This past Wednesday evening we attended recitations and, although it might come off as corny, it reminded us of why we chose to come to Carleton. On that cold snowy night, many students from different social corners of the Carleton community gathered around a warm fire to listen to anyone willing to recite poems, stories, and lyrics they found meaningful. All were welcome to listen to their peers share parts of themselves and come together without fear of judgment. Alcohol was involved, as is often the case at Carleton social events, but as usual it was only a small part of the evening and was not forced upon anyone. Recitations have been a Carleton tradition for more than a decade, and many view it as one of the most important nights of the year. They truly embody the Carleton spirit of inclusive parties; breaking down social barriers with an emphasis on respect and the sharing of ideas. It is not merely a party; it is a symbol of Carleton’s dedication of acceptance and importance placed on academic values.
Security arrived and informed the crowd that because it was an unregistered party, it would not be allowed to continue. Students respectfully asked if there was a way to compromise so they could continue reciting. Security informed us that if we were to get rid of any alcoholic beverages and make sure everyone who had had a drink was over the age of 21, we could continue. They however proceeded to call the Northfield Police to respond to the situation. The officers courteously explained to us that the party would have to be shut down and broke the disappointing news that even without the presence of alcohol we would not be allowed to continue recitations without facing legal ramifications.
Although it was heartbreaking to some of us, we were impressed with the actions of our fellow classmates in the immediate aftermath. Some students stayed to clean up with the trash bags they had the foresight to bring while others continued to talk to the police. The most inspirational aspect of the evening however, was the decision to continue recitations in Sayles. This was testament to an incredible quality of Carleton students, our willingness to question authority and respectfully defy it when we have feel we have a right to act. Carleton has a rich history of student-led movements to show administrators when they felt their current conditions were substandard. Maybe we as students tend to get wrapped up in the Carleton bubble and have been recently been falling short in our duties to express our views respectfully to bring about positive changes in our community. If this is the case, recitations were the spark that reignited that fiery desire to air our grievances. We were not going to let poorly-formed arguments dampen the spirit of the evening and as such we continued to recite song and verse as others watched and/or waited to perform themselves, some defiantly, some with hands shaking nervously (ourselves included).
During President Poskanzer’s first year at Carleton, a video was produced in which he took part in a list of traditions we have here at Carleton. He ran around with a SoloCup in a re-enactment of Rotblatt, attempted to climb the water tower, and while he unfortunately refused to streak, he embodied the lively and creative student body that he came to preside over. He demonstrated the ‘real’ character of Carls that embraces the weird we all share and enjoy (quirkiness is an awful word). We want to be able to pursue these passions and traditions, a livelihood that was advertised to us as Carleton attempted to represent the incredible place that it is and must continue to be.
It is undeniable that there have been changes over the past few years in social policy stemming from changes in administrative views. When we first applied Carleton, under the “traditions” section of the website Carleton revered its streaking culture, even boasting to have the first recorded female streaker, Laura Barton ’77. This section of the website has unfortunately been removed as Carleton’s disciplinary ramifications for streaking were imposed. When we received our Rottblatt t-shirts last year it was nearly impossible to consider the fact that a keg was still the integral aspect of the design despite the fact that it was the first year on campus after passing the decision to forbid kegs on campus. For some of us, that keg symbolizes better times, when we had more freedom within the Carleton social arena.
Efforts to extinguish or dampen the lifestyle that many Carleton students live, including occasionally consuming a few drinks, chanting, yelling, singing, and making respectable fools of ourselves, are dangerous. They chip away at the truly unique character of Carls, which we feel we have a right to express. We have witnessed drunken debates on international economic policy, women’s rights, and religion. Raucous yelling between ‘bros’ at a party, which could be seen at any college or university in the country, has turned out to be heated discussion about urban planning. While there is also plenty of ‘unintelligent’ behavior associated with the social culture of a college campus, it is our opinion that Carls know they are intelligent and freethinking, and as a result demand the respect and freedom to do as they please. We both give and receive respect within the classroom, and so it frustrates us when we are not afforded the same reciprocity in our social lives. It angers us when administration starts to deny us these freedoms, cutting away at traditions that foster a positive integration between our social and academic environments that set Carleton apart from other schools of a similar caliber.
To clarify, we are not claiming that we do not appreciate and respect the Northfield Police and Carleton Security, we value their commitment to keeping Carleton a safe place. We are not advocating for anarchy or abolishing all rules surrounding the consumption of alcohol. What we are trying to say is that a school that continually promotes their admiration of traditions should be able to afford us the respect to continue such an integral event, such as recitations.
Although it was an unfortunate situation, lessons can be learned from both sides of the story. Hopefully, this event will encourage students to be more vocal and involved in becoming active agents, shaping the scope of their social community and the decisions around restricting this environment. Ultimately, we urge you to voice your opinion on these matters. We recognize that we are only two people and our views do not represent the entire student body, however this does not mean that someone who disagrees with us should be excluded from the conversation. The most important lesson to take away from this experience is the growing need to facilitate a productive dialogue about these social concerns including all aspects of the community from students, to administration, and security.