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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

CSA removes cultural org designation, replaces Cultural Org Fund with Cultural Programming Fund

The Carleton Student Association (CSA) recently updated its guidelines for student cultural organizations. It will remove the category of “cultural organizations,” which has thus far granted designated student organizations access to the “cultural org fund.” This fund covered all food purchases made by these organizations as well as any other expenses that the CSA would not otherwise be able to cover. In its place, the CSA will create a Cultural Programming Fund that all student organizations can access. The CSA will no longer decide whether student organizations are “cultural.” Instead, the CSA Budget Committee will allocate expanded cultural funds to events that meet the criteria of a cultural event, regardless of the club hosting them.

The revisions will take effect in the 2024-2025 academic year, meaning organizations’ access to cultural event funding will be affected in this year’s spring allocations, where organizations receive most of their funding for the next year. The decision is intended to expand the fund’s accessibility to all student groups seeking support for cultural programming while cutting down on spending. This revision was approved through a CSA Senate vote on Jan. 29.

CSA president Quinn Buhman ’24 explained that the goal of this decision “is to realign with the values as well as expand the cultural org fund to be the cultural programming fund. Non-designated cultural orgs — if they want to have cultural programming of some kind — [will be] able to access this fund. So it isn’t just restricted to a certain group of organizations. Simultaneously, we’re trying to kind of cut down on things that aren’t necessarily cultural that we’re spending a lot of money on.”

According to the CSA minutes, CSA treasurer Jamie Klein ’25 said that last year, the CSA exceeded its budget by $54,000. They said the only ways to accommodate this overspending are by tapping into money left over from COVID-19 (when organizations spent significantly less on events) or raising the student activity fee (which the CSA has done each year in the last few years).  

Klein explained that “Budget Committee members are pretty strong on that they don’t want the cost (the CSA activity fee) to be raised so much. So this year, it is $414, and it rises with inflation every year. Some people pay like seventy thousand dollars a year [for tuition], and the CSA activity fee is often not included in financial aid. It is something that is controlled by students. It’s something paid entirely by students.”

The Cultural Org fund is the only fund that can cover the cost of food. Klein said, “it is only an exception for food because people can host events, and we can fund those events, like decorations, stuff that’s kept within, lighting, performers. We can fund all of that within the financial guidelines. But what makes it different is just that food element.”

“The thing is that right now,” added  Klein, “there is an unlimited food budget for any cultural org, and we have a limited amount of money.” 

“One of the big departures [from the fund’s original purpose] is that the cultural org fund was only ever really intended to finance food for cultural or religious celebrations, or those kinds of significant events,” Buhman explained. “But the way that it was actually written was basically [allowing] food for any event.”

This is a problem, according to Buhman, because “it came to the point then where a lot of different organizations were getting food for general meetings and board meetings, which isn’t exactly the original intention of the plan, which then resulted in a lot higher charges just for funding a lot more meetings and events than were anticipated.”

This decision is not intended to hinder current cultural organizations and events, Buhman clarified: “I’d say by and large, all of those [events] can continue without any questions asked — the major religious celebrations, things like ACA [African and Caribbean Association] night, Lunar New Year. All of those events should be able to continue no problem. Mostly, this is just to restrict the use of funds for general meetings, board meetings, and the like.”

“In the document that the Senate worked on, it has a rough framework for what a cultural event can be to generate ideas,” said Buhman. “In the end. I would say that almost all events that are proposed as cultural events will be able to be funded by it. We intentionally made the restrictions non-restrictive so it can be a discussion. We don’t want to feel like we’re boxing in specific organizations, limiting what you can and cannot do.”

Buhman thought that allocating and discussing funding for cultural events will take place in the Budget Committee, but in the end, most cultural programming will be covered by the fund. This change is also intended to solve the dilemma of the CSA approving which student organizations are cultural and which student organizations do not qualify, although the Budget Committee will now instead have to decide which events are cultural.

The current Cultural Programming Fund guidelines imply that funding for large events that fit squarely into cultural events can be easily approved. Smaller events may face more scrutiny by the Budget Committee because they are often only advertised to members within that specific cultural organization, and they walk the line between cultural event food spending and private spending  for food at regular meetings. This revision is intended to cut down on that spending for regular meetings. 

Buhman believed that the revision should address this issue because the wording is “fairly broad. A lot of this report relies on good faith, communication and mutual understanding. At the end of the day, there are things that are for specific communities or cultures, or it’s better to keep things within those communities and cultures. And I think that traditionally, organizations have done a really good job at that.”

“I think the Budget Committee understands that and we understand those intentions. But for the most part, the Budget Committee would be able to understand why certain events might be restricted.”

Buhman also suggested that “we are also trying to make some partnerships to collaborate with people from OIL [Office of Intercultural Life], ISL [International Student Life] and potentially the new VP IEC’s [Vice President for Inclusion, Equity and Community] office to assist in helping the Budget Committee learn about what cultural programming is, and what things might fall under that umbrella.” 

“I’m looking at models for other schools, because a lot of other schools have models for what cultural programming is,” Buhman said. “So then, Budget Committee members can feel informed in their decision making. As not only should things be funded, but just kind of gain a perspective of why a particular thing might be better reserved just for members of that community.”

Buhman further notes that the changes will affect spring allocations: “This will take effect for fiscal year ’25, which essentially means that this will take effect starting next Fall Term. So, as organizations are planning, that means [for] the spring allocations that happen this coming spring, they should keep these ideas in mind.”

Renee Faulkner, the Director of Intercultural Life, said, “OIL doesn’t have any plans to collaborate with the CSA Budget Committee on the Cultural Programming Fund guidelines, but we’re happy to consult or advise in any way that would be helpful. Similarly, I don’t expect the Cultural Programming Board to have a formal role in the development of the guidelines, though I believe there are some Cultural Programming Board members who are also on the Senate and [could] maybe be able to provide some context to those conversations.”

Amanda Ta ’25, co-president of Asian Students in America (ASIA), worries that the revisions surrounding cultural events can potentially dilute the representation of current cultural organizations. “I feel like we have cultural organizations for a reason. And I feel like the whole thing is to create a community that celebrates that organization, and not just [to] have a club starting an event but not really representing the event that [they’re] doing,” she said.

With all student organizations able to host cultural events and request funding for these events, Ta also worries that student organizations representing a specific culture, such as ASIA, will have more challenges in accessing food funding for cultural events.

“I recently went to the CSA budget meeting because our Lunar New Year’s celebration is way bigger than a couple of years before, [partly] because of COVID and [because] more people want to come,” said Ta. “I think that the most difficult thing is just trying to get funding for food. It’s like, we need to feed this many people, but I also want to showcase our culture and celebrate. I think that was really difficult when [the Budget Committee] were like, ‘Why are you getting this?’ and these are all foods that represent the cultures that we’re celebrating.

“If [other] clubs all want to host an event, and it’s a cultural event, I feel [that] the clubs that I deem as a cultural organization may receive less funding. It would impact us on our funding because it’s already being allocated to another club.” 

In addition to worrying that cultural clubs could receive less access to funding due to overlapping events, Ta brought up a  concern that this would diminish the community and representation of student organizations whose central values are all about representing and supporting a specific culture. 

Amanda Khouw ’24, the President of COSEA (Coalition of Southeast Asians), believed that the Budget Committee can recognize student organizations that represent specific cultures and is likely to give these student organizations cultural event funding compared to other arbitrary clubs. 

Khouw wrote in an email to the Carletonian that  “[a] great example could be put in this way: “COSEA (Coalition of Southeast Asians) is hosting a ‘Be my BoBAE’ event that will include boba from a small local AAPI [Asian American and Pacific Islander] business, and its purpose is to bring together the Southeast Asian community to make Valentine’s Day cards while enjoying a sip of boba (hence the pun)! COSEA would *most likely* receive funding from the Budget Committee because of the purpose of bringing in the Southeast Asian community in Carleton, which would be deemed as a ‘cultural event,’ even if Valentine’s Day is not necessarily a Southeast Asian traditional event.”

“Personally, I do not see it being that much of a change for already-existing cultural orgs,” she further added, “but that is because I am assuming that each meeting or most of the meetings that they have are imperatively ‘cultural’ like the Chinese Club’s Dumpling Festival or MOSAIC’s [Mosaic of South Asian and Indian Culture] Chai Time. Even something like a mug-painting event that is geared towards community bonding for a certain cultural group could possibly be eligible for funding.”

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