My name is Sam Neubauer and I am an aspiring organizer at Carleton College, class of 2017. When I came to Carleton at the beginning of last year, I knew that I wanted to be engaged in organizing and activism and immediately got involved in the campus activist scene, but frankly was disappointed with the lack of involvement on campus. I knew that students were passionate about social justice, and were willing to fight for it, but it was hard to reconcile this with the strikingly small amount of organizing going on around campus. As time has gone on I have had the great fortune to work for a climate justice organization and learn a lot more about what it means to be an organizer. While these experiences have been incredible, I also had a realization this real and serious organizing was so sparse at Carleton.
Many of my friends on other campuses are exposed to organizing and learn from those who organized before them, but at Carleton we don’t have this same infrastructure. After MPIRG was kicked off campus at Carleton, organizing largely fell apart. There are no serious external resources for students seeking to engage in progressive activism. It is incredibly hard to learn about organizing culture because we don’t have paid staff who maintain the organizations where we can learn; without institutional memory or supported paid staff, even the best organizations can fall apart. Carleton also fell out of touch with what was going on across the state. We are almost totally disengaged from state politics and organizing because of the loss of our MPIRG chapter. Now it is incredibly difficult for Carleton students to actually have any say. We don’t have the student power that we once did.
When MPIRG was kicked off campus there was a lot of anger and arguments on both sides. However, at the end of the day it has seriously hurt student access to organizing, student power and Minnesota-wide connections. Take it from a student who intends to dedicate his life to organizing: kicking MPIRG off campus at Carleton seriously impaired our ability to develop long-term structures to build student power across the state of Minnesota.