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CSA cultural fund initiative fails to pass campus-wide vote

Last month, the Carleton Student Association (CSA) announced a proposal to adopt new financial guidelines, including creating a $30,000 Cultural Group Fund to support community building and club activities for student-led cultural organizations on campus. After a student body vote, the proposal failed to pass with a two-thirds majority.

The new guidelines were drafted after an anonymous post on the @dearpwi (Dear Predominantly White Institutions) Instagram page shared that the CSA Senate disproportionately underfunded BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and multicultural events. A specific incidence was cited when the CSA Senate voted against funding a trip led by the Office of International and Intercultural Life (OIIL) for a group of mostly BIPOC students to visit Civil Rights monuments, while a leadership trip for the majority white men’s ultimate frisbee team was approved for funding in the same meeting. 

The new financial guidelines included reallocating the majority of funds usually spent on a Spring Concert headliner to the Cultural Organization Fund each year to ensure that adequate funding is available for “community building, community engagement, and campus learning opportunities” for student cultural organizations such as OIIL, the Black Student Alliance (BSA) and Mosaic of South Asian Interests at Carleton (MOSAIC). 

Of the roughly $45,000 historically spent on a Spring Concert headliner each year, $30,000 would instead go towards the Cultural Organization Fund. The extra $15,000 would be saved each year for three years, which would allow for a major headliner every fourth year. The $25,000 spent on booking local artists each year would remain unchanged.  

The proposal was put up to a student vote this month: “Do you support creating a permanent memorandum for a $30,000 per year fund for student cultural organizations by decreasing the Spring Concert headliner Budget, and as a result, only bringing a headliner to campus once every four years?” 

Only around 35% of the student body participated in the vote, with a 63% vote for approval of the new guidelines—three percentage points short of the 66% necessary to pass.

When asked about the vote’s impact on funding for cultural organizations in the future, CSA Vice President Brittany Dominguez ’21 said: “Our overarching goal has been to really make sure that student cultural orgs are better funded. And this was one way that we thought of going. This does not mean we are going to stop trying to make sure that goal gets reached. It just means that we are going back to the drawing board and trying to figure out how to make sure that cultural orgs are well-funded, and at the same time, letting students know that we are trying our best to steward the money that everyone has given us.”

Dominguez emphasized CSA’s commitment to being open to the opinions and voices of all Carleton students and letting students suggest new ideas for how to better fund cultural organizations. Regarding the reasons students voted against the proposal, Dominguez noted, “People wanted the Cultural Organization Fund to happen, but were just wary of it coming from Spring Concert. We in no way were ever trying to remove Spring Concert forever. We know how important it is to the campus as a whole—it’s a big event that a lot of people like and look forward to.”

In an all-campus email sent on Thursday, October 15, CSA leaders said, “Given that our goal was to better fund cultural orgs and to promote equity on campus, we do not see this as a failure.” The CSA will continue to work with cultural organizations and the student body to better financially support BIPOC and multicultural communities at Carleton. 

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