need-based,” and the Questbridge Match program is specifically for low-income students. You would still have comparable financial-aid upon your return assuming that your financial situation stays the same. There isn’t a real “loss” as much as it is a pause.

    Second, I am all for fair-handed criticism especially of bureaucrats. But there is not anything fair about the racially-essentialist comments towards Dean Livingston in this piece. It cheapens your overall argument.

    Third, it might be in your best interest to take some time away from campus if the environment led you to act on your ideation. You don’t specify what kind of support you feel the institution isn’t providing; I also don’t know why your mother would not support you taking space from a dangerous environment. You are undoubtedly courageous and Carleton is lucky to have an outspoken student like you. Perhaps the courageous option is to prioritize yourself through a meaningful break. You are not any less awesome, special, or worthy for needing a break.

  19. Jane Doe Jane Doe February 19, 2023

    Hey Camila, I just wanted to commend you for speaking up about your experience. I went through something similar, where Dean Joe Baggot used the same exact words as Dean Livingston did with you, telling me that I wouldn’t do well at Carleton and encouraging me to withdraw despite my objections. As an international student, I felt completely helpless and had nowhere to turn. I opened up to them about how I was struggling with suicidal thoughts and my subsequent attempts due to discrimination from fellow students and a specific professor, but they were unresponsive and continued to pressure me to leave. Fortunately, I found support from some understanding professors in my department when I returned to campus, which helped me to eventually graduate.

    • Camila Hernandez-Quintero Camila Hernandez-Quintero February 24, 2023

      I’m so sorry to hear you had to go through that at Carleton, but I’m also so glad to know you were able to graduate. Although my experience with my peers has been largely great, I know there are some that can be terrible, and it is absolutely awful that you also had to face discrimination from them. I’m also so sorry that Dean Joe Baggot said that to you. I honestly struggle to understand how some people can’t grasp how hurtful saying things like “you don’t belong here” can be for people. It should be common sense that these words or the like are things you simply do not say to people.

  20. A Concerned Parent A Concerned Parent February 19, 2023

    Camila, I am so heartbreakingly sorry to hear about your experience at Carleton. My husband and I were thrilled when our daughter chose Carleton, as we expected a small liberal arts college to provide her with a warm, supportive community. But when she experienced health problems last year, we were shocked by the cold and aggressively indifferent response she received from Carleton’s administration. Like you, she was not only provided with absolutely no support, she was told by Sindy Fleming and Carolyn Livingston that she should simply withdraw from Carleton. We have another child at a major research university, and, despite its own shortcomings, they have received far more compassion, concern, and support from their deans than anyone at Carleton has ever shown. I would not recommend Carleton to a prospective student without some major administrative turnover. I hope you find peace and support beyond Carleton, Camila, and I am grateful for your courage in recounting your story. You, and all students, deserve so much better.

  21. Kevin Hislop Kevin Hislop February 19, 2023

    While this is a tragic story, I agree with Carleton in this case. They did what, in the long run, is going to be best for Camila and the rest of the students on campus. Her scholarship, I’m sure, will be transferable, as QuestBridge is an intermediary that negotiates financial-aid packages for low-income students who are attending participating institutions. When I was a freshman, I literally stopped an extremely emotionally disturbed floormate of mine from committing suicide during winter term. She was a tall, white girl from the Great Plains. Her difficulties had nothing to do with race or anything like that. Stopping her from killing herself was unfathomably intense in the moment, of course, but it’s critical to understand that that was on top of at least six additional floormates and me helping her deal with her issues for months. Although we obviously were supportive, it was not—and never should have been—our job to be our friend’s therapist or savior. The crucible of Carleton was simply too intense for her at that point in her life. Interestingly, I’ve stayed in touch with her over the years, and she has done very well, graduating from a good university, getting married, having a family, etc. I’ve chatted with her a bit about whether she thinks Carleton did the right thing, even though she was extremely distressed about the decision at the time. She basically does, although some criticism and misgivings are always present. It’s a really difficult situation. I sincerely hope Camila is able to get the mental-health help she needs before she embarks back on her educational journey. People do not try to commit suicide unless they are devoid of hope and see no other options. I know. My father killed himself when I was 20 and a junior at Carleton. The College supported me fervently and faithfully. I will forever be grateful.

  22. Tara Vodihn Tara Vodihn February 20, 2023

    Let me begin by saying that I sincerely hope that Camila gets the help she needs. However, it is not Carleton’s responsibility to manage a student with an acute mental health condition any more than an acute physical condition. If a student were diagnosed with a potentially terminal physical illness, would the expectation be for the college to manage the illness, or for the student to withdraw and return after their health is stable?

    Mental health is no different. Of course, I would hope the college offers appropriate support for students living with mental health imbalances. However, there is a huge difference between offering support and being responsible for someone who is unstable.

    What I tell my clients at the acute psychiatric facility where I work is that all we have in life are our circumstances and our choices. We can’t control our circumstances, but we can control the choices we make. Not taking responsibility for your choices is giving away the power your have over your own life. Look, sometimes life sucks. I get that. However, is focusing your energy on blaming others going to help move you forward?

    This advice doesn’t come from a textbook. It comes from my lived experience as a Black woman diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and ADHD. If we want to go from surviving to thriving, the key is to be able to manage our symptoms and self-regulate. Period.

    While some places are going to be a better fit than others, no place is going to be a panacea for our mental health. The sooner Camila learns that lesson, the better.

    I am glad to see that she spoke about resilience. Resilience is a quality that can help us no matter what the circumstances, and can actually be increased. There are many theories about the components of resilience. The one that I have found the most helpful identifies self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care, connection with others, and having a greater purpose.

    Camila would be well-served to use this time to explore resilience more deeply so that she can begin to thrive.

    • Angelica Quintero Angelica Quintero February 20, 2023

      Thank you, Tara, for expressing your point of view. If you read the article carefully, we are not talking about blaming others for the decisions we make. Here, we talk about empathy towards people who suffer from disabilities and that we do not have the right to discriminate against them with phrases that hurt and harm their mental health even more.

      As you mentioned, “Of course, I would hope the college offers appropriate support for students living with mental health imbalances.” This is what we are talking about. As Camila’s mother, I was present to hear these painful words that left me in shock for a few seconds. My daughter asked for support and accommodations, based on professional opinions from her medical providers and the psychiatric unit in Minnesota. Dismissing these medical recommendations and violating the ADA, Carleton denied the accommodation request (OAR didn’t even acknowledge my daughter’s depression and anxiety), so that the support was non-existent. Rather, they discriminated against her for asking for it. This is what we are talking about. Discrimination. And not only that, they put so much pressure on her to withdraw that this was what ended in a painful decision.

      As a high school teacher, I can tell you that empathy towards your students or others can make a difference. And of course, she has always received the help she needs, which is why she had the strength and courage to write this article and show what happens inside the college. She is stronger than ever, and she spoke not only for herself, but for all Carleton students who have been discriminated against.

      Before writing her article, we investigated how many were going through the same thing and thanks to this article many students are speaking up. They have the right to be given the support they need, because that is what the Americans with Disabilities Act was created for.

      With your lack of empathy and understanding, I fear for the well-being of the patients that come under your care…

      Have a wonderful day. Best Wishes!

  23. Random Senator Random Senator February 22, 2023

    Hi Camila,
    Dean Livingston recently reached out to senate to talk about this situation along with recent renovations to SHAC.Here’s what she had to say

    She did not expel Camila. In her 25 years here there have been only two instances where a student has been expelled due to mental health related issues. She stated what happened in these kinds of situations is that a student is asked to take a leave to improve their mental situation.

    The reason for this she stated (and keep in mind I might be misquoting her) was something along the lines of balancing the needs of other community members and the needs of the student in question. If their office continues and continues to get CCFs about a certain individual it can get to be too much. That is saying that this individual is affecting the mental health and well-being of their friends, floormates, etc to the point where they have to start weighing the costs and benefits of having the individual stay on campus.

    The individual is asked to take a leave with a take to work on. When they are cleared by a medical professional they are allowed to reenroll. Upon reenrollment, they are provided with constant checkins by a Dean (this applies to people who took military leave as well). I was not clear on what kind of support is provided during the gap. All scholarship (assuming similar level of financial need) will be there once the student returns.

    My question are as follows; does this seem accurate to what you experienced? In what concrete ways could the Dean of Students Office supported you better? What aid are you receiving during your gap from them?

    • Camila Hernandez-Quintero Camila Hernandez-Quintero February 22, 2023


      Indeed she is right that she did not expel me; however, she did place me on an administrative withdrawal. I cannot say in truth how many times this has occurred, but since the article came out, other students have implied that it has happened more times than even I imagined. I can also say that yes, there some CCFs, but they were about the way my situation with my roommate was impacting me, not about how I was impacting other students. Such an issue was never addressed to me. Also, I am going to share some details about the October 7th meeting that I left out of the article:

      In this meeting, Livingston demanded that I giver her my medication (Zoloft) or she would not allow me to return to campus. Naturally, I objected, saying that it was my medication and I needed it, as it is part of my treatment for my depression and anxiety. Since I refused, Livingston asked me to leave her office, for we had nothing more to discuss. I asked her, “Are you talking about expulsion?” She replied, “Yes, I am asking you to withdraw.” But, another thing I left out, Marit Lysne, director of SHAC, was also present in the meeting, and she interjected that no, no, that was not the case at all, it was just a leave of absence. So Livingston was been trying to pressure me into taking a “leave” since week four of classes. In this meeting, she also told me that she didn’t understand why I insisted on staying at Carleton because I didn’t have any friends there. This was extremely hurtful, and I replied that I did have friends. “Name three of them,” she said, and I did, but I found this experience utterly humiliating. She continued to insist that I was isolated and did not know anyone on campus. Both my mother and therapist can attest to this. My point here is that if I was so isolated and knew nobody, so that nobody knew me either, how could I have a negative impact on others? Another thing that happened this day is that Livingston said that if it were for her, I would never receive a housing accommodation because I did not deserve it. Moreover, the day I attempted suicide, one of my friends emailed Livingston to express outrage at her treatment of me and the denial of my accommodation requests, and Livingston replied that the medical documentation from my mental health professional was not sufficient because, otherwise, all students would have a single room. In addition, I asked the financial aid office (and I think it was the business office, too, or something like that) to inquire about my scholarship, and they replied that my scholarship was only applicable as long as I resided within Carleton. The issue here is that I may not be allowed to return to campus and will now explain why.

      My medical health providers cleared me to return to campus and reenroll for classes. Naturally, I have the documentation to prove it. Indeed, my primary care provider has been urging me to return to college since December. I also have a letter from the psychiatrist in Minnesota saying that I can “return to school without restrictions.” Carleton, however, ignored my therapist’s recommendations and her clearance. They made her and me speak with case manager Rachel Morrison, who recommended a DBT program. Since then, Carleton has been falsely claiming that I have not been following my provider’s recommendations, but I can show you emails and medical documentation proving otherwise. If you wish, please email me at my Carleton email, and I will show you the documents of which I speak. Lastly, I have been working with a legal aid since November. In his first communication to Carleton, he disputed the claim that I am “unsafe for campus and the other students” as there is no evidence that I have had problems with any student beyond my roommate, so that Carleton could not deny me accommodations or my return under the excuse that I present a “direct threat” to others. Carleton’s attorney replied that the college’s decision has nothing to do with my effect on others but with my inability to take care of myself. Once again, please email me, and I will show you what documents I can.

      In short, I sadly cannot say that Livingston’s claims are accurate to what I experienced. The best support I could receive from the Dean of Students Office is probably to receive the non-contact order I requested for my ex-roommate (funnily enough, this was a suggestion made by a friend who submitted a CCF and who was with me when I called 911 the night of my attempt). I will not say accommodations because I know I have to deal with OAR for that. To your last question, it hurts me deeply to say I have not received any aid from Carleton during the administrative withdrawal (though Fleming told my mother I would). I spoke once with my class dean Trey Williams only because I called to report my concerns about a friend who was making ideative statements. Our conversation was strictly about this other student and not once did Williams inquire after my well-being. I had my phone on speaker, and my mother was present, so she can attest to this. Williams’ lack of regard for me also hurt her because he used to be the one administrator I trusted. I can no longer say this is true.

  24. Tara Vodihn Tara Vodihn February 22, 2023

    I chose to focus on what will help Camila. That, in my professional and personal opinion, is the most empathetic, understanding, and kind approach to take.

    Suppose Carleton did everything that you and Camila wanted. Instead of taking time away from school to get the appropriate treatment that an acutely mentally ill person needs to become and stay stable, Camila would remain on campus and graduate.

    Will Camila be able to magically not be severely ill and able to thrive in our competitive, stressful society? Or will she try to kill herself again?

    I don’t want Camila to try again.

    Therefore, my response was not about what the college should or shouldn’t have done, or what the medical recommendations were. They are irrelevant to me.

    I want Camila to share her brilliance with the rest of the world, to thrive, and find happiness.

    The only way for her to do that is to be able to manage her mental health with minimal support. I don’t know what that looks like for her, but I truly hope she understands how critical it is for her to do so.

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