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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Tocqueville and Numa: CSA funding: the values behind the rules

<nted to zero in, this week, on the part of CSA about which students most often think: its budget. Carleton seems like a place of bountiful resources, and in many ways it is. Still CSA, like all the other parts of the college operates under considerable financial constraints, albeit significantly different ones. We believe strongly that CSA’s financial decision-making ethos is fundamentally correct: CSA’s budget is meant to facilitate the life of the campus community by funding student initiated and led experiences that add value to our community. Institutionally, this ethos is expressed through bylaws and guidelines, used by Budget Committee and Senate. We are going to pick through what we think are the most important ones and put them in the context of CSA’s financial ethos.

Personal Property

To allocate this money effectively, Senate generally grants preference to events and activities that affect a larger proportion of the community—personal property is the inverse. With a limited budget, funding items that are primarily going to benefit the individual recipient makes no sense. Sometimes there are reasonable exceptions. But generally we believe that a strong prejudice against personal property focuses Senate’s allocation of scarce resources on things that have broad impacts on the Carleton community.


Everyone likes free food. CSA organizations, though, are fairly restricted in the funding they can receive for food— It must be “central to event.” This means that pizza at weekly meetings and lunches for talks are out. At the same time, food related to a particular cultural event is frequently funded. This food’s primary purpose is not to provide nourishment, in the case of a cultural event; appropriate food helps to convey the culture. We believe that these restrictions make sense. Still, this is one area where the vast difference in budget between the college as a whole and CSA has an impact. We are used to food at talks and other kinds of events sponsored by other parts of the college, but this is something CSA cannot afford.


One aspect of an allocation that always comes under particular scrutiny is the way something will be advertised. Rather than nitpicking, this is an essential part of ensuring that CSA funding goes to events that are open to the entire campus. Organizations are chartered by CSA because they have the potential to add value to the Carleton community. This value is manifested in experiences available to the whole community. We believe that broad advertising through judicious use of posters, banners, and Facebook, not just organization email lists, is the best way to ensure that events are truly open to the entire campus.


Every year $30,000 out of the $400,000 budget is allocated for honoraria. Almost any speaker we bring to campus is expected to participate in multiple events. Just giving a talk is not enough. If we are going to fly a speaker to Carleton we like to see dinners, discussions, and maybe even classes in his itinerary. Since most speakers will also benefit other offices on campus we normally share the cost of brining them with academic departments or office like the Chaplain or Intercultural Life.


The student activity fee is meant to improve the life of Carleton students. Since we are a residential college we believe most of the money should stay on campus where it can easily impact the most students. When we do send students to conferences our main goal is to make sure the entire campus community benefits. For these reasons we ask that those who attend the conference bring something back to campus. We also limit any conference to six people. After that adding more people doesn’t really help them bring back more to the campus. Finally, funds are limited so we confine ourselves to $150 per person. We know there are great conferences all over the world, but we just can’t afford them all.


A prominent Carleton professor likes to say: “the things at which Carls are the very best in the world are those things in which there are no coaches.” He often refers specifically to the traditions of Model UN and Ultimate Frisbee. We believe that Carls are marked by their creative capacity for self direction, and we endeavor to encourage that spirit. As a result, we typically won’t pay professionals to help our student organizations.

Publications and Posters

CSA is somewhat of a monopoly and sometimes we try to use this power to bring down costs (to the economists out there remember that Carleton is certainly not a perfect market to begin with). As a result we try to limit publications and advertising to the minimum extent necessary to reach the whole student body. Printing more is waste—of our money and our environment. We also believe that if one group uses color all groups will have to follow suit to keep up. As a result we only fund black and white printing as a rule.

If you are interested in learning more about the CSA Budge, go to the CSA webpage and click on “funding guidelines” at the bottom left. Again, we believe that it is important to remember that these guidelines are not just administrative rules. They are rules designed to embody values. All too often we discuss the rules without putting them in the context of the values they represent. We would all be better served by more emphasis on values in future discussion.

As always you can read more at .

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