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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

We’re having a hard time, but we don’t talk about it

<st fall, when I was a naïve and unscathed first-year, I asked an upperclassman friend how she managed to balance Carleton’s academics with extracurriculars, a social life and sleep. “It’s all a facade,” she told me. “Everyone here is faking it.”

At the time, I was terrified to hear that. And now, with a year behind my belt, I absolutely see her point. Behind that fleece jacket and espresso drink from Sayles is someone who is: behind on at least one assignment and several readings; embarrassed by their performance in today’s class discussion or lab period; overwhelmed by their countless commitments; exhausted from sleep deprivation; and afraid of not fitting in. That is the portrait of a Carleton student.

With this realization in mind–that Carls put on a facade–it confuses me to see Carleton receive praise on rankings like “colleges with the happiest students.” (This diamond of college of admissions fodder warrants an investigation in its own right. What does “happiest students” even mean? How is this measured?)
I want to first draw attention to this type of ranking because, according to the college’s recent Healthy Minds Study, one in four Carls has major or moderate depression. Sure, I count myself among the one in four, and maybe that makes it easy to write off my commentary as biased. But, that same study showed that 32% of Carls agree with the statement, “most people [at Carleton] would think less of someone who has received mental health treatment.” The cat’s out of the bag: this campus has a stigma problem– to which, I have no doubt, the façade contributes.

The discussion about mental health and stress culture at Carleton does not end with those numbers. It continues, however, on the topic of our campus drinking culture.

As an anxious person, I’m often reminded to avoid catastrophizing, or believing something is worse than it really is. But, in my experience covering alcohol-related stories as a Carletonian news editor, I feel justified in saying that we are experiencing a campus life catastrophe.

My two chief concerns are: one, that students go out on weekend nights not to just have fun, but with the intent of getting blackout drunk, and two, that it remains unclear whether administrators are even asking why this is a norm on campus.

Maybe, just maybe, Carleton students’ inclination to binge-drink is a response to the suffocating stresses of day-to-day life on campus. And that, coupled with the statistic that one in four Carls has major or moderate depression, indicates to me that we are in dire need of open dialogue about the demands of student life at Carleton College.

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