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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Political Activism at Carleton

<ast few weeks, something other than Malt-O-Meal has been wafting through the Northfield air: the smell of protest. 

We recently overheard a student compare political activism at Carleton and Macalester. Here’s what she had to say: if a Mac student and a Carl were faced with a political issue, the Mac student would organize, head out to the streets, and lead a demonstration. The Carl would head to the Libe and study the issue.
Let’s say this assessment is true. Should we care? Do Carleton students have a responsibility to be politically active?

With the Occupy Wall Street movement’s recent outcry against economic inequality in the United States, Carleton students—for the first time in a while—seem uniquely tuned in to what’s going on outside of campus. Is this the beginning of a political renaissance for Carleton?

Counting Paul Wellstone as its major symbol, Carleton has a storied legacy as a politically active campus. But, we think that in recent years, this activist energy has waned. Perhaps most telling, the Wellstone House of Activism, once a feature of campus tours, has been relegated to the history books (and replaced by, of all things, Fitness House).

Yes, we have ongoing campus-wide discussions about important social issues, but they lack the immediacy and passion that we would normally associate with traditional images of political activism. Public forums on the ethics of eating meat and the inherent structures of white privilege are hardly things Carleton should forsake, but there are much more tangible issues that brainy Carleton students tend to overlook. See Iraq and Afghanistan Wars; involvement in Libya; national unemployment; hunger; racial and gender discrimination in the workplace.

Obviously we don’t face a political crisis the scale of the Vietnam War like our parents did when they were in college, but does that let us off the hook? We cannot overlook the important contributions of groups on campus like Academic Civic Engagement, Carleton Democrats, and EthIC—to name a few—but, Carleton has a distinctly inward-looking culture. The term’s short; there’s a lot of work; and many of us don’t have time to read the newspaper everyday. In short, it’s easy to seclude ourselves from the outside world.

But, we can’t forget that we’re only college students for four years. We have a responsibility to do something productive with the knowledge and skills that we acquire during our time here. So, tune in.

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