Happy spring. In January, we distributed a message to the Carleton community regarding conversations about race, gender, class, and privilege, what makes for a healthy community, and the ways our community falls short of its aspirations. This past winter term, we took action to build a stronger and more inclusive Carleton community. Part of this action included holding a structured series of small-group discussions that we called “community conversations” and were attended by faculty, staff, and students.
Some of these conversations were challenging for our students. Often, these conversations included 20 members of the community who were meeting for the first time to think about five topics of importance (campus climate, black lives matter, the Syrian Refugee crisis/Islamophobia, class and wealth at Carleton, and free speech). All of the conversations were designed in such a way that those attending had an opportunity to be heard and to listen. Faculty and staff facilitated each of the 134 conversations.
We generated community-building moments, realized common bonds, and discovered barriers for joining together in pursuit of learning. These conversations were about beginnings, not endings; discovering challenges while not also seeking immediate solutions; and was a high priority for us all. In a few short weeks, we will share with the campus community, and you as well, a summary analysis of what we learned along with next steps and action items.
I encourage you to take an opportunity to ask your student about the community conversation and send me a quick note about their experiences at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the best,