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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Campus administration responds to Carls Talk Back

<st Friday, Feb. 23, President Poskanzer sent an email to students, faculty and staff on behalf of the Tuesday Group giving updates on the administration’s response to the Carls Talk Back movement, which began almost two weeks ago with the release of a list of demands and a silent protest at the convocation of former white supremacist Arno Michaelis. The Tuesday Group includes administrative leaders on campus, such as the College’s treasurer and Dean of the College.

Carls Talk Back organizers had previously met on Feb. 15 with members of the Tuesday Group, the Community, Equity, and Diversity Initiative (CEDI), and members of CSA Senate to discuss the group’s demands.

Apoorva Handigol ’19 gave statements to the Carletonian on behalf of the co-founders of Carls Talk Back. “Some of us were surprised how much [the administration] didn’t know, both in terms of institutional information and students’ experiences on campus,” Handigol said. “However, at the end of the meeting there was no tangible response from [the administration] on what moving forward would look like… We felt uncomfortable having such a small number of students represent and speak for the movement.”

In their email, the Tuesday Group wrote that group members were assigned to assemble further meetings. The email read, “The purpose of these follow-up meetings is to bring to light further valuable information, context and knowledge about pressing issues.”

“We expected a response from [the administration] to each demand by February 23rd, yet this was not met,” Handigol said. “Dean Livingston met with us co-founders on February 22 saying [the] Tuesday Group had met 3 times during the week to form the structure of 8 committees of 3-4 students and 3-4 staff each to continue further information gathering. Students were not involved in the planning of this structure which would have been the [expected] collaborative step.”

On Monday, Feb. 26, leaders of Carls Talk Back sent an email to students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents. Part of the email focused on opposition to the proposed meetings. Organizers wrote, “Not only are the purposes of these committees incongruent with what we asked of the administration but they also proposed scheduling two, hour-long meetings with each committee before the end of winter term. We are opposed to these committees because members of the movement have already spent three hours explaining our demands to the Tuesday Group.”

“Until the purposes of the committees changes to include coming up with tangible action items to fulfill each demand versus solely fact-finding, we are not agreeing to these committees,” said Handigol.

Joe Chihade, co-chair of CEDI and professor of chemistry, was present in the meeting on Feb. 15. “The idea was to get some information, to give the students who had put those [demands] together an opportunity to explain, and for us to ask clarifying questions,” he said. “I was a little surprised by the difference in the initial agreement to the second set of meetings and then the description of the second set of meetings in that email.” Chihade also noted that not everyone on campus received the email from Carls Talk Back.

Kathy Evertz, also a co-chair of CEDI and director of the Academic Support Center, said that the email sent by Carls Talk Back “reinforced what I’ve observed through this whole process. We as a committee [CEDI] need to find a way to listen to community concerns in a different way than we are now.”

President Poskanzer said in an emailed statement to the Carletonian that after the meeting, “As the students requested, we then promptly developed a comprehensive and concrete plan of follow-up meetings to prioritize needs, identify issues (including emerging issues) that can be immediately addressed, winnow out issues that have already been resolved, and help all of us tap governance channels and existing processes to address pressing matters. As the students also requested, we identified senior leaders who would act as point-persons or conveners for each of these follow-up groups, and we invited the student activists to designate members of their choosing to be part of these groups, too.

“The College’s leadership is ready to begin these meetings now…or at another time that is more convenient for them,” Poskanzer continued. “We are always willing to engage in mutual efforts to address issues that are based in good faith and aimed at building trust and improving Carleton.”

Jeff Ondich, a member of the Tuesday Group as President of the Faculty and a professor of math and computer science, highlighted the need for communication. “One of the cross-cutting issues is, you can call it transparency, you can call it information-sharing,” he said. “But the students are trying to find out things like, ‘who do you talk to about problem X?’ ‘How does System Y work?’ It was really helpful to know that that was one of these major issues. And I think it’s legit.”

Members of Carls Talk Back held a phone-in on Tuesday, Feb. 27, urging supporters to call Tuesday Group members and demand action. “A mass phone-in is a great way to show this support and articulate why we reject the committees in as clear way as possible,” said Handigol.

“Moving forward, we will expand Carls Talk Back to make it more representative of the Carleton community by broadening our base and being as inclusive as possible,” said Handigol. “Every meeting, conversation, and step they take related to Carls Talk Back, we deserve to know. It will take time to rebuild students’ institutional trust after having been failed by its resources and support systems. That step starts with administration.”

“I believe that all parties involved (Carls Talk Back and the members of Tuesday Group) are acting in good faith out of a desire to make Carleton a better place,” said Ondich. “That gives me hope that we can work together.”

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