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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The pointlessness of running for CSA

<t hard to tell that CSA elections are coming around again. The same old posters are up, the emails asking for votes are trickling into your inbox, and other than that you don’t know much about it. From the ten seconds that I’ve spent looking at advertisements on various walls around campus I’ve seen the clever candidate posters. People running for office show those hilarious/amusing pictures of themselves, they satirically link themselves to last November’s election slogans (usually and ironically advocating “change” or invoking Obama), or they make those black and white posters that try not to say too much, my personal favorite. There was a debate Wednesday, but I can’t imagine too many people had something less important to do that allowed them to justify showing up. The candidates have all written platforms, but even as I write this, I can’t will myself to pull up more than one of them to skim through. I bet you they promise to be open-minded, to represent the student body “as a whole”, to be more fiscally responsible. “I promise I’ll be the best senator ever, and you won’t regret voting for me!” Ha.

The whole idea of student body elections is largely a waste of time. I for one definitely derive more satisfaction from the humor of the process than I do from having the opportunity to exercise my democratic right to vote. I smirk at the posters, laugh to myself that there is actually a debate, and gain satisfaction from imagining people spending valuable time at a computer writing these platforms that few read. Its not that CSA doesn’t matter or that getting involved is dumb. It’s the idea that this election has any major influence on how students at Carleton touch college policy. It has minimal effect, and this is why people don’t really care about the elections (that and apathy). One candidate usually doesn’t differ much from another, and new senators will replace old ones, leaving everything balanced and the same. Touching college policy is a challenge, and the Senate only plays a small role. It’s the students who are active enough to apply for specific roles within the college that get things done.

Being a senator doesn’t necessarily mean you get things done. Let’s take me for example. I’m a senior who has served on Senate for one year, being elected this time last year. I could spend a good bit of time whining about how the stifled procedure of Senate made me a bad senator. It took me forever to get used to it (instead of just asking what the hell someone’s talking about you are supposed to say “point of order,” “point of information,” etc). After my first few meetings I was shocked by how long senators spent during meetings arguing over petty language versus tackling issues of substance. This made it really hard for me to stay clear-headed enough to snap back to reality when something important was being discussed. Unfortunately I often didn’t.

Okay, that was more of a criticism of how inefficient Senate meetings can be, and how I contribute less than the rest. Senators DO do things. Every Senator is part of at least one working committee that focuses on something specific.

But students who are NOT elected (they are appointed after being vetted from an application process) do this exact same thing. Take for example students in the different College Committees (can you name them all? Or any? What does ECC stand for?) They are just as influential, if not more-so than Senators-at-large whose concerns are supposed to lie in many different fields.

Pretty much anyone who has the energy to go through the motions to get their name on a ballot can get elected to Senate (case in point, me). They may or may not do something of substance, but they come into an environment speaking in generalities rather than specifics. Elections aren’t really about the issues.

I am not advocating getting rid of the elections, but rather suggesting that people who care enough to vote for someone specific, or want to see a change somewhere in the college think beyond the CSA. People should know that there are tons of places you can make your voice heard. If you are worried about how money is spent, apply to be in the Budget Committee. Students in this are by far more influential when it comes to the $400,000 the CSA has than Senate members. If you want to say something or know more about admissions, financial aid, the dining policy, the library, etc. there is a committee you can apply to and join which will influence policy much more than you being on Senate.

When you are encouraged, or pestered into voting this weekend, take a second to think about your place within the college, and if there is anything specific you care about. If you do, don’t regret you missed a chance to put your name on the ballot, join a committee or talk to someone about how to do something different. Senate is doing this, plus more busy work.

-Jack Boller is a fourth-year student and CSA Senator

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