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<ir="ltr">Recently the issue of alumni voice on campus has come up in distinct and disparate venues for me, and I have been thinking about why and how alumni contribute their opinions and voice to campus proceedings. As a current student of the school many of the times when alumni chime in directly affect my daily activities, which is something that is easy to forget when you have graduated and live far away. There are many ways that alumni voice appears on campus, from donating to projects, to starting a movement about divestment, to commenting on “Overheard at Carleton” posts. This year alumni voice also had a part in the conversation of the dance group name change from Ebony to Synchrony.

This is a complicated issue because I understand that alumni have a powerful voice and place in the community; they do donate a lot to help the school achieve its goals and they can have a powerful voice to change things like with the divestment movement. Their voice may hold a power that the current students do not have, even if it is just because total alumni greatly outnumber current students. However, this power should be something alumni are more aware of. Donating to the school, getting involved in projects, or joining campus conversations about activities is a voluntary action that alumni choose to engage in because they remain committed to their alma mater and because they remember their college days fondly and want to give someone else that same experience. Going to this school, while also a voluntary activity, is one students are much more locked into; they have made an average four-year-long commitment to this place and changing locations is not easy. My point in all this is that the power dynamic is different because alumni choose to enter a space where they can easily exit at any time and they have inherently more power because they are generally more financially wanted by the school. While not all alumni contributions affect the way the students live on campus, it feels strange that alumni still want to have such a voice in campus climate daily proceedings when they do not have any stake in the matter and their opinion does not hold the same weight because they do not have to live with any of the suggestions they make.

The choices that alumni make in how to use their power and their voice matter to the students in a real way and therefore it is important that people examine the reasoning behind why they make the choices they make. Are they contributing their voice to campus because they want to create a better environment for current students or because they want to perfectly preserve their own school so they don’t have to face the fact that things change and become new places when they leave? In the case of debates like that of the Synchrony name change, how much does/should alumni opinion, in the voice of the founders of the group, matter when they are trying to dictate something that affects students daily and barely affects them at all?

In cases where angry alumni assert their right to have a voice in campus proceedings on forums like the somewhat infamous “Overheard at Carleton,” I wonder why are you using your alumni voice here? I don’t assert that alumni do not have a right to voice their opinions on campus activities, but I do think it is important for them to think about why and how they are doing this.

A common argument that I have heard is that alumni have a right to a voice because they donate money and this to me is the part I find most worrying about debating alumni voice on campus. It is important to realize that although we live in a country that asserts that money is free speech (Citizens United vs. FEC) I do not believe our community should be run on a pay-per-opinion basis. I do not believe that we should accept a system where money equates to personal importance. I am not so disconnected that I think this does not in same way describe the way the world works, but I argue that in this small sphere where I have some power I want to dispel that as much as possible. Therefore, higher donations, or donations at all should not give someone a stronger claim to alumni voice in the community.

Alumni should get involved, or stay away, donate or not but be aware of what you are fighting for and why. I also urge those posting on sites like “Overheard at Carleton” to think about what they want and why this is what they have chosen to fight on the Internet about.

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