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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Board of Trustees must communicate with students

<ing the fall of 2017, the Carletonian published an editorial titled “Administration must take stronger stances,” emphasizing the shortcomings of the administration in response to issues important to students and the Northfield community.

After reading this article, Brett Smith ’64 wrote a piece highlighting how his work on fossil fuel divestment has led him to the same conclusion about the administration and the Board of Trustees.

While we, the students of Divest Carleton, are aware that some conversations have occurred between the administration and the editorial board since the publishing of these pieces, we would like to bring forward an example of when the Board of Trustees has ignored and patronized the concerns of the student body.

On October 25, 2017, I sent an email to the Chair of the Board, Wally Weitz ’70. The email and Weitz’s response from later that day are below.


Original Message:


Dear Mr. Weitz,

We, the students of Divest Carleton, recognize that the dialogue between our movement and the Carleton College Board of Trustees has now reached the point of having a long and complex history.

This, the weekend of October 26-28, our organization will continue to make itself visible to students, staff, the administration and the board of trustees.

Our continued persistence is a reflection of our past arguments which remain true today. Those being that fossil fuel divestment will not harm the financial viability of the college, that the college holds influence within the public sphere, and that not participating in this global movement shows a tacit support for the fossil fuel industry and is a pass for these companies to continue to extract fossil fuels and exert political power through monetary influence.

We would also like to take this moment to recognize where divestment lies within the larger discourse on campus in the fall of 2017. Students at Carleton feel that the administration is not doing enough. Members of our community are not being protected in the face of personal threats.
In the case of our campaign, many Carleton students were affected by climate disasters over the summer and during this fall. Students who live or have family in Houston, South Florida, Puerto Rico, and Mexico faced hurricane damage.

Students in the Pacific Northwest and California saw wildfires tear through places they love, while their communities suffered. As you know very well this is not a future problem. It defies the liberal “political/apolitical” divide as do all issues that concern the safety and human rights of students that the college has accepted into its community.

Thank you for your continued engagement with our organization. We hope the well-being and safety of students is a topic on every board member’s mind as they meet this weekend.


Riley Irish ’19
Divest Carleton





Whether or not you agree that fossil fuel divestment is the right move for Carleton College, it is clear from this email that the chairman of the board is not taking the concerns of students seriously.

This has been an ongoing theme of the fossil fuel divestment campaign at Carleton. Since the campaign’s founding in 2013, the board has directed our organization to different avenues of communication.

We have worked with the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee, the Carleton administration, and individual board members.
We have presented continuous communication and literature for the education of the board and yet, in the spring of 2017, when a group of students from Divest Carleton met with board leadership, they left feeling as though some of the board members were willfully uneducated on the topic.

Weitz’s reply of “Thanks” is a small example of a larger issue at Carleton College. We, as students, deserve better than one-word responses.

If we are going to accept a body of economic elites making decisions about our school behind closed doors (a separate problem of its own), then we deserve that body to be responsive to our concerns and genuine in their communication regarding all issues that students bring to the table.

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