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The Carletonian

Carls Talk Back: open letter to Carleton community

< the Carleton Community:

Many of you have heard of the movement #CarlsTalkBack. However, there seems to be a sort of mystery around what #CarlsTalkBack is, our purpose, and how we came to be. As this Saturday marks one year since our first demonstration, I would like to take the time to explain the movement, our history, and our current goals in hopes of setting the record straight.

The movement was founded in February 2018 in response to what many students felt was a disregard for the perspectives, needs, and health of Carleton students on the part of the administration. The four founders, Apoorva Handigol (’19), Gaby Tietyen-Mlengana (’20), Bethany Bobo (’20), and myself (’20) met to brainstorm ways to take a stand against the College’s dismissal of student voices and we decided to organize a demonstration to be executed on February 9. We chose this date because there was to be a convocation speech delivered by Arno Michaelis, a former leader of a skinhead organization who personally terrorized and brutalized minorities for years. Although our demonstrations were not to be directed at Michaelis, we thought it would be powerful to use that time and space as a platform for making our voices heard, especially being that the Board of Trustees was expected to be in attendance.

From there we did everything we could to get other students involved. We had our first all-campus meeting on Monday, February 5, 2018 to address the problems and needs within our community and to settle on effective demonstration tactics. Over 100 students attended this meeting and in two hours we were able to produce three very important outcomes: our demands list, our February 9 demonstration tactics, and a name for the movement. Everyone at that meeting played a crucial role in laying the foundation of the movement.

After this meeting, we worked tirelessly to organize a series of demonstrations that would have an incredible impact on the entire Carleton community. We formed committees for delegating work, assigned chairs and co-chairs, conducted hours of research, did outreach, wrote statements, sifted through and refined our list of demands, created posters, and planned our demonstrations down to the last detail. Finally, after four days of stress, sacrifice, sleepless nights, and constant work, the time had finally come for us to demonstrate.

The first phase of our demonstration plan was a shocking and unavoidable poster campaign which was initiated on the night of Thursday, February 8. Overnight, hundreds of posters were printed and plastered in every building on campus. Many posters included pictures of particular members of the administration who our demands were being addressed to. Other posters simply listed demands while others read “#CarlsTalkBack” and “This is bigger than Friday” to convey that we were starting a movement that would be much bigger than a single convocation.

The following day, Friday, February 9, we initiated the last two phases of our demonstration. During convocation, we performed a silent demonstration which consisted of standing in the chapel, holding signs, and distributing our list of demands. On the front of the signs read some of our demands. On the back of a few signs (ones that would be held in sight of the speaker) read notes for the speaker which read: “Please understand that we are not protesting you,” “Please help us prioritize the voices of marginalized students,” and “Please support us to create institutional change.” We stood with posters for the entire duration of the speech and left peacefully and silently when it was over.

Meanwhile, there was also a demonstration happening in Sayles in which students were repeatedly reading our list of demands over a microphone. Once convocation ended, more students gathered in Sayles to hold up signs and support the speakers.

Following these demonstrations, the founders of the movement were contacted by the administration. We first had a meeting with Dean Livingston. From that meeting, we were able to get a meeting with the Tuesday Group, which consisted of many of the administrators to which our demands were addressed. In that meeting, we sat for hours going through each demand and explaining our concerns. Members of the movement sat outside the meeting room the entire time holding up signs. The result of this meeting was the establishment of follow-up groups to discuss the demands in greater detail. Members of the movement met with members of the Tuesday Group, faculty, and staff a few times in the spring but unfortunately, those meetings did not effectively break ground on our demands.

Since last year, many of our demands, such as installing washers and dryers in Freedom House and Casa del Sol and compensating student workers for travel time to and from job assignments, have been met. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. On May 31, 2018, President Poskanzer sent out a campus-wide email addressing plans to respond to our demands but the administration has to be held accountable for following through.

Our most recent meeting was held on January 27. We discussed the issues that we’d like to focus on this term which include: Title IX Accountability, Accessibility and Accommodations, and Gender Neutral Restrooms. Our plans moving forward involve activating the power within the student body and taking matters into our own hands. Though we would like to consider working with the administration, we believe that there is a lot we can do as students to make this institution and this community a better place for everyone. We rely heavily on the input and involvement of our fellow Carls so if you would like to learn more about the movement or get involved, please email [email protected].


Peace and Solidarity,

Alexis Tolbert

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