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Cows, colleges and complaints about CSA

CSA needs to listen to students

Many Carleton students probably remember first hearing about the alphabet soup that forms the many organizations on Carleton’s campus. Meeting an OHP official at NSW, followed by a presentation by SMPR before receiving pins from GSC on your way to an event hosted by OAR, etc. To many, these organizations seem benign and helpful. The same can’t be said for the don of the alphabet mafia, CSA. The Carleton Student Association is a self-serving organization that makes decisions impacting students and organizations on campus with minimal input from those affected.

The clearest example of this shows up in the changes to cultural programming. Previously, certain organizations were designated as “cultural organizations,” representing various cultural groups on campus. The fund sponsoring this originated rather recently and hasn’t always been how CSA has always conducted business with organizations representing cultural groups on campus. The new changes abolish the designation of cultural organizations and separate it into a fund for “cultural programming.” I take two issues with this change, both as a concerned community member and as someone deeply involved in two cultural organizations.

First, I take issue with the new way that programs will be funded, because the status of what is and isn’t a cultural event is now entirely up to the treasurer’s discretion. As the CSA minutes state, “It would mostly rely on the CSA treasurer alone to decide what is cultural.” This designation should concern students because the way we hold elected officials accountable is by electing them. If a treasurer makes a mistake or a decision that the Carleton body disagrees with, we wouldn’t be able to hold them accountable until elections. Elections come after an issue like this in the attention span of the voters, where it dominates the attention economy. At that point, the decision of if your event is cultural enough effectively becomes the treasurer’s choice. 

Furthermore, I take issue with the way that this is being described as a resolution to the “budget crisis.” If we are indeed in a budget crisis because of cultural organizations, that means there’s not enough of the pie to go around. Changing the distinction now means that certain organizations will now not receive funding because their events aren’t “cultural enough.” And who will serve as the arbiter of what events are and aren’t cultural enough? The treasurer, who is likely not to be a member of the cultural organization in question. The tone-deafness of an individual telling an organization that their event “isn’t cultural enough” to receive funding is absurd.

If these were individual events, it wouldn’t be a huge deal. If the redesignation of funding for organizations previously deemed cultural organizations didn’t make a single arbiter of what is and isn’t cultural programming, it would have been enough. If CSA had made an effort to inform the campus more widely that these changes were happening, it would have been enough. If CSA had not sent out the minutes confirming to the campus that these changes were being made right before an election, that would have been enough. But we don’t live in a vacuum. These issues compound on each other, and it doesn’t sit well.

The fact of the matter remains: CSA functions to serve itself. There is a huge disconnect between what non-Senate members know and what CSA senators know. Take the meeting notes from Jan. 29, where the CSA president is offering to tell people in the room how to access campus-wide emails for election purposes. Or take into account that being in CSA gives you advantages in creating a  platform, because you will be more up to date on certain matters of CSA business because meeting notes don’t come out until weeks after. Incumbency provides certain advantages that aren’t available to people outside CSA who may be interested in running. For this, CSA is the definition of a self-serving organization.

I’m saying this as someone who is involved with two cultural organizations: Indigenous Peoples Alliance and Jewish Students of Carleton. I say this as a concerned Carleton student who is upset by the number of loops it seems like a student must jump through to answer the questions that they have. The path that CSA is going down concerns me, and it should concern every Carl the same.

Bax Meyer is the Treasurer of the Jewish Students of Carleton and a member of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance.

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About the Contributor
Bax Meyer
Bax Meyer, Managing Editor
Hey, all! I'm Bax (he/him), and I'm a junior Econ major with a Middle East Studies minor. I love talking about Middle East politics and American Indian Treaty Rights. I'll always send you good book or movie recomendations. You can probably find me on campus wandering the arb, on 1st libe, or at step areobics. I like dad jokes, American Indian Treaty Rights, shawarma, and publishing my hot takes in the Carletonian anonymously.
Red flags: econ major, will judge you for using the Oxford comma, and hates geese
Green flags: Middle East Studies minor, still uses the Oxford comma, and quotes the Star Wars prequels on the daily
Bax was previously Managing Director and Viewpoint Editor.

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