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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

A conversation with CSA president-elect Quinn Buhman ’24

I sat down with Quinn Buhman ’24, the current CSA treasurer who will succeed Jancyn Appel ’23 as CSA president beginning next term after winning last weekend’s election. Read on for the details of our conversation, including Buhman’s policy priorities. 

BEN MORE: First off, can you tell me a little about your background with the CSA?

QUINN BUHMAN: I was first hired as the CSA secretary at the beginning of my freshman year. It’s the only paid position. I didn’t get a vote; my [responsibility] was just taking notes at meetings and helping the executives with anything they needed. That Spring Term, I ran for the position of college council liaison and was in that position for two terms. And then, in the Winter Term of my sophomore year, I ran for treasurer, which I won. That’s the position I’ve held for the past three terms, and the rest is history.

BM: What have you found valuable about your work?

QB: Getting an inside view of how the college operates. I really felt like I got that as secretary. That gave me the first inside look into the fact that CSA can actually effect change.

One of the biggest ways that CSA operates is providing funding to clubs. Our clubs are the most funded in the state of Minnesota … we operate a budget of about a million dollars to support different clubs and activities. [As treasurer,] I learned how valuable it is to fund and support student events. But I also saw that there is opportunity beyond that to work with administration to move bigger issues forward and support students in ways other than just financially.

BM: Was there any one factor that compelled you to run for CSA president? 

QB: Working closely with past executives, I’ve been pretty close with all of the past executive teams because I’ve either been a part of or worked with all of them, so I’ve really gotten to know how the presidency works and how that operates. I think the recent addition of having the president as a liaison to the Board of Trustees just shows the progress of increasing student voice on campus and in campus committees, which is something that I’m very passionate about. So I’m hoping that, with my experience, I will be able to kind of build on the relationships I’ve already made to make productive change at the college.

BM: How was the campaign?

QB: The campaign was good. It was a very close election, which I think really speaks to the quality of candidates that we had and the quality of ideas that we all had. Like, it was very close.

I’m good friends with both Shaheer and Steph, and I think having that level of competition really was beneficial to making sure that we were putting our best ideas forward and being responsive to the student body about what they wanted. 

I’m hoping to continue to work with [the other candidates] because I believe that they had some fantastic points on their platforms and they’re just amazing people who have been great members of CSA. 

BM: Moving into policy now, can you give us a recap of the priorities you listed in your campaign platform?

QB:  Yes. So one of my big focuses and kind of the root of my ideas is mental health and how it affects everyone on campus. A lot of students are struggling for a variety of reasons … and I honestly think the way to start is just having a campus-wide conversation to find what the problems are and what’s causing them, and then, from that dialogue, we can move forward. 

One thing that has at least come to mind for me is graduation requirements. We’re a liberal arts college — a rigorous liberal arts college — and I don’t want to change that. However, a lot of feedback that I’ve gotten from my peers is that the liberal arts requirements aren’t feeling [conducive to] a liberal arts experience [but] more just like checking boxes. So one thing that I’m hoping to reassess is how we define a liberal arts experience. And, you know, we may keep the graduation requirements, but I think it’s something that we’ve taken for granted for a long time. And again, I think we should have a conversation about that, especially because there have been students who have been more resentful of it.

So, I think there might be ways that we can improve the system to engage in a liberal arts experience, whether that’s increasing the amount of interdisciplinary classes or just finding new ways to encourage people to take classes in different disciplines other than making it feel like you have to check off a box.

Additionally, on the theme of academics, a lot of feedback that I’ve gotten and even experienced personally is the super intense Carleton workload … it seems like the quantity of homework we are getting is just constantly increasing, so much so that we have time for basically nothing else, which is detrimental to a lot of my peers’ mental health. I would much rather read 20 pages thoroughly than have a 200 page reading, that, in the end, most people skim over because they have a lab report due and an essay to write and classes to attend.

BM: What would the ideal liberal arts education look like to you?

QB: I’m reflecting back to my A&I class. It was a European Studies class, but political science majors, computer science majors, economics majors, all sorts of people came from that. To me, some of the most valuable experiences are when you have people offering insight from their majors in new settings. But the nature of Carleton’s graduation requirements is that you’re encouraged to get them done in the first two years … by the time you’re a junior or a senior, especially in STEM, [your classes are] a lot more insular. One of the benefits of being a poli sci major is that, even in some of our upper level classes, you’ll have a few people from different majors. The insights that they bring to class are really interesting, so I would be interested in ways we can bring people out of their major. 

BM: In the realm of issues like mental health, you’ve called for a broader conversation. What would that conversation look like, who would be talking and how would you ensure the right people hear? 

QB: I remember some good conversations we’ve had at CSA meetings when it’s [been] more of an open forum. Students are invited to every CSA meeting, but [I would] send out an invitation for students to come if they have experiences or ideas, and I’d send out a form for campus to potentially respond with some of their ideas or their experiences. [I want] students to feel like they can share their experiences in a space just with other students. As CSA president, I’ll have one-on-one meetings with Dean Livingston and President Byerly with relative frequency to bring those ideas to them.

The problems on campus need to be spoken about on more than just the informal student-to-student level. In my time at CSA, the amount of times that [Livingston and Byerly] have come to Senate meetings and been surprised by something very commonly known among students has been very high. 

BM: You’ve spoken before on increasing student input to the Board of Trustees, and, as the CSA president, you’d be the liaison between the two organizations. Can you speak to how you would connect the student body with CSA as well?

QB: Something I believe hasn’t been utilized as well is our wonderful class liaisons. Each class year has two representatives to the CSA. I would really like to work with those people to do outreach opportunities. Recently, the class of 2026 did a social in the Great Hall where you just got to show up and chat; that would be something I would be interested in seeing more of.

I’m also hoping to host office hours on a weekly basis as well as continue to [publicize] our agendas ahead of time.

BM: Speaking as a CSA insider to someone who knows very little about the organization, is there anything you feel we should know about the way CSA works? 

QB: CSA is a representative body of the student population, but no one can represent those students better than the students themselves. So if they really have thoughts, opinions or just want to be involved with the process, we love and encourage them to come.

Because while each of us does our best to represent our constituents, in the end, we do serve the people who elected us, and we want to hear their voices and opinions.

BM: Last question. With no respect whatsoever to their political beliefs, which US President would you say describes you best?

QB: You’re gonna bring out the history minor in me. You know, I would say that a favorite and someone I aspire to be more like would be Teddy Roosevelt. Very much an outdoorsman. Really appreciated nature, national parks, all of that. I think he was a good, strong figure.

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