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Multicultural Graduation gets CSA funding after considerable debate

Visitors in support of the Muticultural Graduation Celebration outnumbered student Senators at last Monday’s CSA Senate meeting as the body considered a funding appeal by the event’s organizers. Senate voted 13 to 4 to give the group its full $500 request.

The Multicultural Graduation Celebration will be a new ceremony held the day before commencement to honor graduating students of color. Organized by seniors Whitney Richards-Calathes, PaChia Yang and Angelica Johnson, it was inspired by the Black Graduation tradition held at Stanford University. The ceremony will take place in the chapel and include speeches by students and Professors Harry Williams and Adriana Estill. It is part of a wider movement to improve Carleton’s retention in the community of color, both by celebrating the example of new graduates, and by reminding school administration of the continuing challenges students of color face at Carleton.

Many of the guests at the Senate meeting on Monday came in reaction to an email the event organizers sent last week after Budget Committee granted the group only ten percent of its original budget request. The organizers originally requested $2,320 for decorations, printed invitations, and stoles to give to students participating in the event. In the email, the organizers described themselves as fighting a “battle” against CSA, and encouraged friends and leaders of multicultural groups on campus to attend the Monday’s Senate meeting.

By the time Monday’s meeting arrived, the group had nearly won the battle, new funding from the Office of Intercultural Life (OIL) promised to pay for the stoles and the invitations. At Monday’s meeting the organizers requested only $600 to pay for decorations, later revising their request to $500.

CSA Vice-President Pablo Kenney ‘09 defended Budget Committee’s original bid for the event due to concerns about its openness to all students. Although event organizers assured the Senate that the event would be open to students of all racial backgrounds, Kenney pointed out that the same could not be said about students of all age groups. Because it takes place after final exams, most non-senior students will not be on campus to attend the Multicultural Graduation Celebration. Kenney argued that the Budget Committee’s $200 bid demonstrated a serious commitment to the event because it broke the precedent of funding events not open to all students:

“We think that $200 is already a strong support, because we don’t normally fund anything during senior week because it is not open to the entire campus.”

Although the issue of personal property was resolved by OIL’s funding, much of the debate revolved around the symbolic support CSA funding represents and the organizers’ frustration with seeing $2000 allocated to Rotblatt t-shirts at the same meeting where they were told that CSA would not pay for its stoles or invitations.

“Because CSA supports Rotblatt, which is private property, we think we should have been fully funded,” Johnson complained.

Traditionally the largest exception CSA makes concerning personal property, Rotblatt t-shirts have been used for years to sell advertising space that goes into the softball game’s kegs.

In past years, funding Rotblatt has involved a contentious discussion around suspending the CSA’s bylaws, but for the first time this year a new “Rotblatt clause” in the CSA bylaws allowed the t-shirts to be funded with less debate. The new clause permits funding for “goods that have been funded each year for the past five years.” The clause could not apply to the stoles for multicultural graduation because it is a new event and has never been funded before.

In the end, the event’s organizers were satisfied both with the financial assistance CSA offered and the symbolic victory of having the student government fully behind their event.

“It was important for CSA to listen to our demands and fund us more than the $200. We knew were not going to get the full $2000, and that’s okay” Richards-Calathes said “I think it’s really symbolic that so many people showed up, and that people have it in the back of their minds. . . and know that this is something that is important”

Kenney said that he hoped that the organizers learned from the experience that when CSA does not fully fund an event, it a reflection of CSA’s limited resources and not disrespect for the event.

“CSA isn’t looking for a fight with anyone. We’re trying to help people and we want to cooperate and we think a collaborative relationship with student groups is a lot easier than an antagonistic one.”

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