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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Uncontested race for CSA President points to apathy in students

<rtly after the polls closed at midnight on Monday morning, the results of the CSA elections were posted online, announcing to the student body that McKay Duer had been elected their next president.

It might have been a dramatic moment, but for the fact that the identity of the next CSA president was never really in doubt: Duer was running unopposed.

Next to the race for CSA president, the contest for the position of vice president was heated. The two candidates advertised extensively across campus, with the winning candidate, Jinai Bharucha, besting her opponent by a margin of 230 votes out of a total of 1037 ballots cast.

But the uncontested race for president, as well as the fact that only seven candidates vied for five open CSA Senate seats, led some students to wonder why the elections did not attract more candidates.

Outgoing president Caitlin Fleming said that the number of candidates in this term’s election is “a bit low, but fairly consistent” with past elections. She said that several popular Off-Campus Studies programs next term (such as the Political Economy seminar in China) had the effect of disqualifying several people who would have run for the CSA had they been on campus next spring.

“Recent Senates have worked very hard and accomplished a lot,” Fleming said. “This has set a high standard for the time commitment and investment required for being an effective senator.”

Duer also attributed the low number of candidates to the popularity of Off-Campus Study programs. She said that she, as well as other CSA senators, attempted to persuade other students to run for president.

“I do wish there had been more competition,” she said.

Apathy among the student body may have also played a role, as well as a lack of awareness about the powers and accomplishments of the CSA, according to several Senate candidates.

Heather Yang said that “apathy in general is a huge problem,” whether at Carleton or in the wider world, and many students she spoke with believe that it is their obligation to vote only when a politician has committed some serious misdeed.

Moshe Lavi drew a connection between apathy towards campus issues and an indifference towards global problems. “I see the apathy and the low global and civic engagement on campus as a threat to the existence of a conscious, responsible, and viable student community,” he said.

Lavi is the chair of STAND, a student organization that promotes divestment from Sudan, and he hopes that as a senator he will be able to bring greater prominence to the issue and start a discussion on divestment within the CSA.

According to Duer, the problem is less about apathy and more about a lack of awareness of what the CSA Senate can accomplish. As president, she hopes to increase the accessibility and visibility of CSA officers by tabling in Sayles and improving the CSA website.

Fleming, the outgoing president, said she has worked hard to make the Senate accessible, holding office hours and encouraging ordinary students to attend CSA meetings. She said that the perceived “apathy” among the student body is largely due to the fact that Carleton students tend to be very busy with other activities.

“This is part of what makes life on campus so interesting,” she said.

Voter turnout figures for the past few years supplied by Fleming show a steady rise in the number of students voting in CSA elections, from 735 in winter 2006 to 1037 this winter.

Yet even with more than 50% of the student body voting, all of the candidates expressed the importance of keeping students involved in the activities of the CSA throughout the year.

If lack of interest is a problem, Duer said, “I’d love to address that issue and find a way for students to get more involved and increase their interest.”

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