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The Carletonian

Dean Livingston unveils discussion groups to improve campus climate

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To improve the general climate of Carleton’s campus, the administration, spearheaded by Dean Carolyn Livingston, has undertaken a new initiative to implement campus-wide small group discussions about events of social magnitude. These discussions will be divided into five topics: the Black Lives Matter movement, the Syrian refugee crisis and Islamophobia in the United States, free speech, and issues regarding socioeconomic status. Students, staff, and faculty will discuss how these issues affect Carleton and its community.

“We’ve heard from folks that these are the issues that are on their minds,” Livingston said. “We want to, as a community, provide a forum for people to be heard … if we don’t talk about this as a community then we really haven’t fulfilled our responsibility as an academic community.”

The idea to improve Carleton’s campus climate came during the spring of last year after a Carleton student posted an offensive remark on Twitter regarding the Baltimore riots.

After this incident, Abhimanyu Lele, (’16), said it was clear “we weren’t having the sort of conversations on campus that would help a person who said that to realize what they were saying was wrong.”

In response to the offensive remark, Carleton administration sent out a letter detailing campus improvements that needed to be enacted, and according to Livingston, the current structured conversations serve as a direct follow-up to the promises made in the letter.

Marielle Foster (’16), CSA President, said that the goal of the new campus climate initiatives is to “improve everyone’s campus experience … and prepare students for meaningful lives and complex workplaces after Carleton.” According to Livingston, the structured conversations will be facilitated by faculty and last through the winter and part of the spring. After this time, Livingston expects to be able to identify a list of specific actions Carleton can take to improve its campus climate. This list will then inform the Expanding Awareness and Training Work Group, a team made up of students, faculty, staff, and headed by Livingston, which will work to implement the action items generated by student conversation.

Livingston said that she plans to partner with RAs to help with the logistics of scheduling the 15 to 20 person discussions. Instead of students signing up individually for a 1.5 hour discussion period, RAs will sign up their entire floor for a time slot.

Amirah Ellison, (’18), said she would like changes to be more focused on increasing diversity in classroom curriculum.

“Most of the places I’ve felt … discomfort has been in the classroom, and it’s been professors saying things that I have felt were wrong and didn’t know how to articulate,” Ellison said. “For example, in Poli Sci and History classes we should just be reading articles and book written by women and by people of color … we’re learning to value certain experiences and certain types of people over others,” she said.

Lele said that from these conversations he “would like to see increased awareness about global issues on Carleton’s campus. We have a very privileged population of students … [it’s] not necessarily a bad thing but that means that there’s often a lack of awareness of social issues.”

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