After last week’s CSA election, confusion rippled through the student body; why would the referendum for a proposed outdoor basketball court pass if 440 students voted yes and 656 voted no?
As CSA President Becca Giles explained in an email Sunday night, CSP (Committee for Student Projects) projects can pass with one sixth of the student body in support.
“It’s basically us venture funding cool student ideas,” said CSA President elect Marielle Foster ‘16.
Funds for CSP projects come from the CSA budget surplus accrued over the years. As Foster puts it,“It doesn’t come from you or me. It comes from students up to 15 years ago. “ Though Foster would not disclose the exact amount of surplus money the CSA has left over for projects, there’s significantly more than will be spent on this years’ projects.
“After I graduate as a senior, if my [Student Activity money] is still in there, I’m not benefiting from that,” says Foster. “So the idea is to do something that will benefit students for a longer term. Like the chairs on the Baldspot!”
The CSP funding bylaw is still relatively young – it was established last year. CSA Senator Henry Gordon ’15, who served as CSA treasurer last year and had the idea for the Committee for Student projects, explains the debate CSA senate had over the seemingly low threshold.
“Some members felt that it was necessary to petition the student body because the amount of money in question was necessarily higher than many other things that CSA pays for,” Gordon wrote in an email interview. “In other words, it seemed imprudent not to solicit some student feedback as a check of sorts to ensure that the projects that the CSP proposed and Senate had considered impacted a sufficient number of students on campus.
“That being said,” Gordon continues, “there were others who made the point (which is substantiated by a large volume of political science literature) that voters in a referendum are more likely to be motivated by personal desires and do not take the time to fully consider arguments. This same reason that the annual budget of the CSA is not voted on by the entire student body and is the foundation of a representative democracy.”
Gordon is not deeply invested in the one-sixth rule remaining rigid. “It may be that the exact level of the threshold needs to be revised,” Gordon writes, “which we are able to do now that we have some data from the past two years. I feel pretty strongly, however, that the threshold should not be raised to above 1/4 of the student body for exactly the reasons outlined above.”
Many senators, however, doubt the funding mechanism. Senator Ben Strauss ’16, CSA treasurer elect, voiced his uncertainty about the one sixth rule over email.
“I am very torn personally on the ideal funding mechanism for CSA projects,” writes Strauss. “On the one hand, I don’t think the student body should have veto power over every CSA Senate line item. I don’t want students to say vote on CSA funding for the New York Times or expenditures for clubs. If students have concerns, they can bring them to their elected representatives on Senate. And Senate should proactively seek out student concerns. On the other hand, because of the greater expense and longevity of CSP proposals, students probably should have greater influence on them than any other single line item.
In accordance with a near tie Senate vote, CSA Governance committee will interpret the CSP funding bylaw this coming week.
“Again, this is only the second year that this process has been in existence,” writes Gordon. “Senate continually revises all of our funding guidelines and bylaws to make our processes more efficient and effective. In this spirit I have drafted some changes that will be proposed and discussed at next week’s Senate meeting.”