President Steve Poskanzer, Carleton trustees, faculty, and staff:

In May 2020, a letter of 11 demands began to circulate among a handful of Carleton alumni. Written by the Black Student Alliance, the African and Caribbean Association, the Men of Color, and the Africana Studies Student Department Advisors, it outlined inadequate inclusion services and faculty and staff discrimination at Carleton College. The letter powerfully called on the College “to play a vital role in addressing and redressing anti-Blackness, institutional racism, white supremacy, and microaggressions on this campus and in the Northfield community.”

A few alumni took the initiative to enlist their peers in an effort to work with the president’s office and the College trustees to imagine how Carleton might responsibly and earnestly address the issues raised in the student letter. Rather than joining a transparent community conversation, we were met with opacity about Carleton’s intended response. Rather than engage alumni as the professionals and thought leaders we have become since our time at Carleton, the College managed us as if we were outsiders to the Carleton community. The College claimed it came to listen, but in reality they dissembled on important matters and rebuffed our concerns without care. Many left the call feeling alienated by their alma mater, and resigned.

However, when the College exploited the Black Lives Matter movement as a fundraising strategy, conflating support for Carleton’s student life department and its Multicultural Alumni Network with support for anti-racism and equity work, we knew we needed to address Carleton formally in a public letter to the entire community, for the sake of transparency and as a clear call to action.

We do not want Carleton to bury the issues raised by the student letter and we do not want the Carleton community to overlook the cyclical nature of these events. As alumni — ranging from the Classes of 1949 to 2020 — we have seen and/or written such letters before and we have experienced and witnessed these same struggles from our time to theirs:

  • faculty and staff who lack cultural responsiveness and/or reject the reality that BIPOC students are marginalized in their departments;
  • a lack of accountability for faculty who commit racist acts;
  • curricula that deprioritize the voices, history, and work product of BIPOC communities;
  • a rotating cast of visiting BIPOC professors to compensate for the College’s inability to recruit and retain a diverse faculty;
  • a limited vision of what experiences count as “Carleton” experiences, embodied in the stories Carleton chooses to tell about its students, faculty, staff, and alumni;
  • an unwelcoming culture in which white peers (and indeed many staff and faculty) seek to confine and circumscribe discussions of diversity and equity to (specific) classrooms;
  • diversity and equity initiatives relegated to a handful of ineffectual committees or to disempowered, under-resourced campus departments;
  • a lack of culturally responsive engagement with BIPOC families and a failure to welcome and support them as meaningful additions to its community; and
  • a seemingly impenetrable belief that equality, equity, and diversity are ancillary to a liberal arts education, rather than foundational to it.

For generations, students have been crying out for a more inclusive and empowering college education, the very education Carleton’s mission promises to deliver. Yet, Carleton, true to form, remains focused on mitigating the outcry so that it can move on. It has repackaged existing programs and committees as new solutions, and it has made short-term financial commitments that leave its culture and institutional priorities untouched. Even as the school tries to address student demands, it undermines its own efforts by excluding key stakeholders from critical decisions about racial issues that concern the entire Carleton community.

When Carleton wanted to be a leader on climate change, it laid out a years-long plan to accomplish its goals, purchasing wind turbines, building eco-friendly dorms, introducing an environmental studies major, and installing a geothermal-based district energy system. Clearly, Carleton is capable of leading change when it wants to. Where is that same fire for its Black and brown students? Where is that same desire to fundamentally transform the racial climate on Carleton’s campus? Where is Carleton’s leadership in confronting systemic racism?

It is not our role as alumni to instill in Carleton a sense of urgency commensurate with this political moment or to activate a sense of duty toward its BIPOC students. Nor is it our role to convince the College that change is needed, when decades of letters, sit-ins, student demands, community dialogues, and personal conversations could not do the same. But what we can do is challenge Carleton — its administration, trustees, faculty, and staff — to find the will and the means to confront institutional and personal racism on campus and in its culture.

Specifically, we challenge Carleton to build a 10-year plan for racial equality and equity. Such a plan should be informed by serious engagement and transparent conversations with BIPOC students, alumni, faculty, and staff. It should be attached to measurable and reportable outcomes on enrollment, financial aid, graduation rates, staff and faculty diversity, departmental and programmatic budgets, and climate survey responses. And it should be fundamentally transformative, replacing a toxic, self-satisfied, defensive, and elitist culture with a more humble, curious, imaginative, and culturally responsive community for learning.

As Carleton embarks on this journey, it will likely find that the work is more than it can do on its own. The problem is bigger than any one institution. But in order to fulfill its responsibility to students, Carleton must evaluate its power and position as an institution of higher education in a democratic society. It may require Carleton to challenge the way that higher education is currently envisioned and delivered in this country. It will require Carleton to earnestly grapple with complex problems, marshalling the kind of critical thinking Carleton values and demands from its students.

For those of us fortunate enough to attend college, let alone a private college, it is a special and formative time in young adulthood. We develop lifelong friendships, explore our senses of self, and challenge our intellects. This privilege should not come at such a sacrifice for BIPOC students.

Until Carleton lives up to its mission, takes ownership for its campus climate and answers the call these students have put forth for systemic change, we, as alumni, choose not to be complicit. We will withhold our time, financial resources, and volunteer hours from Carleton until we receive a response that commits to partnering with all affected members of our community in a just, transparent, and mission-driven process.

We request a response from Carleton to our organizing group by the start of the new school year and a subsequent call with signatories of this letter as a first step in the movement toward a 10-year plan for racial equality and equity. We look forward to receiving a response from Carleton that reflects the respect and transparency that Carleton’s alumni and students deserve.

The letter for Carleton was signed by 2,095 alumni and students from the Classes of 1949 to 2024. For more information, please go to the FAQ document. To ensure that this page loads in a timely manner, we have included only the first 150 names below. You can find the complete list here.

Signed,

Lilica Anderson, 1949
Eleanor Ackman Parker, 1963
Stanley Siefer, 1964
Thomas Hinds, 1965
David Finkelstein, 1970
Jennifer George, 1970
Walt Gordon, 1970
Joe Nathan, 1970
Richard Adams, 1971
Shanta Nurullah, 1971
Pam Costain, 1972
Patrick Dunlevy, 1972
Sarah Johnson Entenmann, 1973
Rick Kahn, 1973
Theresa Nash, 1973
Janet Polasky, 1973
Jill Rusterholz, 1973
Alison Woods, 1973
Martha Adamson, 1974
Alice (Bledsoe) Price, 1975
Mary Nickson, 1975
C. Bennice Young, 1975
Marcie Jefferys, 1976
Robert Meiches, 1976
Jane O’Laughlin, 1976
Sarah Steefel, 1976
Gail Stratton, 1976
Mary Frintner, 1977
Kevin Shriver, 1977
John Sims, 1977
Mary Stucky, 1977
Sindri Anderson, 1978
Catherine Boebel Grotenhuis, 1978
Mark Hunter, 1978
C. Nozomi Ikuta, 1978
Anne Katata, 1978
Lona Sepessy, 1978
Eleanor Haase, 1979
Sarah Shriver, 1979
Melinda Bell, 1980
Eileen Bertie, 1980
Daniel Carlsen, 1980
Karin Case, 1980
Carolyn Griffith, 1980
Michele Jiménez, 1980
Karen Zukowski, 1980
William Clary, 1981
Elizabeth Dyer Clary, 1981
John Friedhoff, 1981
Mia Nosanow, 1981
Laura Osterbrock, 1981
Anne Parsons, 1981
David Schoenfeld, 1981
Pamela White, 1982
Jane Berne, 1983
Abraham Fisher, 1983
Marcus McKinley, 1983
Margaret Philbin McKinley, 1983
Jennifer Crane Crenshaw, 1984
Karen Cunnyngham, 1984
Patty Mitchell, 1984
Kari Andrade, 1985
Anne Burgeson, 1985
Bonnie Guyer Graham, 1985
Melissa Hamilton, 1985
Loren Henning, 1985
Jennifer Labovitz, 1985
Steev Lynn, 1985
Julia Scatliff O’Grady, 1985
Colleen Sullivan, 1985
Clay Taylor, 1985
Tracie Washington, 1985
Lee Bascom, 1986
Michael Chauss, 1986
Leslie Hayes, 1986
Sarah Johnston, 1986
Jenny (Jorgensen) Tulloss, 1986
Helen Kim, 1986
Peter Machacek, 1986
Anna Martin, 1986
Lee (McEnany) Caraher, 1986
Stephanie Molliconi, 1986
Paul Moore, 1986
Robin Nielson-Cerquone, 1986
Martha Oakley, 1986
Chris Sawin, 1986
Elizabeth Uppman-Marquez, 1986
David Wright, 1986
Katie Becklean Campbell, 1987
Melissa Cavaghan, 1987
Matthew Claybour, 1987
Erika Dillman, 1987
Craig Jonas, 1987
Gretchen Leiterman, 1987
Theodore MacLean, 1987
Eric Mueller, 1987
Angela Wilcox, 1987
Michael Bazzett, 1988
Everett Chong, 1988
Austin Dahl, 1988
Troy Ethen, 1988
Amy Gossow Van Ry, 1988
Seanna Jonas, 1988
Katherine Ladner, 1988
Frank Moe, 1988
Karen Murphy, 1988
Amy Zekas Reynaldo, 1988
Wendy Crabb, 1989
Tim Leone-Getten, 1989
Alexis McCrossen, 1989
Jocelyn Pihlaja, 1989
Nina Mairs, 1990
Maurella Cunningham, 1991
Kim Fallon, 1991
Maurice Lee, 1991
Natalie Crow Becker, 1992
Dan Kerr, 1992
Andrew Kim, 1992
Sogene Mah, 1992
Kristin Maier, 1992
Leslie McAllister, 1992
Miriam Petty, 1992
Christian Ruzich, 1992
Eithne Barton, 1993
Leah Bassoff, 1993
(James) Eric Cooper, 1993
Nancy Coronado, 1993
Angela Davis, 1993
Lesley Gold, 1993
Jessica Griffith, 1993
Sonya Huber, 1993
Thomas Hyry, 1993
Christina (Kiki) Kelley, 1993
Beka Langen, 1993
Anna Lawrence, 1993
Luke Lightning, 1993
Rebecca Lovell, 1993
Stephen Oh, 1993
Carla Shohet, 1993
Scott Smith, 1993
Michelle Stempien, 1993
Pamela Sukhum, 1993
Karen Thompson, 1993
John Thurston, 1993
Eryn Carter, 1994
Julia Daly, 1994
Benjamin Johnson, 1994
Hilary Copp, 1995
Kgomotso Matsunyane, 1995
Michelle McMartin, 1995

See all 2,095 signatures here.

Co-organizers:

Nimo Ali ‘11
Rose Chahla ‘10
Kenneth Coleman ‘10
Shannon Finnegan ‘11
Sarah (Ogden) Johnston ‘86
Katie Jumbe ‘04
Beserat Kelati ‘12
Ainsley LeSure ‘05
Halah Mohammed ‘14