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The Carletonian

Enrollment falls as Living- Learning Community wraps up its final pilot year

Thst-year Living-Learning Community is in its second and final pilot year. The experimental program consists of a cohort of first-year students who live together in Myers Hall and meet for a once-weekly, year-long course called “Civil Discourse on a Diverse Campus.”

While there were initially 11 students enrolled in this year’s cohort, its enrollment has fallen to six as the year has progressed.

The Living-Learning Community is “dedicated to engaging in difficult conversations that can help reduce the impact of conflict between individuals and our community at large,” as stated on the Dean of Students Office website. The program consists entirely of first-year students who applied to the program prior to their arrival at Carleton.

The Living-Learning Community involves both a residential and classroom component: all the participating students live together on third Myers and meet every Friday at 5a to discuss the week’s readings. These classroom discussions are led by Associate Dean of Students Joe Baggot and Associate Professor of Spanish Yansi Pérez. Baggot has been with the program from its inception, while Pérez is new this year, replacing Senior Lecturer in French Stephanie Cox, who co-led the program last year.

The post-pilot future of the Living-Learning Community is unclear. “The program is not just the two of us, it’s a college initiative. So that’s why we really don’t know if it’s something that is going to continue next year,” said Baggot.

Emily Cochran ’21, formerly a Living-Learning Community member, left the classroom component after fall term. “I was expecting people to be debating from a lot of different positions,” she said, “but instead we all had the same opinion and no one was really willing to play devil’s advocate.” Cochran also cited the group’s lack of diversity.

“Everyone except me and one other person were pretty well off financially and there were only two non-white people in the group,” said Cochran. “So I felt that most people were coming from a very privileged background and I felt like it was not really getting anywhere. So I didn’t find it productive. It wasn’t worth the credits.”

Other students dropped the course “because of other classes that ended up scheduling at the same time,” said current Living-Learning Community member Zach McCrary ’21.

Parma Yazdanpanah ’21, a current member of the Living-Learning Community, did not participate in the classroom component during the winter, but returned to the class this spring.

“In the fall the class was really awkward as we weren’t really talking about much and I didn’t do it in the winter because I had a class conflict,” said Yazdanpanah. “I’m back now for spring term and I like it a lot more. I feel like we’re actually talking about things and having deeper discussions, which we didn’t do as much in the fall.”

According to McCrary, the group is “more diverse than the Carleton population, which is generally skewed to being more financially well-off and more white.”

“In some ways yes, it was diverse, especially in the beginning because there were eleven people who were from all over the country,” said Yazdanpanah. “So it was sort of representative. But also everyone was agreeing about stuff and you could tell that everyone had the same political views, so in that way it wasn’t super diverse. But Carleton isn’t a great representation of the world.”

“The class has made me more aware of what conversations needed to be talked about on campus, as there are people who have had experiences that I would never have,” McCrary said. “It’s made me more aware and therefore able to have discussions in a better and healthier way.”

While a majority of the students in the Living-Learning Community were placed with roommates also in the program, this was not the case for everyone.

“It would be better if we all lived right next to each other,” noted Yazdanpanah. “Because we are really spread out on the floor—or if there were more people in the program. But there’s not that many of us and we live far from each other, so it doesn’t really provide that much interaction.”

“It would be great to have new people join the program,” said Living-Learning Community member Andrew Farias ’21. “For example, my roommate is not in the program, which is kind of weird, because almost everyone else is in the program with their roommate. It’s better if two roommates are involved in it because then you can continue those conversations back in your dorm.”

“From fall to winter, I think we should have brought a few more people in, because the class got really small,” said Yazdanpanah. “And it’s not like we’re doing something so intimate that we can’t invite other people.”

“Adding more people might make it harder,” said Living-Learning Community member Nhan Le ’21. “It would be easier if we just had a core group of people who really wanted to do it from the start and lived with us through the year.”

“The issue of civil discourse is something that’s very relevant and very important,” said Pérez. “So even if we’re not necessarily teaching it next year, we’re really committed to it and hope that it will be a part of something. And I’m pretty sure that the college feels the same way.”

“It’s also unique because we’ve had a core group of students since the fall,” continued Pérez. “We don’t have anything else like that. Sometimes I might get one or two students that I’ve had in the past but not as many.”

“I like seeing the relationship between the students and their relationship with us,” said Baggot. “So it’s been a good part of my Friday afternoon.”

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