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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carleton Forum sees low turnout at initial meeting

<rleton Forum, a new student organization formed this past winter, has held two events this term. After the first saw only two attendees aside from the organizers and leaders of the club, it was rescheduled to Thursday of last week. The more recent event was attended, again, by only two students.

The club was formed after Walter Paul ’18 saw the need for more formal political discussions on campus. “I thought about [creating the club] after the first debate [I saw] on Overheard at Carleton,” said Paul. Seeing these debates, as well as watching Intelligence Squared, a nonprofit organization which hosts debates between experts in different fields. Paul originally anticipated the club as taking after Intelligence Squared and hosting debates between students.

However, the two events Carleton Forum hosted this term did not follow this model. According to Carleton Forum’s president, Rohan Mukherjee ’19, the club’s first meeting was more discussion-based, and was held in collaboration with Professor of Political Science Al Montero. “It’s kind of a follow-up from an event which we held last term, which was really bringing people together from various political communities to discuss their ideological perspectives,” said Mukherjee. The events this term used a similar model. “[We wanted to] have an open discussion, really talking about how we want to frame discourse and how this dialogue matters.”

However, as mentioned before, both events failed to attract the anticipated amount of attendees. Mukherjee offered possible explanations, including the sunny weather and poor timing of events–each took place at 7pm, on a Monday and Thursday, respectively–to explain the poor turnout. Student interest was never formally assessed through surveys, Paul and Mukherjee said. Instead, informal conversations with interested students led to the formation of the club.

Paul and Mukherjee also stated that the club had a lukewarm reception by the CSA when it was being chartered, as it was relatively similar in nature to already founded, although currently inactive, student organizations.

The failure of these first two events led Mukherjee to question the necessity of Carleton Forum. “Does this mean that people don’t want to have a dialogue? Do people want to remain entrenched in their given political camp and not really come out and engage with the other side? Is this reflecting the polarized nation and polarized campus that we have become?”

However, Mukherjee mentioned the possibility of holding an event during next year’s New Student Week, and continuing to have conversations depending on its success.

“Catch them while they’re young,” he said, “before their ideas [on the necessity of having this discourse] are too cemented.”

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