Elections for the Carleton Student Association (CSA) ended last Sunday, February 24, with Anesu Masakura ’20 being elected as CSA President. Students voted for a total of eight positions in CSA Senate, only two of which—President and Class of 2022 Representative—were contested.
Changes to CSA Elections
This term’s election featured several key changes from past years. In previous years, candidates were allowed only one week to campaign, according to current CSA President Apoorva Handigol ’19. This year, Handigol said, the duration was increased to two weeks to add “even more legitimacy” to the campaigns. In addition, CSA made an effort this year to emphasize the fact that student organizations can endorse candidates.
Prior to the election, CSA also made the decision not to publish vote counts once the election was over. In the past, vote counts for each candidate have been included in an email sent to all students after the election and have also been published on CSA’s website. Vote counts were not available in either location this year, although Handigol said that CSA has sent the vote counts to individual students who have requested to see them. The idea to withhold vote counts was initially proposed by Vice President Selam Nicola ’19.
“We just wanted to avoid any public humiliation for candidates,” Handigol said. “Especially if you lose by a large margin or if you lose by a very small margin, that doesn’t really feel the best. We wanted students to focus more on the actual results themselves rather than the numbers.”
“If you lose the election, you’re still going to be part of the student body,” Handigol continued. “You’re still going to be involved, maybe, in CSA governance, and
you don’t want those numbers to determine your worth.”
The CSA presidential race was between Anesu Masakura ’20, an economics major from Zimbabwe, against John Mullan ’20, a computer science major from Minnesota. Masakura was the winner of the election.
“I think this was an incredibly competitive race,” Masakura said. “I’m really thankful to John for inspiring me with his intelligence and strength and humility. I learned so much from being part of this race.”
“It was an honor to run against Anesu,” Mullan said. “He had a fantastically creative campaign that bode him well. I’m excited for Anesu to serve as the next CSA President—he is beyond qualified both in his credentials and in his character. I’m confident CSA will be in excellent hands under his leadership.”
Masakura said that one of the first issues he hopes to address as President is CSA’s efficiency. “One of the things that I’m really interested in is more efficiency in CSA and the way I hope to do this is to revamp or to restructure how working groups in Senate work,” he said.
Working groups currently consist of several students, who may be Senators or non-senators, dedicated to working on a particular issue each term, such as mental health or transportation. Masakura hopes to increase the efficiency and accountability of working groups by appointing a chair to lead each group.
Currently, “it’s just a horizontal structure,” said Masakura. “You can’t go to one particular person and say, ‘What are you working on?’”
Another issue that Masakura would like to pursue is executive pay in the CSA Senate. He envisions that CSA executive positions could be treated as student jobs, thus ensuring greater accessibility to low-income students and allowing executives to focus their energy on CSA’s policy objectives without trying to balance this responsibility with a student work position.
“I think that also attracts more talent to executive positions in Senate, because the low-income students, like myself—they don’t apply,” said Masakura. “Executive pay removes that barrier.”
Masakura is also interested in creating a Disability Services working group and pursuing closer collaboration with Carleton’s Title IX staff.
Masakura will be joined in the CSA Executive by Hibo Abdi ’20, who will serve as Vice President, and Brandon Moy ’20, who will serve as Treasurer. Neither Abdi nor Moy has previously served in Senate, something that Masakura believes will allow them to instill a fresh perspective in CSA.
“You can’t say, ‘I want to change Senate,’ while still steeped in the old ways of Senate. You have to see things from a different vantage point,” he said. Masakura, who has served in two different liaison positions in Senate, ran a joint campaign with Abdi. He said they decided to run together to emphasize their combination of experience and new perspectives.
The other students elected to CSA this week include eight class representatives and a Public Relations Officer. Oswaldo Cota ’22 and Molly Zuckerman ’22 were elected as Class of 2022 Representatives in the only contested class representative race. Cota has served in Senate throughout this year and is the founder of a working group focused on undocumented students. He plans to continue focusing on this group with the goal of “having more transparency for the financial resources that Carleton can provide for undocumented students.” Zuckerman is joining CSA for the first time, and hopes to focus on building broader student engagement with groups like TRIO and the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC).
CSA Candidacy Numbers and Voter Turnout
With only two contested races, CSA struggled with low candidacy numbers this year. This year’s election included the lowest number of contested positions in a CSA winter election since 2009.
Handigol said that turnout was initially higher, but several candidates later dropped out of their races. “I think every year we start up with more candidates initially and then they kind of just drop off over time as they realize more commitments or as they realize who else is running,” they said.
In addition, Handigol believes that the public nature of the campaign can be off-putting to students. CSA sees much higher interest among students for appointed positions, Handigol said, because these are decided through an application process rather than through an election.
There has been at least one uncontested position in every CSA winter election since 2011. In general, over the past ten years, contested races for executive positions have become more common, while Class Representative positions have become more likely to go uncontested. This year, however, the Vice Presidential race was uncontested for the first time since 2014.
A total of 1129 students, or 54% of the student body, voted in this year’s election. This marks a decrease from last year’s 65% voter turnout rate and from the record-setting 67% rate two years ago.
Handigol said that some seniors and off-campus students may not vote because they are unaware that they are eligible, while other students may simply be unengaged. “There is a sizable part of the community that isn’t really aware or doesn’t really feel like they have a stake in what goes on in our governance, and I think that also translates to their voting,” Handigol said.
Masakura believes that CSA’s struggles with low candidate turnout could be due to how students perceive CSA.
“CSA right now is currently seen as an extension of the administration instead of as an extension of the students,” he said. “CSA is currently seen as an organization that gives money to clubs and student organizations.”
Masakura acknowledged that significant work has been done to increase CSA visibility among students in recent years. “But I think the question is, do they like us enough, are we approachable enough, for them to say, ‘I want to be part of what these guys are working on’?”
Masakura hopes to continue to work to change the image of CSA during his time as President. “I think we have a greater potential to play an advocacy role on campus,” he said.