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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

All quiet on the communications front

<ofessors and administrators only know as much as we tell them. I always assumed that professors, especially the ones that I was close to, knew what was going on in the social lives of students. I was led to believe this after a brief stint as an office assistant where I would hear professors gossiping about the latest campus-wide scandal or critiquing the way the administration worded their latest email. This led me to think that the adults I was closest to on campus must somehow have a very in-depth look into student lives on campus.

It turns out I was completely wrong. I did not come to this realization until my Carleton study abroad trip last spring. There was one student on my program whom I felt exceptionally uncomfortable going abroad with. He was accused of sexual assault, and asked to step down from his role as a peer leader because he received too many Community Concern Forms. Apart from these issues, this student was also exceptionally, for lack of a better word, creepy to me during my freshman year. He asked me on a lunch date, in which I told him I had no intention of dating, but he continued to text and call constantly. My mailbox had a constant flood of Friday flowers and expensive concert tickets and notes. Originally, I naïvely took these to be friendly gestures. However, that was not the case. He was a stalker, but I cut him too much slack. It’s one of my biggest regrets that I didn’t submit a Community Concern Form against this person. I wish I had talked to my professors or a member of the administration about it. I am very sure, or at least want to believe, that it could have very much helped other students.

I knew this student was planning to go to abroad his senior spring. I so desperately wanted to bring up in my off-campus interview that I felt uncomfortable simply being in the same space as this student. I felt that it was not my place to determine who came on the program with me. This is another regret. Because this student was accepted into the OCS program, and had all the same privileges as my peers, I had no way of avoiding him in group settings. I had to see him every day, cringing whenever he’d talk. I avoided his presence like the plague. In turn, this made me feel very helpless and weak.

Several weeks into the program, his sexual assault allegations came to a head. My all-female apartment was very concerned, and talked to our professor and program aide about it. Our leaders were exceptionally supportive and considerate of all our concerns. The professor was I think surprised, to say the least, about the many instances of this student acting out of morally sound conduct. I told my own story, including my own doubt about the Title IX process at Carleton. Through this discussion and email exchanges with the administration and OCS offices, it became clear that when selecting students to travel abroad, leaders essentially have no knowledge of past disciplinary records related to that student. In this way, every student gets a clean slate when going abroad. I found this exceptionally disturbing. I was concerned for my friends on the program, and for myself. Nobody should have to feel threatened or uncomfortable in their time abroad.
But the way this specific system is set up deprives professors of crucial information that I think is necessary in choosing a group to go abroad. I understand privacy rights and trial procedures. But this “blank slate” or “blindness” approach in regards to disciplinary histories seems too lenient. The administration and OCS bumped emails and processing of my concern back and forth to one another, neither offering a full explanation and in turn pointing me to lean on my professor. The inability of the administration to recognize my concerns the same way my professor did was disheartening and frustrating.

In all of this, I learned that the adults you are close to on campus probably know less than you think. We are hesitant to share very personal things about our lives to faculty and staff because of a power dynamic. We do not want them to judge us, out of fear of getting bad grades or perhaps appearing weak in their eyes. I think we all need to learn, myself included, that it is never weak to admit your fears or frustrations. In fact, it makes us stronger and creates more important, lasting relationships. Professors are here at Carleton because they love to teach, and more importantly love to interact with their students. These interactions need to find ways to jump past the baselines of discussing course readings and into dialogues about student life and concerns that students have with Carleton. Carleton’s not a perfect place. Professors know that, but do not always know why you think that. That’s why it’s important to be honest and direct, and extend conversations from solely academic purposes to ways to make Carleton a more inclusive, stronger, and safer campus.

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