Student protests against administrative inaction are not unique to St. Olaf College. Across the Cannon River, Carleton College students are speaking up about institutional injustices and have drafted a list of demands for the college administration to address.
The demands vary in specificity, ranging from “hire a queer/womxn of color therapist at SHAC by fall 2018” and “stop having classes on Muslim/Jewish/Hindu holidays” to “increase class diversity among admitted students.”
Carleton sophomores Alexis Tolbert and Bethany Bobo have been integral to the movement, called Carls Talk Back.
“Most of the demands that came up stemmed from conversations that we had with administration,” Tolbert said. She had been advocating for a therapist of color to join the campus counseling center, and said the conversation had “just been pushed to the side a lot.”
Bobo agreed. A number of students had asked for a washer and dryer to be installed in Freedom House and Casa Del Sol, two cultural houses for African-American and Latinx students and also the only two student housing options without a washer and dryer.
“The convocation speech is more of a catalyst, because it was just one more concern that hadn’t been heard by our administration.” – Bethany Bobo
“We have to go to another house that’s right across the street,” Bobo said. “About 15 people share one washer and one dryer, and that’s been something that I, my housemates and people that have lived in my house before have brought to the administration and it’s just been brushed off.”
These conversations are the underlying problem behind the Carls Talk Back movement, which culminated in a campus demonstration on Friday, Feb. 9.
“We have convocation every Friday, and they invited a convocation speaker [Arno Michaelis] who is a former white supremacist,” Tolbert said. “A lot of students were concerned because, you know, even though he’s a former white supremacist he still used to believe those things and it could be dangerous for people of color.”
“The convocation speech is more of a catalyst, because it was just one more concern that hadn’t been heard by our administration,” Bobo said.
At the demonstration, students gathered in Sayles Hill Campus Center to read out the list of demands and held signs with the demands written on them. Students also stood silently in protest at the convocation speech and passed out written demands to the audience.
The following Monday, Feb. 12, Tolbert, Bobo and other organizers received an email from the Carleton administration that acknowledged the protest and offered a meeting between organizers and key administrators.
“To that email we asked ‘if we’re going to meet, we’d like to do it on our own terms,’” Bobo said. “We asked that there be a town hall meeting open to the entire Carleton community and we didn’t get a response to that.”
Carls Talk Back organizers have met since with Carleton administrators, but no concrete decisions have been made regarding the demands.
The Carls Talk Back organizers had asked that the Carleton administration respond to their demands by Friday, Feb. 23. According to the Carls Talk Back website, carlstalkback.org, the administration has yet to respond to the demands.
“We plan to continue demonstrating until our demands are adequately responded to,” Tolbert said.
Header Image: Carleton students protest injustice during convocation.