As a proud Carleton alumnus, I am deeply troubled by the recent revelation that kegs will be banned from Rotblatt this year. I had heard whispers of the college’s stricter keg policy, but I am appalled that the administration did not make an exception to the rule for this most hallowed of school traditions. I still have a lot to learn in life, but one thing I know is that this venerable institution has not lasted 146 years by drinking beer out of cans!
I don’t want to get mired in a separate debate about the rules governing Carleton’s drinking culture (though for the record, I’d like to express my skepticism that eliminating kegs will cut down on drinking), or even about the environmental significance of the conversion from kegs to cans, (where it can be noted that kegs are a far “greener” alternative to the equivalent number of cans, thanks largely to their reusability).
Rules are rules, but tradition is tradition.
As new students enroll and new buildings are constructed, alumni must come to accept that they will grow distant from the campus they once called home. But amidst the ever-changing landscape of Carleton’s campus, and indeed our individual lives, we alumni find solace and comfort in those few unchanging communal rituals that bind us together. Therein lies the value of tradition- it is the common thread linking past and present, providing the college community with a sense of identity, forged through a shared experience from class to class, generation to generation.
Essentially Carleton’s annual birthday party, Rotblatt is a celebration not just of the school itself, but also of the fun and creative spirit that our alma mater embodies. Yes, I recognize that the event will still be held this year, but one wonders whether a keg-free Rotblatt can share the name. At the heart of its springtime merriment is the keg —the timeless symbol and enduring icon of Rotblatt, as shown by its prominence as the centerpiece of all of those hilariously clever Rotblatt t-shirts. The art that adorns each year’s contribution reflects Carleton students at their best—having fun creatively outside of the classroom, and injecting intellectually sophisticated humor into any setting. In this way, Rotblatt captures the collective spirit of the college, and for a great many Carls, heralds the long anticipated arrival of spring’s vernal splendor, and represents a carefree day to commemorate the near-completion of a year of hard work. The enjoyment of this group celebration stands in stark contrast to the individual toil of the academic year and is magnified by the sharing of beverages from a communal vessel: the keg.
I’m sure that many factors influenced the administration’s decision to banish kegs from Rotblatt. I fear that one unintended consequence of this decision is that a mandate for individual cans of beer will diminish the very sense of community fostered at Rotblatt that is also prized by the college. I feel that weakening one of these institutions weakens the other, compromising one of the few common bonds that link Carls past, present, and future.
I realize that, in all likelihood, this letter of protest is being written too late to make a difference for Saturday’s festivities, but it is my hope that tradition will be reinstated in time to tap into a brighter future for Rotblatt 147 and beyond.
-- Cy Grearby ‘11 is a contributor emeritus for The Carletonian.