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Vague language in Community Covenant leads to inconsistencies in adherence and enforcement

Fri, 09/25/2020 - 9:43pm

Even before returning to campus, students were fervently discussing the meaning of the Carleton Community Covenant and reaching few conclusions.

The Covenant, which every student, faculty and staff member was required to sign in order to participate in on-campus life, sets out to establish new rules and community guidelines designed to maintain the safety and wellbeing of all who set foot on Carleton’s campus. But for such an important document for Carleton’s future, there is widespread confusion among students regarding what the Covenant specifically mandates for campus life. 

Now that the new year has started, students are grappling with what exactly the Covenant allows. While the Covenant encourages students to “limit” social interactions outside of a person’s “social hub,” it does little to explain what this actually looks like. What is a social hub? How many people can students be in close contact with, if any? These questions have big implications for student life, but no direct answers.

RAs especially have felt the added pressure of enforcing the Covenant and loosely monitoring social behavior. As the front-line against gatherings and parties in the dorms, many RAs have expressed anxiety about their roles in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and what exactly is an acceptable social gathering versus one that violates the Covenant and should be reported.  

Joe Radinsky ’23, an RA in Myers, has felt the strain of enforcing the new rules on campus, saying it’s taken an emotional toll. “It’s been really stressful,” he said. “It feels like the balance that I’m having to consider is between creating a community and taking on a policing role. In a lot of ways it’s inhibiting community-building. Part of the expectation of being an RA is monitoring, which feels really uncomfortable to me.” 

Sawyer Blair ’23, another RA in Goodhue, said he is also confused about what the Covenant mandates, and is struggling to find the balance between campus safety and social health. “I was a little bit unclear about what exactly a social hub is, how big exactly it is supposed to be,” Blair said. “I would’ve liked to see information as well about policies that the college was making about cleanliness, and how sanitation is being handled.” As the Covenant doesn’t specify many aspects of social life, RAs find themselves having to improvise as they go.

Radinsky added that the guidelines around establishing pods are unclear. When students at RA training asked for clarification on who was allowed in a pod, he said, “they basically just said ‘no one,’ but acknowledged that that’s not going to happen. I think that’s challenging in terms of setting realistic expectations for behavior.” 

According to Maya Rogers ’22, one of the student liaisons who aided in writing the Covenant and laying out the guidelines for living on campus, some of the lack of specificity in the Covenant was intentional, since it does not just apply to students living on campus.

When writing the Covenant, Rogers said she needed to consider all of the people who would be following it. She explained, “The Covenant had to apply to the students who are living in a dorm, the students who are living in the Northfield Option, the staff who come in, and the faculty who are teaching on campus. All of those are completely encompassed in the Covenant, and the Covenant is not written more specifically than that. The Covenant was very specifically applied to absolutely everyone who is using this community in person.”

In this sense, Rogers expressed hope that Carls would be able to see the bigger picture of the Covenant, and the intent behind it of mutual respect and intentionality when choosing whether, when, and with whom to engage in close social interaction. 

When describing whether there’s any specific number of close contacts that we should limit ourselves to, Rogers said, “The best number would be zero, but that’s not realistic, that’s not what’s happening, that’s not what’s going to happen. So we’re not expecting zero people, and because of that, the range is just the smallest you can make it. And we can’t say, ‘everyone has five close contacts.’ That’s just not feasible, and it’s not even necessarily safer.” 

Rogers encourages her peers to think more about why people are close contacts and take time to be intentional about who they are in contact with rather than focusing on a specific number of people. “Respect is much more important than any number,” she said. 

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Categories: Colleges

Carleton professors join #ScholarStrike

Fri, 09/25/2020 - 9:30pm

A number of Carleton faculty participated in the Scholar Strike for Racial Justice on September 8th and 9th, during move-in days at Carleton. Faculty seized the opportunity to educate themselves and others on topics of racial injustice and to discuss ongoing action to improve racial equity on campus.

 Two professors, Anthea Butler at the University of Pennsylvania and Kevin Gannon at Grand View University, started a #ScholarStrike hashtag on Twitter in late August, which gained attention across the country and turned into what Inside HigherEd said “could be the biggest collective action by academics in recent memory.”

 The #ScholarStrike was organized as a collective stand by academics in opposition to ongoing police violence against Black communities and communities of color. The strike also called attention to other forms of state violence, such as “disparities in access to healthcare and health outcomes, most visible these days in the disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black and Indigneous communities, immigrant communities, and other marginalized communities; and the longstanding educational debt owed to Black children and communities,” Anita Chikkatur, an associated professor of Educational Studies at Carleton, stated in her outgoing message while refraining from Carleton duties during the strike.

Isaac Crown Manesis / Lead Photo Editor

 One week prior, a group of Carleton professors met to discuss the strike as a way for faculty to not only show solidarity with other striking groups, such as the WNBA), but as a way to highlight demands for change at Carleton. Amy Czismar Dalal, a Professor of Computer Science who organized the faculty meeting, said the strike was “a way to amplify the demands of black students at Carleton, a lot of which get at the structures not just at Carleton but at other institutions of higher education that are, at their heart, rooted in white supremacy.”

 Faculty at the meeting identified three categories of action related to advising, teaching, and the visibility of the strike. Because advising days fell during the strike, some faculty called attention to the protest by delaying advising meetings while others used them as an opportunity to talk about racial justice. “How do we want to get first-year students thinking critically about race and racism in society and at Carleton right off the bat?” said Czismar Dalal.

Faculty also discussed curriculum material and teaching strategies. For instance, Kristin Bloomer, an associate professor of Religion, said that faculty in the Religion department met to discuss ways the department might “continue conversations about how the discipline is informed by and formed by structures of white supremacy.” One outcome of recent conversations was a new student and faculty book group about James Baldwin’s book The Fire Next Time.

“One of the things that I really appreciated hearing was that anti-racist discussions were something departments are taking the long view on and are approaching as an ongoing series of actions and discussions,” said Czismar Dalal.

Professors also reflected on how they interact with students. For instance, “How does racialized trauma affect our students’ experiences in the classroom, and how are we taking that into account as professors? How are we understanding the pain that students are going through from the more spectacular ways in which state violence happens, but also the everyday violence that happens?” Chikkatur said.

One challenge to the strike’s impact and visibility at Carleton was the fact that it took place before classes were in session. Some faculty spread #ScholarStrike messages on social media. “We also wanted to somehow make physically visible on campus the fact that faculty were involved in a strike,” said Bloomer. This led to chalking of #ScholarStrike messages, welcome statements to BIPOC students and quotations from civil rights activists across campus.

“Many faculty are working hard to address issues about racism and inequity on campus, and some of this work is hidden from students,” said Bloomer, as she emphasized that the strike took place as part of longer-term actions. 

A series of faculty meetings and actions over the summer preceded the strike. The weekend following George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, Bloomer helped coordinate a protest in Northfield that drew around 150 people (including faculty and students), and a small number of faculty met to process what had happened. Subsequently, about 80 Carleton faculty and staff met every couple weeks over the summer to talk about anti-racism and the events of recent months and years.

After several large-group meetings, faculty broke into five subgroups dealing with separate discrete issues ranging from discussing curriculum and student support to meeting with alumni and BIPOC students. These discussions stimulated both awareness and action. For instance, a group of faculty are now seeking grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support a two-year intensive project about anti-racism issues on campus.

Mostly, faculty highlighted their desire to amplify the demands already being made by both Black students and organizations and the over 2,000 alumni who signed a letter this summer, including (but not limited to) demands for a Black cultural center, more support for Africana Studies, more Black and BIPOC faculty, and larger strategic thinking about how Carleton is going to improve racial equity.

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Categories: Colleges

Risking health for employment: limited remote work options leave students with a difficult choice

Fri, 09/25/2020 - 9:30pm

If you are one of the many students at Carleton who has never had a serious illness, never questioned your access to healthcare and never been immunocompromised, your health has probably never been at the forefront of your decision making. Now, students are forced to factor their health into the equation when deciding whether to take an in-person work-study position and risk spreading COVID-19 or lose earnings.

For so many students, work is a necessary part of their Carleton experience. According to Rodney Oto, Associate Dean of Admissions and the Director of Student Financial Services, there are usually 1,500 students employed during Fall term, though only 1,200 are working now. Only 130 are working remotely. 

Students rely on Carleton employment for financial aid requirements, to support families, and for spending money. With fewer options available, and only a fraction of them remote, many students are feeling the strain. 

 For Izzy Charleton ‘23, coming back to campus was synonymous with beginning work again as a manager in LDC. She explained that as a Northfield native, any Carleton outbreaks would affect her community as well. “Seeing how Carleton has responded to [the pandemic], I felt safe enough to come back to campus”, she said. 

Others have seen resuming in-person work as unnecessary or unsafe for their health on campus. Lauren Witmer ’23 debated returning to her job as a Bakery Assistant in LDC and ultimately decided against it. “Because of COVID, I felt like I shouldn’t be handling food for the dining halls because if I get sick, then I could get a lot of other people sick,” she said.

Eric Rasmussen, Director of Operations at Bon Appetit, said in an email, “We understand some students are unable to work in the dining halls and we will transfer those students to other departments where they may be able to work remotely. We do have a couple positions where students are not engaging directly with the diners, but not many and those fill up fast. ”

Since returning to their in-person jobs, however, some students have not felt as supported by the Carleton administration as they had hoped. One RA described feeling unsafe despite new safety protocols. 

“They have extra masks, they gave us all sanitizer, they’re cleaning the bathrooms, they have occupancy limits, but they’re relying on distancing and those measures to be the main protections in place.”

At the beginning of the year, when freshmen in particular are still trying to bond with each other, distancing is not a priority. The RA described how, when asked, people would put masks on, but would routinely stay within six feet of each other. 

“They were also way more lax with the rules during meal times. They would linger when it came to eating so that they wouldn’t have to put their masks back on, so that you could see facial expressions. It’s easy to not stay six feet away, especially in the hallways and outside. The hallways are not conducive to social distancing.”

After a few days on campus, this RA started getting COVID-like symptoms and was told by Residential Life to move into isolation housing. 

“I had to pack up all my stuff and move into isolation housing across campus by myself. I had been so anxious and scared about getting sick and had been so cautious about safety measures at home. I didn’t go out, I didn’t see people, I really didn’t want to get sick. And then, all that caution was for nothing, regardless of all the safety measures I took on campus, because I got sick anyway,” they said.

Others have noted a lack of social distancing in their jobs as well. “I know that the floor plan with the arrows on the ground is kind of confusing and so people end up wandering around,” said Charleton when discussing the LDC layout.

For those students who do not feel comfortable resuming their in-person job, the task of finding remote work can prove difficult. Many jobs are inherently in person, such as dining hall positions, and cannot move into an online format. 

Maya Rogers ’22 knew she wanted to be a Peer Leader, but she could not work an in-person job. 

“I have health concerns about COVID because I’m immunocompromised,” she said. “At the same time, because of my concerns, I do have to be on campus because I only get medical care in Northfield and Minneapolis. I can’t go back home because then I would forego care.” She is now working as a SWA, where work is completely remote except for optional in-person office hours and projects.

Oto said that remote positions could not be guaranteed for students but that they would work with students unable to find another position. 

He explained, “We believe there are enough jobs on campus to accommodate everyone, especially those who have work as part of their aid award.  Still, we know that some departments have cut back this fall and some students may find themselves seeking new positions. Another option that some might consider is that hours not worked can be made up during the Winter and Spring terms.  So, if you can only work five hours during the Fall Term, during Winter and/or Spring Term you might seek a position for 15 hours.  As a last resort, we can convert expected job earning to an additional loan so there is no loss of the total amount of aid awarded.”

According to the Student Employment Policies and Procedures page, however, first-years are only permitted to work up to eight hours a week and returning students can only work up to ten hours a week. There is a precedent for working for up to 15 hours per week, but it is currently only permitted for students looking to make up lost earnings after participation in Off-Campus Programs. The SFS’s last resort idea of additional loans may present further problems for students who are already struggling to pay off loans.

Oto said that “it’s hard to say if every remote student will be able to find a job because of the qualifications each position entails. It is true that the number of jobs available is tighter this fall and so those on financial aid will be given some priority.”

Not all students have been able to find remote work or been supported by the Financial Aid office, as promised. Alé Cota ’22 said, “I am going to have to pick up a second remote job in order to be able to manage my rent and tuition prices. If the situation becomes more dire, then I will reach out for emergency funding.”

Cota said that remaining at home was not an option because of the difficulties of focusing on school in an environment that they described as “not safe as a queer, trans individual” as well as the economic strain on their family.  Still, they believed that coming to campus was too risky for everyone in the campus community. 

“The lack of hazard pay for custodial and student workers at a higher risk of contracting COVID such as RAs and dining hall workers was frustrating and I did not want to add more to their risk with my presence on campus,” they said. 

Overall, the limitations of pandemic-era Carleton have placed many students in a difficult bind. They are forced to choose between working in an unsafe environment or seeking further loans for financial aid. Some have been able to move their work online or find a new job. Others are stranded in limbo, facing reduced hours or potentially more loans.  

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Categories: Colleges

A not-so-traditional New Student Week experience

Fri, 09/25/2020 - 9:30pm

I can remember just a few short months ago, after committing to Carleton, hiding under my covers at 2 in the morning and looking up “Carleton”— I wanted to know everything about this place I would soon call home. After a few moments of fear that I was going to some university in Canada with a student body population 15 times that of what I thought I had signed up for, I came across the “Carleton College” YouTube page. I spent the next few hours watching videos of each new incoming class moving in and slowly began to envision what my first days here would be like. I was sure, just like every video I had seen, it would be filled with new friends, memorable final moments with my family and the start of meaningful traditions. 

 The reality of New Student Week for the Class of 2024 was drastically different from what I envisioned that night—it brought about challenges both expected and unexpected and pushed us to re-evaluate what we hoped for from our Carleton experience.

 For the class of 2024, New Student Week began on a rainy Tuesday. As we, with the help of NSW leaders, hurled our bags into our rooms, I was reminded of the words of former CSA president Anesu Masakura from his speech on move-in day for the class of 2023. He said, “three short years ago, I arrived from Zimbabwe weighed down by suitcases, expectations, and an overwhelming fear of the unknown.” As I walked into my room—into my future—I too felt weighed down by fears of not only what was to come in the next four years, but more presently this term. For the Class of 2024, the fear of the unknown that all students feel as they embark on this new journey has taken on a greater depth of meaning. 

 Much of New Student Week was spent in our rooms. While waiting for the first round of COVID test results to come back, we were to keep to our rooms with the exception of eating meals which (weather permitting) could be done outside. 

Some students passed the time by attending the Zoom sessions, others simply kept them running in the background while they watched TV. 

All yearned for the opportunity to meet new people. If you were lucky to be placed in a New Student Week group with students you connected with, meals became a great opportunity to hang out and get to know those living closest to you. If not, they were filled with awkward silence.

 There is a lot to complain about with regards to New Student Week, but nothing quite as worthy as the food. While every meal came up short in quantity, there are a few meals that stand out (I would say they take the cake, but that would be insensitive). One meal we received a single meatball for dinner. Twice, for breakfast we received packets of read- to-make oats without a mechanism to heat up water. Needless to say, the food this last week has been a major upgrade from New Student Week.

 Yet, even with the food being lackluster and the opportunities to connect with fellow Carls being scarce, there was plenty to enjoy about NSW:

  First, COVID flipped the power balance between dorms. Because of the Super Lounge, Goodhue (what I have come to understand is the distant, often forgotten, cousin of the other dorms) became the best place to stay and have friends over. Second, getting to watch all the seminars from the comfort of our bed was great at times. Third, the thermoses all of us got from the sustainability office are AMAZING. Fourth, meeting new people without the support system of college organized events is inevitable; a virtual NSW pushed the Class of 2024 to do that a little earlier than most classes, but helped us develop that skill nonetheless. Fifth, virtual Zoom sessions meant that some kids could jump out of bed 5 minutes before and still be ready to go. Sixth, in the beginning I said that one of the things I envisioned my first few days of college would be memorable final memories with my family. Family was of course not allowed into the dorms so final goodbyes were done by the car. For me that meant saying goodbye to my dad in front of the Rec while the rain beat down on us and then proceeding to walk toward Goodhue as he walked towards the car. 

This hardly seems like a happy way to say goodbye, but as a lifelong Bollywood fan, saying goodbye in the rain and then walking away is the most memorable (and movie-like) way to do it.

Ultimately New Student Week for the class of 2024 was emblematic of what we can expect from Carleton and college as a whole—it will be unpredictable, challenging and at times uncomfortable, but it will push us to develop skills and mindsets that will continue to serve us, even as the clouds fade. 

The fears we felt coming to college—fears of the unknown, fears of loneliness and fears of a lack of support—are not unique to the Class of 2024. 

While we likely experienced them to a greater extent than most other classes, my extensive studies of New Student Weeks of the past has taught me that the class of 2024 is not alone in feeling and overcoming these fears. As much as it is hard to feel it right now, we are not alone. New Student Week was a whirlwind of emotions, and chances are the coming weeks won’t be much different, but even in the face of tumultuous times we are fortunate to be a part of a community committed to supporting one another and forging lifelong friendships (even if they weren’t built during your first week here). 

We are still Carls.

P.S. If you’re an upperclassman and you see a freshman, come say hi!  

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Categories: Colleges

President Poskanzer to step down, retain role as Professor of Political Science

Fri, 09/25/2020 - 9:30pm

On August 28th, Carleton President Steven Poskanzer announced that he would retire from his presidential position following the end of the 2020-2021 academic year. 

In an email to the Carleton community, Poskanzer explained his decision came from a place of understanding that it was time for Carleton to have new leadership.

Steven Poskanzer / Carleton College

“I adore this College, and serving as its President has been far and away the best and the most fulfilling experience of my professional career. I am very proud of what we have accomplished together. But there is a natural rhythm and cycle to any college presidency—and with our Campaign target of $400M already surpassed, the goals laid out in our Strategic Plan largely achieved, and the College in excellent academic shape—my heart tells me that next August will be the right time to hand responsibility for stewarding this remarkable place to a talented new leader.”

Poskanzer said he has been weighing this decision for the past two years, and feels that he accomplished what he set out to do when he first became President in 2010.

Although retiring from his administrative position, Poskanzer plans on staying at Carleton in the role of a professor in the Political Science Department following a sabbatical during the 2021-2022 school year, and hopes to continue pursuing his own academic research. 

Before coming to Carleton, Poskanzer was president of the State University of New York at New Paltz (SUNY New Paltz). According to a college press release announcing the Board of Trustees’ intention to name him as president in April 2010, he was selected for his fundraising skills, intention to increase graduation rates, improvement of his former college’s perception, and his “intellectual vitality, energy, and commitment to the liberal arts.”

Poskanzer’s announcement is the latest in a series of administrative turnovers that have recently materialized in the upper levels of the Carleton administration. Dean of the College Beverly Nagel ’75 also announced her decision to retire from her position next August after serving as Dean of Students for the last 11 years. And Paul Thiboutot, who served as Dean of Admissions for 32 years, retired in 2019 and was succeeded by Art Rodriguez ’96.

Both Nagel’s retirement and Poskanzer’s stepping down will open up Carleton’s administration to a new generation of leadership that will shape the school’s legacy as an institution of higher learning that aims to ensure equitable treatment of all its students.

The search for Carleton’s next president will be spearheaded by a committee led by Wally Weitz ’70, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Cathy Paglia ’74, another trustee. The search committee will consist of five trustees, four faculty members, two staff members, two alumni representatives and three students — including Carleton Student Association (CSA) President Andrew Farias ’21. 

Different campus governance groups like faculty governance and CSA are currently in the process of determining which faculty members and students will serve on this committee, respectively. Current students can apply to be on the Presidential Search Committee before September 27th at noon. 

Once the members of the search committee are solidified, they will begin to scour the nation and the world to identify which individual will be best to take on the challenge of improving the College in the next decade.

“The needs of the institution in 2021 are different than they would’ve been in 2010, when the last search for a Carleton president was underway. Right now, there’s a pandemic. There’s a long overdue reckoning for justice and racial equity in this country. There’s different kinds of economic pressure that colleges are facing,” Poskanzer said. 

According to Poskanzer, he will not play a part in the selection process. “It’s not good or healthy for a college president to pick their successor,” he said. Nagel’s interim replacement will be named by Poskanzer and will oversee the academic program of the College. The interim replacement will also play a crucial role in helping the new president get settled into their position until they are able to make a further decision on the Dean of the College.

These administrative changes in Carleton’s leadership also come at a time of enormous upheaval in American higher education, as colleges reckon with racial justice in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May.

The Star Tribune recently profiled how Minnesota colleges are facing their own campus-wide systemic racism, detailing in their August 21st article:

 “Many students and alumni of these Minnesota private colleges say they are fed up with the prepared statements, town halls and commissions that are formed in the wake of racist incidents but rarely lead to lasting change. They have no more patience for lip service and are calling on the schools to become more welcoming to students and faculty of color. Some are even demanding new leadership.”

The article mentioned how Carleton, St. Olaf, and St. Thomas have embattled histories with race relations and how their administrations have fallen short of meeting the needs of students, faculty and staff of color. 

Carleton’s Ujamaa Collective, a coalition of members from Black student organizations on campus, released a list of demands in June 2020 of actions the administration could enact in order to “combat systemic, structural, and institutional anti-Black racism.” Some of these demands include extensive Carleton support of Black Lives Matter, an establishment of a Black center on campus, and required anti-racism training for faculty and staff.

Poskanzer says he is committed to improving the Carleton administration’s response to these demands throughout the course of his final year. Quoted in The Star Tribune, he says, “This is a moment where we’ve been called to step up and live our words and make sure that we really are being the type of institution that we want to be.”

“The goal of being more equitable and inclusive is a never ending task. I want to believe that we’ve made progress during this era, but we clearly need to continue in order to make more progress. And certainly some of that progress we’ll be able to make between now and next July when I step down. There is a lot of work that needs to be done right now, and that shouldn’t wait until then.”

But turning to the future, Poskanzer realizes that the next president will inherit many long-unaddressed problems within the campus culture and there will be a burning need to finally make reparations. 

“We need to identify things that we most need to do in this particular realm. Where are we most falling short in our aspirations? Is it the curriculum, and students are not learning the things they most need in order to make a difference in the world? Is it the climate that’s existing outside of the classroom? Is it a dynamic between students, a dynamic between faculty and students? Then, we can look for a leader who either has a proven record of making progress in those domains, or someone who’s got all kinds of great ideas about how they will make our community move forward.”

For Nagel, post-Carleton plans involve returning to her research on economic and political development in Paraguay, which was put on hold 12 years ago following her appointment as Carleton Dean. 

“Completing that research has always been a very high priority for me, and I owe it to the community groups and colleagues in Paraguay who have collaborated with me on this work to do my part to bring it to fruition,” she said.

Poskanzer hopes to be away from Northfield in the year following his resignation as President to allow his successor to feel free and never have to worry about their predecessor, and welcomes the opportunity to experience a change of scenery and to prepare for the classes that he’ll be teaching upon his return.

“This place has always done very well at picking the right person for the particular moment. I have enormous faith that a good committee made up of students, faculty, staff, and alumni will find an individual next leader for Carleton,” he says.

When asked about his favorite part about Carleton, Poskanzer immediately responded, “The students. These are the best, most curious, most fundamentally kind students of any institution I’ve had the privilege to work for. That’s why I’m here, and that’s why I’m staying here.”

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Categories: Colleges

Travel bans and a twelve-hour time difference: international students redefine ‘feeling at home’

Fri, 09/25/2020 - 9:30pm

Every spring, room draw brings its fair share of drama. Students usually struggle with questions like, “who should I live with this year?” or “is my number good enough for that Burton single?” This year, many students were faced with the question of whether to come back at all. 

For most domestic students, there was a binary decision of whether to Zoom into class from home or their dorm. For international students, these decisions come with many more choices that bring complications. 

For most international students these complications are not simply logistical but often psychological. When being at Carleton itself is a study abroad, the idea of home gets complex. With the recent move by the Trump administration to revoke student visas, international students barely escaped deportation, and it became painfully clear that the place they have become accustomed to calling home will in fact never be truly theirs. 

Maanya Goenka ’22, who had to stay in India due to her state’s unique domestic lockdown, said she still wants to come back to Carleton. “I hate that for me, the choice to not come back isn’t even mine,” she said. While India has resumed commercial flights in limited capacity, Goenka can only wait for the domestic travel ban to lift while students from other parts of India have started going back to college. 

Goenka ultimately decided to give up and take the term online from India. Her first week of fall has proved to be challenging. “I am very glad that I went back [to India] for sure,” she said. “I loved spending time with my family and seeing them over summer, but taking classes and sitting through internship interviews at 3am is absolutely painful. There’s so much instability, because even though I am at least in the comforts of my home, my day starts past midnight.”

Often for international students, long cramped flights have become a part of life, but the distance becomes painfully clear when the option to cover it is taken away. Students whose countries continue to stay in lockdown could only interact with their families through video calls throughout the spring and summer. 

Mehdi Shahid ’22 said, “It was definitely very hard. I would see my friends on Instagram or something, back home and spending time with their families and I just didn’t get that.” Because he stayed at Carleton all summer and then continued his duties as an RA before New Student Week, Shahid said he “felt like spring term just never ended. Usually I would go home over long breaks and feel like I could really have a reset, but this time I just didn’t get to hit my reset button.” 

A continuation of work and school away from family has been the common struggle of many Carleton students who were left stranded in the US this year. Unlike Mehdi, however, Alison Hong ’22 had to move every few months in search of a place that fits her needs. “I chose to stay on campus when they moved spring online because that was simply the easiest and probably the only choice. I didn’t want to impose a lot of pressure on my parents, plus most of my friends are staying,” she said. 

Midway through the term, she had the option to move to Sacramento to live with some family friends. She said, “I felt pretty optimistic that at least I would be able to go back home in the summer and things will turn better in the fall.” She ended up staying in Sacramento for the whole summer. “I didn’t want to go back home partly because of the notoriously long and expensive flight and partly because of the time difference,” Hong said. Eventually, she moved to Washington, D.C. with a fellow Carl to take fall classes. 

Being international students also often complicates the idea of home. With expensive flights and added risk of a country unable to handle the crisis, Samihat Rahman ’22 had no choice but to stay away from her home in Bangladesh, away from her parents. She was able to get a little piece of familial comfort when a classmate invited her to spend the term in Vermont. “It was great. I had a friend to take classes with and her family made me feel so at home,” she said. She then spent the summer in Canada with her extended family. “I wanted to go back home home to Bangladesh but that was just not feasible,” Rahman said.

“I knew coming back was the best option because taking classes in Canada was too much. I was constantly moving between my two uncles’ houses and felt too unstable to focus on classes. Even if I was in Bangladesh, it would’ve been fine because I have my space there. But even with family, I didn’t feel at home in Canada.” After spending a week of fall term in Canada, Rahman was able to make the trip back to Carleton.

These testimonials only scratch the surface of the diverse situations Carleton students and international students face in their ability to travel, see family and feel at home on campus.. Being unable to make choices such as being with family during one of the most tumultuous times of their lives, being unable to feel at home, and even feeling alienated from the country they live in, they have become acutely aware of being resident aliens or immigrants in the United States.

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Categories: Colleges

Notes from isolation

Fri, 09/25/2020 - 9:30pm

I don’t remember whether the Atlantic article or the sore throat came first. One was unmistakable: it spelled out just what I was doing wrong. The other was less sure, only a little tickle at the back of my mouth, underneath my tongue. I tried to ignore both.

We feel like we’re breaking some kind of rule, we had said the night before. We were outside, six feet between the grand total of two of us. I was spinning and doing cartwheels in the Mini Bald Spot grass; she accidentally called her boyfriend and we laughed. It was 8:30 on a Sunday night and we were high on nothing but each other’s presence after almost six months apart.

But according to the article, we shouldn’t even have been talking. The louder you are, the more the virus spreads, it said. Memories of my friend and me flooded my mind: hollering on a walk through the Arb; conversing loud enough that, in the quiet Second Street neighborhood, it sounded like shouting.

I thought about texting her the article. But no; what good would it do?

Until dinnertime, I kept my sore throat to myself, too. I had memorized the other symptoms, and I wasn’t having any. Well, maybe a bit of diarrhea. Queasiness, too. And come to think of it, maybe my exhaustion and my spinning head were more than typical return-to-campus fatigue?

I panicked. Called Security, who called SHAC, who told me to call my New Student Week supervisor. A person, a person who knew me, would know about me. Would know that I might have coronavirus.

When I got on the phone, the first thing I said was: I’m so sorry. I burst out crying. I think I would still be a puddle of tears if he hadn’t said: It’s okay. I’m not upset. You did the right thing.

I thought of the article. Because Americans are loud. We shout and we laugh and we talk too much in class and we get bad reputations when we go abroad, even before it was assumed we were carrying a deadly virus with us. Possibly, in part, because we are loud.

And then, there are other things that we don’t like to say, to even whisper. Things like: I might have coronavirus.

For the next two nights and one and a half days, I holed up inside my room and tried to tell as few people as possible. I canceled outdoor meal plans and in-person work and hoped nobody would figure out why. 

I reluctantly called my roommate to tell her that she might not be able to move into our room. SHAC told me to stay there, so I did. But when I had to walk into the hallway to use the bathroom or across the Mini Bald Spot to pick up meals, I felt like shouting, “I have symptoms! Stay away! And get help!”

Except—that would involve shouting.

So I did my own version: calling SHAC again and again until they scheduled me another test and moved me to isolation. There we go, I thought. 

Now I’m out of the way, no longer a risk, stupid stupid stupid me who might have brought coronavirus to campus. Did I get it on the plane, where I shirked into my seat while others slipped their masks off of their nose? Or earlier, at the gate, where I knew as well as the airline that blocking off every other waiting seat did not constitute six feet?

Or did I get it when I was talking too loud?

No matter. In my mind, it was all my fault. Or, if I didn’t have it, then it was all my fault for letting my anxiety turn a sore throat into a deadly virus and getting in everyone’s way and messing up this whole great college experiment.

You did the right thing. The words were still there, but only an echo in my mind.

Two days later, I got that new negative test back. I called SHAC first, this time, then my Dean of Students Office point person and my Area Director. Apparently, with isolation comes connections. Let me out of here, I said. I’m negative! I was shouting, now, because nobody was around.

Wait, they whispered back. At least until a second negative result in the symptomatic range. We’re still consulting to see if even that can set you free.

There was nothing I could do.

But the next morning, when I woke up with my stomach aching of diarrhea—worse than before, not from any virus but from the food they were giving me when I apparently might be sick with one—my shoulder twitching from the recent memory of blood running down my arm after the worst flu shot I’ve ever gotten, my body longing for someone else to hold it (oh god if this was only one week without a hug how would I make it through), I did two things. 

One: I broke down. I called my mother on the phone and I cried as if I were in my bed at home, as if she were holding me.

Two: I let myself admit, fully, entirely, that this was not my fault. Not if I had single-handedly brought the virus to campus. Not if I had imagined my symptoms entirely. Not even if, somehow, shouting with a friend who had tested negative had somehow called COVID to my very lungs. None of it was my fault. 

Because we have been set up to fail. By a loud, obnoxious country that likes watching its own mouth move too much to wear a mask. By an institution that claims to be a community with a system that wasn’t even set up by the time I needed it. And when somebody is sick, what they need most is not even a system, but family. Friends. People.

The people of Carleton have been good to me. 

Not only my case managers, but my friends, professors, and bosses have checked in on me daily. One brought me fresh tomatoes from her garden and apples from her tree. It is not their fault that someone with this virus cannot be held in another’s arms like they so desperately crave to be. But at home, I would have had my mother’s comfort food outside my door, my father’s reassurances and my sister’s music and my brother’s jokes filtering through the cracks. 

If I have any fault in the matter, it was choosing to come back without asking myself: could an institution ever do enough in a pandemic to keep me safe, and feeling safe?

I’m out of isolation now. As it turned out, another negative test in the symptomatic period was sufficient to secure my release. 

On the day before classes started, while I moved back into my room and hugged my roommate, the whole ordeal was already fading like a nightmare into the recesses of my mind. But it’s still there, somewhere. I’m not cartwheeling on the Mini Bald Spot anymore. Just sitting on the grass, surrounded by people, feels giddily precarious enough.

The post Notes from isolation appeared first on The Carletonian.

Categories: Colleges

Sixty percent of courses offered entirely online this fall

Fri, 09/25/2020 - 9:30pm

Although the majority of Carleton’s student body is on campus this fall, academic life remains predominantly online. 

Carleton gave faculty members the discretion to choose between four different instructional modes for their Fall Term courses—online, hybrid, mixed mode and face-to-face. Hybrid courses include online instruction alongside mandatory in-person components. In mixed mode courses, some students participate entirely online while others engage in in-person activities. Students who did not return to Northfield this fall are only eligible to enroll in online and mixed mode courses.

The Carletonian investigated course data on the Hub and found that about 60% of Carleton classes are being taught entirely online this fall. The College originally announced that “about half” of courses would be taught completely online, according to the initial reopening plan email sent by President Steven Poskanzer on July 10. 

The hybrid mode was the next most popular option after the online mode, with 17% percent of classes being offered in this format. The mixed mode and face-to-face options each account for just over ten percent of Carleton’s Fall Term offerings. 

This means that about 72% of Carleton’s course offerings are available to off-campus students, while 28% are unavailable.

Almost half of the face-to-face offerings are courses with fewer than six credits, such as comps and labs. Across all departments, the Hub lists only 19 six-credit classes taught entirely in-person, out of the over 300 courses offered this fall. 

The Carletonian’s data does not include music lessons and physical education classes, but it does include all other listed classes regardless of number of credits.

Departments adopted a wide variety of strategies when making decisions about instructional modes. Most shied away from fully face-to-face courses except in cases where hands-on learning is essential, such as lab classes. 

The Economics department is an exception—four out of five sections of its introductory courses are taught face-to-face, along with two upper-level courses. 

According to Department Chair Mark Kanazawa, the economics faculty designed a preliminary curriculum over the summer in which most courses would be taught face-to-face. 

“We wanted to provide sufficient in-person opportunities to maintain the strengths of a Carleton residential liberal arts experience,” he explained.

When the department made its plan public, however, it received pushback from students. According to Kanazawa, the department received an email signed by 26 of its majors asking that more courses be offered online. Students were particularly concerned about the health risks associated with in-person courses. 

“After a follow-up survey of our majors confirmed a widespread desire among students for more online options, we modified our modes of instruction accordingly,” Kanazawa said. The department is now offering a section of microeconomics and five upper-level courses online.

On the other end of the spectrum, the language programs—with the exception of a couple small, mixed mode courses in the Classics department—made a collective decision to offer exclusively online instruction. 

This decision hinged on the particular role of speaking and listening in language courses, according to Scott Carpenter, chair of the French and Francophone Studies department.

“When people are learning a foreign language, they need to be able to hear the professor and other students clearly, and seeing the mouth of a speaker helps one both to understand sounds and learn how to reproduce them,” Carpenter said. “Masks and social distancing complicate both of those things.”

Language instruction also depends heavily on small group discussion, Carpenter said, which is easier to implement in Zoom breakout rooms than in a socially distanced classroom setting. 

Spanish Department Chair Yansi Pérez echoed this sentiment. “We felt that as difficult and far-from-ideal online instruction is, it was the most logical choice for us,” she said. “We miss our face-to-face interactions with students terribly.”

Other departments attempted to balance health and equity considerations with a particular need for in-person activities. The Art and Art History department elected to offer all of its studio art classes in the hybrid mode. This decision, according to Department Chair Ross Elfine, was based on the “resolutely material and hands-on nature of studio art instruction and learning.” 

The Chemistry department took a similar approach, offering any class with an accompanying lab as a hybrid course. 

“The overriding principle was to offer an in-person lab experience in courses where working with your hands with the chemicals, glassware, and equipment is an essential part of the learning,” said Department Chair Daniela Kohen. 

This, however, could pose difficulties for off-campus students who miss out on sequenced courses. In a small number of cases, exceptions were made for seniors who needed to take a required lab class that is only offered in the fall, Kohen said. 

The Physics department was in a similar position—its major requires a Fall Term sophomore course with an equipment-intensive lab. The department opted to split the class into an online theory course and a face-to-face lab, giving students the option to take the theory portion this fall and the lab next fall. 

“If students were unable to come back to campus, then they might not be able to major in physics if we structured the class as normal,” explained Department Chair Marty Baylor. “So we restructured the course.”

In many departments, such as Political Science, Dance, and Linguistics, each faculty member simply made an individual choice about how to offer their classes, according to the chairs of these departments. These decisions balanced a wide range of personal and departmental considerations, including health concerns, course enrollment numbers, requests from students and individual teaching style.

The College prioritized allowing first-year students to enroll in at least one course with an in-person component, according to the student COVID-19 FAQ webpage. This included offering Argument and Inquiry (A&I) seminars with an in-person component wherever possible, although 42% of A&I seminars remain fully online.

In the history department, which hosts several A&I seminars and typically sees a large number of first-year students overall, half of this fall’s classes include an in-person component. 

“We wanted to give as many first-term students as possible the opportunity to have at least part of a class taught in person, but we also realized that we needed to keep our classes accessible for students who were in other timezones or would end up in quarantine,” said Department Chair Serena Zabin.

Comparing current Hub listings with the provisional course schedule sent out by Registrar Emy Farley in mid-July indicates that many professors changed the intended mode of their courses between July and the beginning of Fall Term. The shift was predominantly towards more online instruction.

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Categories: Colleges

We’re not socialists. Why lie?

Fri, 09/25/2020 - 9:30pm

It seems that in the past few years, people have become increasingly comfortable with calling themselves socialists. But the truth is, despite younger people being more progressive than older generations, there aren’t that many people advocating for a socialist society. While our generation is pretty critical of the system we live in now, people who call themselves socialists often advocate for social democratic policies, like those in Scandavian countries. Why do we use terms like democratic socialism to describe policies that work within a framework of capitalism? Probably because it’s a mistake that politicians make too.

It isn’t surprising how popular Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are among college students. They appeal to people who see deep, systemic problems in our society and think that it necessitates some sort of radical change. This characterizes the political views of many college students pretty well. But I think we need to be careful not to make the same mistakes as Bernie Sanders, as we want conservatives and moderates to see what progressive positions would mean for the country.

Bernie Sanders ran on a social democratic platform but called himself a democratic socialist. Popular progressives who endorsed him — like AOC and Ilhan Omar— advocate for social democratic policy as well. Free higher education, universal healthcare, and taxes to curb income inequality are part of this social democratic platform; nationalizing most major industries are not. These are policies that modify capitalism, seek to increase people’s standards of living and make our system fairer for all. 

However, calling these progressive policies “socialist” is how Republicans have historically discredited greater government involvement in the economy, including action that could lift millions of Americans out of poverty. I believe that by sticking to the democratic socialist label, Bernie Sanders hurt his chances with older and more moderate voters that he needed to win over. We know that a lot of voters are not very concerned with actual policy, and this is why rhetoric and perception are so important.

Levying higher taxes on the wealthy, massively investing in both renewable energy and nuclear energy, creating a more robust welfare state (or introducing some form of universal basic income), lowering (and modernizing) defense spending, as well as ending mass incarceration and the war on drugs, are positions that are pushed by progressive leaders. They also have nothing to do with socialism. 

So if most of us are social democrats, why not use the label that is most accurate? Why use a label that carries with it the baggage of dictatorship and communism? A lot of right-wingers and right- leaning moderates have the worldview that they do, in part, because of the failings of socialism. But they struggle to argue against specific social democratic policy positions that can garner large public support. 

Of course, conservatives will call just about anything socialist. But there is a reason Democratic moderates were worried about Bernie Sanders, favored candidates that talked about unity and compromise, and were susceptible to rhetoric that compared him to leadership in Venezuela.

Calling social democratic policy “socialist” also creates a false perception that politicians like Joe Biden are farther from progressives than they really are. The more progressives that think Joe Biden is far away from them ideologically, the more younger voters and college students will be disillusioned with politics. In reality, the difference between a politician like Joe Biden and Donald Trump cannot be overstated, while the difference between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders often is. Joe Biden’s tax plan places 3/4ths of its tax increases on the top 1%. He supports a climate plan that is extraordinarily similar to the plan supported by Bernie Sanders and the Green New Deal. 

He is actively working with progressives to craft more progressive policy. Even if you don’t believe that he will play a major role in pushing for it and recognize the limits of presidential power in the United States, then you must still realize the ridiculousness of supposing that he would use his veto power to stop some of the same progressive legislation that you can find on his website. 

Don’t get confused because of rhetoric from the far left. This next election is more than important. Flipping the Senate is, too.

Using words like “socialist” and “socialism” is not just becoming more common among college students. In 2019, Pew Research Center found that 42% of Americans had a positive view of socialism, but it is unclear what countries or specific systems people thought of when they heard the term. In my view, the amount of people who thought of Sweden, Denmark or Norway as examples of socialist countries, is probably pretty significant. These countries are capitalist. They just don’t have a broken healthcare system and have more robust welfare. This poll shows us that a lot of Americans are frustrated with how things are. The solution is not to adopt rhetoric that makes it harder to win elections, but instead to support specific, progressive and data driven social democratic policy.

It is much easier to criticize our current economic system than propose ideas for a better one. But, if we know that there are not yet implemented solutions to all of the major problems in our country, then that does not reflect poorly on capitalism as a whole. It reflects poorly on conservatives that have consistently impeded progress. Those who call themselves socialists are not a politically irrelevant minority. Actual socialists are.

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Categories: Colleges

Thank you students

Fri, 09/25/2020 - 9:30pm

As an older faculty member, I want to thank you students for being so careful about the safety considerations this term.  This is how we are able to be together and have a good and productive time.  The behavior I have seen so far is very encouraging.  We are counting on you. Please keep it up, and then we can continue to work together in the ways that mean so much to us all.

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Categories: Colleges

Fall Colors by the Asters

Fri, 09/25/2020 - 9:30pm

Hello everyone and welcome back to Carleton (be it physically or virtually)! As the wind turns crisp and occasionally chilly, we are starting to see some bright autumn colors in the Arb, credit to members of the Aster family (Asteraceae).

The New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) is in the peak of its bloom season. Strolling in the Upper Arb prairie, you can spot its robust purple  flowers peeking out from the tall grasses. As a late-season bloomer, it serves as an important food source for pollinators.

The Hairy White Oldfield Aster (Symphyotrichum pilosum) is also in its prime, parading dainty white blossoms scattered upon a mattress of hairy leaves. The branches are often arched since it tends to flower on just one side of the branch (a phenomenon known as secund in fancy botanical terminologies).

Several species of goldenrods (Solidago spp.) can be found in the Arb. Their

signature flower clusters live up to their name quite faithfully: the yellow flowers are clustered in branches (the “rods”). In some species, those branches tend to form a pyramidal contour (Canada Goldenrod, Missouri Goldenrod, and Smooth Goldenrod), while in others cylindric or club-shaped (Zigzag Goldenrod).

As the legions of mosquitoes are making their final retreat, take a walk in the Arb if you haven’t yet done so this fall, or explore our website to connect with the flora and fauna at Carleton no matter where the circumstances have kept you.

Stay safe and enjoy the fall colors!

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Categories: Colleges

Reopening in a pandemic: Q&A with Northfield Superintendent Matt Hillmann

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 10:58pm

Dr. Matt Hillmann is the Superintendent of Northfield Public Schools. The school district’s reopening plan has largely been in his hands since Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced that there will be no statewide school reopening policy, but rather policies based on rates of COVID-19 within each county. The Carletonian sat down with Dr. Hillmann to discuss how the future of Carleton and Northfield’s schools are intertwined.

Ellie Zimmerman: You just announced that there will be in-person education for elementary school students and hybrid education for middle and high school students this year, but that decision was made without a quarter of Northfield’s population, which will be arriving in the next couple of weeks. How much did you take that into consideration?

Matt Hillmann: We’ve been working with both the Minnesota Department of Health and Rice County Public Health for several weeks, thinking about a number of different options and a number of different data points. The learning model decision that we made says that if you take a look at the state of Minnesota, we are at nearly the lowest end of the learning model grid. We’re at 10.5 cases per 10,000 residents over the past 14 days through August 11th. Talking it through with our team and thinking about a number of different options, we felt confident that we were able to make that decision at this time. Even considering the fact that there are other students coming back to campus, you got to campus being at the lowest end of that range. Had we been at the higher end of that range, I think we would have had some different analysis, but believe it or not, the emails I’ve gotten today have been more about when we get under 10, when we have everybody come back to school. If we were to drop below 10 cases per 10,000 residents, there’s a number of other factors we’d have to consider before bringing our secondary students back in person every day, just because we don’t want to have to swing in and out of these different learning models.

EZ: You said [in a recent KYMN interview] that you’re fairly confident you’ll have to make some kind of change. What do you think that means?

MH: Absolutely—we don’t know yet because we still don’t think we completely understand where the virus is taking us, though we’ve had a significant decrease in cases in Rice County. My sense would be that the more likely way that we would go would be more restrictive rather than less restrictive. We have to have a lot of cases to get to hybrid for all. We have to get to that point where we are at 20 or higher [per 10,000]. 

All school districts in the state belong to something called a regional service cooperative of Minnesota. Once we get into the school year, those regional support teams activate. We have a team that’ll be looking at the data every single week. If there was enough of a change where we have to think about a learning model shift, either more restrictive or less restrictive, we’ll work with the regional support team. Let’s say that there is an increase in cases, to the point where it even potentially could affect our learning model. They’re going to do a deep dive into the data and say, okay, we see an increase in cases, the increase in cases are specific to this particular part of town. Maybe it’s a business. Maybe it is one of the colleges where the increases come from. If they get that and they feel convinced that it is contained to that area, they’ve said they may not make us change our learning model. So we’ll be getting some really significant support from the state Department of Health as we move forward, trying to take all of those things into consideration.

EZ: Interesting. So it’s not just the flat Rice County number. You can get more localized than that.

MH: Correct. 

EZ: So taking all that into consideration, being super honest with me, do you see this plan working? Do you see this as sustainable for the year or the semester at least?

MH: I think it’s hard to speculate because right now, we have seen in Rice County that the cases have flattened out over the last several months. But again, we’re not in charge of the numbers. The virus is in charge of the numbers. So if people do follow the protocols, I think that there’s a fairly good chance that we could be sustainable for a period of time. When the weather changes and more people are inside, that’s a part that we’ll have to work through at that point. For now, I think as we’ve talked with our public health experts, we feel that this is a sustainable way to start, but we don’t know. Nobody can say for sure that they know, so we’re making the best decisions that we can with the data that we have at the time. We’ve told people we have to be prepared to shift and adjust. If people want their kids back in school, we know that they have to follow those precautions and if they follow those precautions, we think that that’s very helpful. We see other states who have had some struggles with the return to school. Many of those states did not have a statewide face covering mandate. Many of those states did not have the length of the stay-at-home order that we have had here in Minnesota. So we’re hopeful that the public policy initiatives that have been different here than other locations give us the best chance for success.

EZ: You said some of it depends on how much the parents want their kids back in school and how much the teachers want to return to school. What have you been hearing from the community on that front?

MH: One of the things that we’re required to do in the Stay Safe Minnesota plan is to offer a totally online option for families. As of today, right now [August 17], we have 384 of our roughly 4,000 students who are opting for the all-the-time online program and we have roughly 40 of our 600 employees who have requested some kind of remote work. 

EZ: And that was granted to anyone who requested it?

MH: We are still working through that. There’s a prioritization process. There are some folks who meet the CDC criteria for increased risk that we’ll prioritize. Our goal is to work with as many people as possible. We think we’re going to be able to help most people, but there are some circumstances where we may not be able to offer remote work. In that case, we would work with people to grant them a leave of absence should they need to. It’s our last resort. We hope not to do that. It’s looking like we have quite a few people who are not interested in all-the-time online and we’re trying to match those two pieces up. Our goal would be to provide as many people with meaningful remote work as possible. 

EZ: Do you think that this is going to change the future of K-12 education forever, or do you think that this is just a placeholder until we can go back to normal?

MH: Well, I really hope it does change K-12 education because K-12 education could use some change. I don’t think that that answer is completely clear right now. First of all, we know that what we have done in public education has worked well for lots of students, but we also know that there are many students who it has not worked for, especially when we look at the substantial differences in achievement for our students of color in Minnesota. Going back to normal and those same kinds of outcomes is something that no school leaders want to happen. We want to be back to something better. When you have a major disruption like this pandemic, it is going to challenge systems. It’s going to make us think differently. While we are trying to manage the crisis, we are also looking at the ways that we can leverage what we’re learning during this process to create a better system coming out of it. 

And I think that people will initially probably have a desire to get back to what they perceive to have been normal. But we also know that we have learned a lot of things during this. Dire circumstances can create substantial creativity.

There were students who were really struggling in the in-person environment and who thrived in the online environment. We know that there were some students who would really benefit from having access to a more “on my own time” kind of approach. I see some of the remote learning continuing after the pandemic is over in a very strategic and thoughtful way, so that we can leverage both the things that are great about being on a school campus with the needs of each child of what might work best for them. 

We even look at it as the possibility of how we can expand the coursework that we offer. I think there’s another group of kids who would say, I’d love to take this health careers course that you can get through this particular content provider. I know it’s not reasonable for the school district to be able to offer that as a regular course, but if I could have access to that, I think that that is something that would be very beneficial to our students.

EZ: What keeps you up at night? 

MH: It depends on the day. Since it’s such a novel and moving target, the unknown is what keeps me up the most. I also have a great concern about making sure that we don’t lose our important anti-racism work as we deal with the crisis of the pandemic. We’re trying to make sure that we don’t allow the urgent to crowd out the important. Some of those real improvements that we’ve made over the last few years, as we are responding to an emergency, we are also trying not to lose some of the improvements that we have worked to develop. 

Those are struggles for all school districts in Minnesota. Right now, they have a substantial budget deficit at the state level. We get most of our funding from the state, and we are just not confident the state is going to be able to provide any kind of increase over the next several years because of the economic setbacks.

We know there are so many things that are converging at the same time that concern us. We care very deeply about public education. We think it is the foundation of a democratic republic and want to make sure that we are able to provide that essential service, while also making sure that we are protecting public health. That’s a long answer for that. I’m worrying a lot.

EZ: Yeah. I can imagine you have one of the hardest jobs out there right now. 

MH: But we are blessed to lead. I do maintain that, in the aftermath of COVID, public schools demonstrated that they were one of the most effective units of government, at least in Minnesota.

We learned on a Sunday that we had to shift. By Wednesday we were offering childcare for Tier One [essential] workers. We were feeding people every day through our meal programs, and we shifted to completely online. Of course, our online experience could be much improved over what it was last spring, but we had some really positive feedback from our community about how we were able to make that shift fairly effectively considering there was zero time to plan and that it was a true emergency. I think that a lot of Minnesota public schools can be very proud that we provided a lot of effective services, what families needed the most. And that’s what we want. We want to provide that essential public service for people and educate our next round of people so that as they grow up they are prepared to engage in this really important work in a democratic society.

EZ: What message do you have for Carleton students who are coming back soon?

MH: I wish everyone an excellent trimester and I hope people are able to take advantage of the world-class college education that Carleton offers. I hope that people at Carleton will dig in because this is not the last huge problem that’s going to be in front of us, that we’re going to have to solve.

And then of course, I just really strongly encourage and hope that our Carleton friends will take those appropriate precautions and make sure that they are wearing face coverings, that they’re washing their hands, that they’re staying home if they don’t feel well.

I recently saw this thing that the Vassar College president put out which was just fabulous. It was about how the “we” right now is much more important than the “me” and that collectively working together we can solve these kinds of problems moving forward.

I’ve always looked at our Carleton students as a huge asset to our community and very responsible. I see no change in that. In fact, just knowing the student body, I’m sure that they’ll even be more responsible than normal, making sure they contribute to public health in a positive way.

The post Reopening in a pandemic: Q&A with Northfield Superintendent Matt Hillmann appeared first on The Carletonian.

Categories: Colleges

Outdoor spaces and assigned seating: rearranging classrooms for a pandemic

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 10:53pm

This fall, Carleton is preparing new classroom spaces and layouts to anticipate the campus community’s changing needs during the pandemic. The Return to Campus Operations Team, Carleton College Associate Dean Gretchen Hofmeister and the Campus Committee—made up of faculty representatives and representatives from the Office of Facilities and Capital Planning, Academic Technology and the Registrar’s Office—have worked to create safer classroom arrangements.

According to Dean Hofmeister, size limits for in-person courses were determined based on recommendations from the American College Health Association Guidelines.

“The Academic Technologists and the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching are sponsoring classroom simulations so that faculty can try out different approaches for teaching in these spaces,” Hofmeister noted. Hofmeister stated that Presentation, Events and Production Support (PEPS) will “tweak their technology set-ups as best as possible and create additional information for faculty as a result of these simulations.”

“The furniture in the classrooms is arranged generally the same for all types of classes, but most of them have movable tablet armchairs,” Hofmeister said, adding that custodial services staff will position the furniture in classrooms each day.

CSA Senator and Office of Health Promotion Liaison Maya Rogers ‘22 noted that Carleton “evaluated all of the academic buildings.” “I think they’re trying to get every class in the same space to really stick with the same layout,” Rogers added.

Students coming to campus in the fall are expected to help maintain consistency in classroom arrangements and abide by the Carleton Community Covenant. “One thing that is explicitly mentioned in the Covenant is students not rearranging spaces,” Rogers, a member of the working group that created the Covenant, said.

Hofmeister stated that Carleton will have two outdoor classrooms that will be tented and have a chalkboard, portable sound system, folding chairs and lap desks. Carleton will also be using the Larson Meeting Room, Weitz Cinema and Kracum Auditorium, all in the Weitz Center for Creativity, as classroom spaces. 

“Many music ensemble practices will be held in outdoor tents located at the Weitz Center for Creativity,” Hofmeister noted. “There will also be a tent at Boliou, to increase the space for studio art classes and to support working outdoors.”

Chemistry Professor Steven Drew will be teaching a hybrid chemistry course in the fall with a lab component.  The lab portion will take place in person once a week. “We’re operating our lab spaces at 50% capacity,” Drew stated, adding that, in a normal term, “we have 24 students in a space we’ve set up for labs, plus a couple of faculty members and student TAs.” 

“The way we’re compensating for that is that we have two lab spaces sort of adjacent to each other, so I’ll still have 24-person lab sections,” Drew said. “I’m going to web link the two so that, if I make comments in one, the other lab can hear.” 

“I’m going to have partners set up, but they’re going to be separated in individual rooms, but linked by Zoom,” Drew noted. “They can share data and share what they’re doing through Zoom across the two lab spaces.” According to Drew, he will be teaching both a morning section and an afternoon section for the lab, and each section is expected to have 24 students.

In addition to doubling the number of spaces, further changes are being made in Drew’s classrooms. “Everyone’s going to have assigned seating,” Drew said. “They’ll have to put their PPE on.” “We are going to have some controls on how people move around the lab,” Drew stated.

Although courses may look a bit different this fall, Drew noted that “in terms of the science they’ll be doing, it’ll be the same.”

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Categories: Colleges

New Student Week orientation adapts to COVID-19

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 10:51pm

New Student Week (NSW) 2020 will commence on Tuesday, September 8, with the first-year students who will be on campus during Fall Term scheduled to arrive one to two days before the majority of the student body. First-year orientation activities will run through Sunday, September 13, following Carleton’s conventional NSW timeline, but orientation events will look quite different than in past years due to COVID-19.

“New Student Week still aims to equip students with the tools they need to successfully transition to Carleton and provide space for them to build community,” said Miiko Taylor, the Assistant Director of Student Activities and New Student Orientation. “The biggest difference this year will be the increase of online components of New Student Week.”

Traditionally, day one of orientation kicks off with the all first-year frisbee toss on the Bald Spot, after which each student is charged with collecting a stranger’s frisbee and (ideally) returning it later in the week or term. However, in compliance with state and federal standards regarding COVID-19, NSW 2020 will not include any such events that involve large gatherings.

“This will be a very noticeable shift from previous years that will change how we programmatically structure New Student Week,” said Taylor in written correspondence. “What will remain the same is the information the College provides to prepare new students for success.”

Despite the challenges associated with transitioning to college during a pandemic, Tae Bush, an incoming first-year student, said that coming to Carleton this fall “has been a ray of hope.” She said, “I’ve always looked forward to the college experience, and I think that the people I’ve met and the staff members that I’ve interacted with have made me feel a lot more comfortable about coming to Carleton amidst this.”

Bush is active on social media and has found the Class of 2024 to be very active on WhatsApp. She engages in a class-wide group chat, dorm chats, and a chat for Black students, and has been communicating remotely with other Posse Scholars whom she is looking forward to meeting in person. “All the students I’ve interacted with seem to have the same views as me, and they’re very serious about health concerns, so that helps,” she said.

Elijah Mustillo, another first-year student, is still debating whether he will come to campus or start the year online. “I’m waiting to get my schedule to see how many online classes I have and how many in person classes I have,” he said. “I don’t feel like it would be worth it to go and then basically Zoom from the dorm room.” According to the student FAQs page, Carleton has structured registration to prioritize first-year enrollment in at least one in-person course.

“There’s obviously the benefit of getting to be in new place, when I think most of us have been stuck in our house for a long time,” Mustillo said. “And then I want the things that the college experience provides that aren’t classes – like more freedom and making friends and things like that. But I also struggle with not necessarily wanting to be a part of this kind of wacky experiment that the whole country is participating in right now.”

“Everything about the world right now feels kind of out of control, so sometimes I feel like it’s a little bit silly to be trying to go on with life – like going to college and things like that – when maybe we should just be sitting it out until it’s a little safer for the common good,” said Mustillo.

Carleton’s planning for remote and in-person orientation events will continue through the rest of August.

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Categories: Colleges

Northfield residents apprehensive about students’ return to campus

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 10:49pm

Summer in Northfield has always been quiet. This year, it feels downright empty. Sad as the sight of Division Street without cars and people in the shops may be, some wonder whether the quiet is for the best. 

With St. Olaf bringing its full student population back in the past week and Carleton soon to follow, the residents of Northfield are bracing for a rise in COVID-19 cases that seems inevitable. Some raised concerns over how roughly 5,000 more people in town will affect their own daily lives, while others focused on the danger to the on-campus communities more than anything. 

As of September 1, there were an average of 6.6 new coronavirus cases per day in Rice County, but that was measured without a large portion of Northfield’s population present. St. Olaf has recently walked back some of its ambitious plans to return, offering more online classes than originally planned. Still, the virus has proved difficult to contain even in the first few days on campus. 17 St. Olaf students were suspended and dozens more were quarantined following a large party. 

Carleton has shown no signs of changing course, and although administrators have indicated that they will keep an eye on case numbers in the coming weeks, they have given no concrete information about the threshold at which they would deem the environment unsafe for students to return. 

“Northfield is going to be a national Petri dish,” said Doug Green, 65, a Northfield resident of more than thirty years. “We’re going to collect people from all over the country and bring them here and see what develops.” Though he said it with a chuckle, Green captured well the skeptical we’ll see mentality that several other residents expressed. 

Some raised concerns about their own lifestyle changes, like when Green said that he would take into account the increased crowds in downtown stores when he decides when to go grocery shopping. However, he and others acknowledged that they felt that the danger posed to them was much smaller than the danger to those in the immediate campus community. 

Bonnie Jean Flom, 71, a retired teacher active in town affairs, said that even though she lives with her husband, who is immunocompromised, her primary worry is for the students who will be living on densely packed campuses. “Certainly there’s some concern about people coming from all these places, but the greater concern I hear is for the students on campuses in those tight quarters and how to manage that and maintain that healthy distance that will be required in order for you to stay healthy,” she said. 

Though students can stay mostly on campus and distance themselves from those outside their close circle, Carleton does not exist in a vacuum. Anything that the college and the individuals within it do will have “ripple effects” on the town, said Teri Knight, News Director at KYMN Radio. The K-12 school reopening plan in Minnesota is contingent on county-by-county case density. If countywide case numbers increase suddenly once students return to the two college campuses, that could have an effect on how Northfield’s schools are allowed to operate. 

Carleton’s planning team met with Northfield city leaders while they made decisions about the fall, recounted college Vice President Eric Runestad. Northfield School Superintendent Matt Hillmann, who regularly attends those meetings, said in an email that they “discussed various concepts of planning, including the potential of students coming back to campus. While we did not specifically speak when the decision was being made, I trust the Carleton administration’s process and their ability to make the right decision for the College while considering the health of the community.” 

Knight said that she thinks they should have extended their communication with the wider Northfield community beyond that, “but frankly, they’re notorious for not.” She is used to reaching out to school officials for comment on her morning news program and not receiving any. “They give to the city a certain amount of money once a year and that’s kind of it. Other than that, they are entities of their own.” 

Gathering public opinion on the reopening decision could have produced conflicting results, because there is evidence that the student population thinks differently about the decision than the wider community. St. Olaf conducted a poll in late July that clearly highlighted an age divide—53% of faculty preferred to have the semester fully online, compared with only 22% of students.

The return to campus will surely bring benefits for the town, especially for small business owners. The restaurants and shops downtown that usually bustle with students are struggling, Knight said, and the allure of added business is strong. The question looming over everyone’s head is some variation of “what is worth the risk?” 

Green, a professor of English at Augsburg University, said that although he understands the various pressures on a college to open, in general “campuses should not be opening live.” He knows firsthand the difficulties of online learning as he prepares for his second semester of it. “Some students don’t learn well that way but it’s the only safe method we have and it would be better to be working with those students to help rather than endangering all lives,” he said.

Flom, who has three school-aged grandchildren, said she is “concerned about any school opening before science tells us it’s safe.” Her priority is their health, even if it comes at the cost of their academic progress. 

None of the three expressed bitterness toward the colleges or suggested that this would lead to a tense relationship between the colleges and the town community. Flom in particular said she cherishes interacting with students and looks forward to a time when she can do that again safely.

“‘No, don’t come to our town, we don’t want you here?’ There is none of that,” Green said. “I just think in the absence of clear national guidelines and scientific advice this is what you get. You get people making decisions ad hoc on their own. What the results of that will be, who knows? My prediction, not good.”

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Categories: Colleges

Athletes cope with athletic department’s decision to cancel fall sports

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 10:45pm

The discussion over whether Division I athletics will exist this fall continues to ramble on, particularly with regard to football, a sport which generates key revenue for athletic departments across the nation. Meanwhile, the discussion over Division III fall athletics has been relatively straightforward; since they don’t provide substantial economic benefit, they are unlikely to continue out of fear they will facilitate the spread of COVID-19. 

In early July, athletic departments across Division III began to slowly announce decisions regarding the upcoming fall athletic season. In the wake of department-wide cancelations from institutions including Grinell, MIT, Claremont-Mckenna, Bowdoin, and Johns Hopkins, Carleton followed suit on July 10th when it became the first member of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) to cancel fall sports. By late August, the Division III Administrative Committee recommended member schools not compete against one another during the fall term.

Carleton’s announcement sent shockwaves through the 12 varsity athletic programs with seasons scheduled this fall. For senior athletes, the news was particularly devastating: dreams of anticipated athletic honors, captainships, and more importantly, one last hurrah with teammates, suddenly evaporated. “For about 3 weeks after I heard that fall sports were cancelled and we wouldn’t be competing, I couldn’t look at anything related to volleyball, or sports in general, without breaking down,” mentioned Senior Abby Loe, a hitter on the women’s volleyball team.

After weeks of false hope that COVID-19 cases would dwindle and fall athletics would return, Loe realized the loss of her highly anticipated senior athletic season, a keystone of her undergraduate experience. “Selfishly, there were individual athletic goals I had coming into Carleton that I needed my senior season to accomplish. It just feels like an incredible loss to not play again. For team sports like volleyball, the loss is pertinent. You can’t just go out there and start playing competitive volleyball as an adult. You need a team, a net, and a competitive opponent to play. So this fall may have been my last legitimate chance to play the sport I love.”

Although she was completely unaware at the time, when Loe exited the arena at St. Olaf’s Skoglund Center following her team’s season finale in November, it was likely her last time wearing the maize and blue Carleton uniform.

As highlighted in a previous article published by the Carletonian, avenues remain open for athletes to regain their cherished senior season. Fall sport participants may take a leave of absence for a single trimester and graduate off-cycle in November, or, upon acceptance, they may carry forth their final year of eligibility to a post-graduate institution.

Loe, a Mathematics and Gender & Women’s Studies double-major, carefully weighed these options. Ultimately, she decided to remain on schedule with her coursework, leaving open the possibility of transferring her athletic eligibility when she attends graduate school. “For me, the risk of learning loss and potential wage loss outweighed the benefit of taking a term off.” Acknowledging the confusion over how long COVID-19 will affect athletics, she added: “Who knows when everything will return to normal? It could be years, and it doesn’t make sense to put my life on hold indefinitely.” 

Oliver Jacobs, a Junior offensive tackle on the football team, has taken a different approach. Unenthused by another term of online-learning, he will not return to campus this fall. By taking a leave of absence, he is scheduled to graduate in November of 2022, following what he hopes to be the completion of his senior football season. 

“I’m afraid that being on campus this fall may result in being stuck with online classes, and at the same rate of tuition, I don’t think that’s worthwhile. I’m also leery of a dull campus environment due to COVID restrictions” he explained. 

Jacobs, a Political Science and History double-major, plans to take advantage of the hiatus from his studies. After spending the summer as an intern on Representative Josh Harder’s congressional campaign in California’s hotly contested Tenth District, he secured a paid position on the DCCC’s coordinated campaign in Colorado. As a Field Organizer, he will recruit and train volunteers in Colorado’s rural Southeastern corner, which borders New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas.

“I’m trying to gain as much experience as possible,” explained Jacobs, who dreams of a future in politics. “Hopefully, this will serve as a springboard to other opportunities down the road. And on top of that, there’s just too much at stake in this election cycle to sit back and watch from a distance.”

By getting creative, Jacobs has carved out a win-win scenario. In addition to gaining valuable political experience, he will seize an opportunity to play all 4 seasons of his collegiate football career, which he considers “a huge privilege in this day and age.”

That said, many Carleton athletes will continue attending classes this fall, and as eager as they are to re-join their peers and professors on campus, they are preparing for an experience which will deviate substantially from the status quo. In mid-July, the College began laying forth a plan to provide its signature residential experience in the midst of a pandemic, taking measures including: modified housing accommodations, a mix of in-person and online classes, grab-and-go meals, and contact tracing protocols. Despite relatively straight-foward procedures, uncertainty lingers over whether athletic teams will be allowed to practice, and if so, to what extent.

According to the Athletic Department’s FAQ webpage, “teams will be able to practice in small groups following NCAA/MIAC/Minnesota Department of Health phasing guidelines.” However, in the circumstances of even a minor outbreak on campus, such plans could be thrown out the window. Ultimately, student-athletes may need to prepare for the possibility of a fall term without in-person practice.

Sports are a pillar of the Carleton experience for every student-athlete, most of whom, like Junior swimmer Natalie Lafferty, chose Carleton for a phenomenal academic environment coupled with the opportunity to compete in collegiate athletics. Athletic competition provides Carleton’s student-athletes with a productive outlet from the stress of a rigorous academic setting. Student-athletes like Lafferty form habits around their athletic schedules to productively manage their studies.

Lafferty, who is majoring in American Studies, acknowledged how thankful she is for the daily structure provided by her swim schedule. “During the season, I have morning practice, class, practice in the afternoon, and team dinner, followed by time to study in the library with teammates. This routine keeps me productive and happy, knowing I have built in time for socializing and exercise.”

Thankfully, Lafferty is not too concerned about the potential lack of structure this fall, but for other athletes, this is not necessarily the case. “Those work habits are going to be difficult to reproduce without volleyball,” cautioned Abby Loe, an aforementioned senior.

Even in a best-case scenario where practice will be permitted in “small groups,” it remains unclear how practice will be structured to meet the needs of specific sports. Drawing on informal communication with teammates and coaches, Lafferty believes the Swim and Dive team will practice in “pods” of 8-10 swimmers. “To my understanding, this means we will practice with the same group of people throughout the season to limit exposure and allow for effective contact tracing. But then again, we haven’t had an official team meeting to discuss the upcoming season, so I honestly do not know what practices will look like.”

Individualized sports like swimming and golf may be better suited for practice in small groups, whereas team-oriented sports like football, volleyball and soccer may have more difficulty adapting. The nature of these sports, which the NCAA considers “medium-or high risk for Coronavirus transmission” require the close proximity of participants and the sharing of a ball, meaning effective training will be limited if the whole team is restricted from practicing together.

Bella Bettner, a Junior on women’s soccer, says her team remains optimistic about a fall practice schedule. “Our coaches are planning for a spring season, so we have plans to practice and lift throughout the fall and winter. That said, I don’t want to get my hopes up for nothing.”

The MIAC is currently working to develop spring schedules for a handful of higher risk sports, including football, soccer, volleyball and cross-country. However, logistics remain complicated, particularly when it is not unheard of for competition fields throughout the state to remain snow covered in April. For football and soccer, a spring schedule would require access to indoor turf facilities, which Carleton does not own. Renting out the nearby Dundas Dome could be an option, but would require the restructuring of already-slim budgets to cover the costs. Nevertheless, for senior athletes who are desperate for one last season, a shortened spring schedule is their beacon of hope. 

Uncertainty lingers over what athletics at Carleton will look like this fall, but student-athletes will adjust accordingly. Bettner, a Biology major, is already thinking about how athletes can lead by example and help contain the spread of the virus. “I think athletes especially need to avoid parties and large gatherings for a while. If one of us gets it, the whole team gets it. Then, not only can you not practice anymore, but you’ve put the rest of campus at risk. So we really need to be careful,” she explained.

Being on campus this fall will mean making sacrifices. For athletes, this means the absence of a fall season and the likelihood of curtailed practices, if they manage to exist at all.

“It’ll still be worth it,” says Bettner.” Suddenly released from the demanding confines of their normal practice and competition schedules, athletes may enjoy more time immersed in their studies, or find new hobbies outside the realm of sports. 

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Categories: Colleges