Elections for the Carleton Student Association (CSA) Senate closed last Sunday, February 23, with Andrew Farias ’21 elected CSA President. Students voted for a total of seven positions in CSA Senate, four of which—President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Class of 2023 Representative—were contested races.
Election results were announced on Monday, February 24 in a campus-wide email from current CSA President Anesu Masakura ’20. The CSA presidential race saw Farias, an Environmental Studies and Political Science double major from Houston, running against Luke Norquist ’21, a Political Science major from Brainerd, Minnesota.
“My experience with this campaign was at least as rewarding as it was exhausting,” said Norquist. “I’m so thankful for the support we received from hundreds of students who believe in the ideals of activism and activating Carleton that Sameer and I have been fighting for. I hope the ideas underlying our campaign will last beyond it, and am excited to help shape a CSA under Brittany and Andrew’s leadership that I believe can and will accomplish great things.”
“I also hope CSA invests energy into establishing new campaign communication norms for future elections. Unsolicited emails have been a part of CSA executive campaigning for a long long time. Sameer and I meant for the Google Group we created to be a less invasive form of campaign communication since, in contrast to Bcc email lists, you can opt out of it. But, we received legitimate concerns about the group’s existence that I think indicate a need to establish new CSA campaign rules or guidelines for future aspiring Farias will be joined on the CSA executive team by Brittany Dominguez ’21, who will serve as Vice President. “I thought Luke and Sameer did a really good job of trying to think of ways to bring the campus together,” said Dominguez. “We liked the way they were doing it in terms of ‘activating Carleton’ —we thought that was a really good idea.”
“Activate Carleton—the hashtag itself—that’s going to stick with me forever,” said Farias. “Their messaging was really good, as was their outreach.”
Outside of campaigning, Farias and Dominguez are close friends. “We’re together all the time,” said Dominguez.
“We are one,” said Farias. “A lot of times people say where you see one of us, you’ll find the other one not far away.”
“It was definitely interesting to campaign together, because I think we learned a lot about each other that it’s odd we didn’t know before,” Dominguez continued. “But I think it made our relationship stronger.”
Farias’ official platform, as described on CSA’s website, emphasized three priorities: land acknowledgement, divestment and environmental sustainability. Dominguez’ platform highlighted student organization budgeting, menstrual product accessibility and campus inclusivity.
Farias noted that the platform was not exhaustive. “Even though these are the things we’re focusing on primarily, there are other things that are obviously going to come up, and have come up since then,” he said.
“Overall, we wanted to make sure that whatever we were doing and saying came from students themselves,” said Dominguez. “Our catchphrase, ‘the real CSA is you’ — it was catchy, but it wasn’t just a phrase we were using. Each one of our six points, we got those ideas from other students.”
“The land acknowledgement piece came partly from Alle Brown-Law, who’s been doing a lot of work on that. The menstrual products initiative was brought to CSA, and we created a committee for that. These were students’ concerns coming to us. If there’s anything uniting all these things, it’s that students are on the forefront of all of these issues.”
“Over the past few years, I’ve really come to care about Carleton College and the students here,” continued Dominguez. “I care about the way CSA is structured, and that voices on the Senate are heard. And even more than that, I’m really excited to do this with my best friend in the world. It’s going to be really fun.”
“I was CSA Secretary my first year,” said Farias. “I loved every minute of it—just taking notes. And I didn’t even have a voice in the process. I was just the one who quietly sat there and took meeting minutes. But watching all of those engaged students my first year made me want to be a part of CSA. Watching Walter Paul be such a strong force—I thought ‘Wow, I want to do that. I want to be someone who can be a leader not just in CSA Senate, but for the rest of the student body as well.’”
Other election results
The other students elected to CSA this week include five class representatives, a Public Relations Officer, (Leander Cohen ’22, who has served in this role the past two terms) and Treasurer (Polycarpe Bagereka ‘’22, who previously served as Treasurer of the African and Caribbean Association).
As reported by the Carletonian last year, there has been at least one uncontested position in every CSA Winter election since 2011. In general, over the past 10 years, contested races for executive positions have become more common, while Class Representative roles have become more likely to go uncontested.
The Class of 2023 Representative was the most highly contested race, with six first-years running for two positions. Jancyn Appel ’23 and Daniel Garza ’23 were elected. Garza served as Class of 2023 Representative along with Binny Onabolu ’23 for the past two terms. Onabolu did not run for re-election.
Over the past two terms, Garza and Onabolu hosted two social events for the Class of 2023, which Garza pointed to as proud achievements of his tenure so far. “A lot of first-year students expressed that they liked the idea of just being able to hang out in an informal setting, and that we didn’t get enough of this during New Student Week,” said Garza. “The two socials we’ve had have allowed for this while giving me the opportunity to share CSA initiatives and projects with my peers.”
“As far as this next cycle goes, I am hoping to get more involved in CSA Senate through participation in the Undocumented Students Working Group, where I hope to offer resources and support from offices here at Carleton for undocumented, non-TRIO and non-TRIO-eligible students,” Garza continued.
Appel, who will be new to CSA Senate and currently works in the President’s office, intends to prioritize communication. “I’m most excited about being a better conduit of information between the president’s office to CSA and the larger student body. I think it’s an office that could do a better job of being more communicative with students, and one students should feel more comfortable interacting with.”
49.7 percent of students (996 total) voted in this year’s election, a 4.3 percent drop from last year. Turnout rates have been decreasing in recent years: in 2017, turnout reached a record-setting 67 percent, followed by 65 percent in 2018 and 54 percent in 2019.
“I was hoping to get us to 55 percent turnout, but that didn’t happen,” said Masakura. “There are a lot of factors that contribute to that, but I think generally, we need to find more creative ways to engage with the student body.”
“At the end of the day, student government is about improving the experiences of students,” Masakura continued. “That’s why we exist. I think moving forward, we need to do a better job of connecting with the students and getting feedback from them. Hopefully, the new administration figures out how to do a better job of that. There’s so much we did during our time, and apparently it wasn’t quite enough. You could see that reflected in the elections— our numbers dropped a little.”
Reflecting on 2019-20
Masakura and Abdi will end their tenure as CSA executives at the end of Winter term. Supporting Farias and Dominguez during the leadership transition is a high priority of theirs.
“When we started, there wasn’t a lot of direction from the past officers about how to do this,” said Masakura.
“I definitely felt like I had no idea what I was doing in the beginning,” said Abdi, who had not served on CSA Senate prior to being elected. “I remember talking to previous executives, and they had experienced the same thing—it’s almost as if it’s a rite of passage to experience this rough start. But that’s a cycle we want to break.”
“In order to set up the next executive team for success, we can’t just sit back Spring term and let things happen,” Abdi continued. “It’s really important for us to be as present as possible for them.”
“I’d been in Senate since my freshman year, so I thought when I ran for president that I knew what it would entail,” noted Masakura. “Spoiler alert: I didn’t. And I wish that I’d known then what I know now. So that’s what we’re trying to do, by creating new documentation and improved institutional memory, so people will know how to make things happen.”
As president, Masakura introduced a new Senate reporting system, by which all members of Senate report twice a term on the various projects they’re working on. Senators fill out a form on the CSA website, and their responses are viewable by everyone in Senate.
“The function of this is twofold,” said Masakura. “First, it increases accountability. Whatever meeting you have with administrators, or with students, you report that to CSA. Secondly, it improves institutional memory.”
Masakura looks over these reports as they’re submitted. “I take some time to read through that information to see if there’s any way as president I could assist, because I’m always in constant communication with the administration. Or sometimes people say they want to start a project, but it’s already being done. So it’s a way to increase efficiency, and make sure what we’re doing isn’t being duplicated.”
“I think under my leadership, CSA has been more efficient and productive—however you want to define those things.”
As to accomplishments over her tenure, Abdi spoke to her experience leading Budget Committee, the group that oversees allocations of funds to student organizations.
“Every single term there was something new that I was proud of,” said Abdi. “First, making budget committee a family. Budget committee is truly my baby—I can’t see myself at Carleton without going to budget committee. We accomplish so much every single Wednesday. It always feels like we’re doing a lot of tangible work, because we’re funding events every single week.”
“Spring Allocations was a huge accomplishment,” Abdi continued. “It’s an all-day process, where we’re sitting in Sayles 251 from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. In previous years, they’d stayed until 11 p.m. or midnight—but I made sure to get people out by dinnertime. We allocated over $500,000 in one day, which I think was really awesome.”
Currently, Budget Committee is in the process of updating their financial guidelines. “Right now, we’re going through the financial review board, and I think that’s been a pretty big accomplishment. It will be presented to student organizations this coming Spring, when the new VP and Treasurer will be kind of getting acquainted to these new rules. I think that’s been a great feat, and it’s been really great to see how passionate people are. It’s exciting to see that I’ll be leaving CSA in very good hands. I know the Budget Committee members will keep the torch lit and also help facilitate the transition to the new executive team.”
For Masakura, notable achievements include implementing executive reports, fostering a positive relationship with Carleton’s administration and amending the CSA Constitution.
Masakura’s Fall term executive report was published last term in the Carletonian. “With the reports, we’re basically saying: ‘This is what we’re doing, these are the opportunities and challenges facing CSA, and these are the things we hope to improve upon next term.’ So we’re keeping ourselves accountable—to CSA Senate, and to the student body,” said Masakura.
“I also think I’ve managed to foster good relations with the administration,” continued Masakura. “I know there are different approaches to leadership, and there’s no reason to butt heads. Sometimes, you can achieve things diplomatically, by just talking and seeing if you can come to some sort of middle ground. There are different ways of accomplishing change on campus. So I’m really proud of that.”
In 2018, Walter Paul ’19 became the first CSA President to serve on the Board of Trustees. The position began as a two-year trial, but in 2019, Masakura established the CSA President as a permanent, non-voting member of the Student Life Committee of the Board of Trustees.
“Maybe in the future, the president will be able to vote. But you want to take it slow, and move at a reasonable pace, to make sure you can actually accomplish what you want.”
Fall term, Masakura convened a Constitutional Review Board to conduct a review of the CSA Constitution and Bylaws. The committee was comprised of three senators and three students.
“Some of the changes we implemented include the recall process, where students can remove a CSA representative from their position if the students feel the representative is not doing their job,” said Masakura. “We codified what an impeachment process looks like. All those things redefine our relationship with each other and with the student body. They improve accountability and transparency.”
“I think there is some confusion about defining what CSA is, not only outside CSA but within CSA as well. Is CSA just CSA Senate? Because people usually take the two to be synonymous, but they’re really not. Student government at Carleton is comprised of CSA Senate and many other committees, which all function together to make student government work. I think that’s something we did really well: to make sure that we know who we are before we tell people who we are. Ratifying the new constitution was one of the ways we managed to do that.”
“Administratively, CSA’s been functioning well,” continued Masakura. “I think we’ve managed to achieve most of the things we wanted to achieve—through resolutions, through statements, and behind-the-scenes diplomacy. I’m really proud of that. There’s still a lot to be done, obviously, but I think the new administration will be able to do it. I have faith