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In their own words: CSA candidates lay out their visions

This past week, the Carletonian reached out to all of the candidates running for CSA President and CSA Vice President. Each candidate was sent an email questionnaire. Because of space limitations, we are unable to publish each candidate’s answer to each question. We have selected answers from each candidate that we find particularly noteworthy.  Candidates’ official platforms can be found here.

Edgar Aguirre

Aguirre is running for CSA President.

Who are you?

I’m someone who enjoys supporting their community. It is a part of who I am and who I aspire to be, even planning to make a career of it. When I joined the Carleton community, I became involved in CSA within a few weeks of my freshman Fall Term, joining the CSA Budget and Governance committee. What I enjoy about being on these committees is interacting with fellow Carls, learning how they want to contribute to campus culture, and supporting their goals through advice or advocating for funding. I’m someone who finds being active in their community important. Why? Because the best experiences are made with those around you and by doing my best to support my community and my fellow Carls, I’m able to maximize the possibility of those positive experiences. Who I am is someone who enjoys making life easier for others. 

What do you want to change about CSA?

I want to change how CSA thinks about issues and how it communicates its ideas to the student body. Coming from a committee perspective, someone who has participated in working groups, and regularly reads the minutes, it feels that CSA tends to think short-term for solving issues. And this isn’t a bad thing, but can be an indirect way of finding a solution. 

An example I’m familiar with is the budget, I’ve seen three different executive teams try to tackle the issue of funding, with most trying to minimize spending with new guidelines, restricting funding, but shout-out to the recent executive team for taking the initiative and considering the long term impact. But, instead of thinking of the budget as a yearly issue and trying to minimize costs, why not work towards finding a funding source that doesn’t rely on the students? Figure out a way where we can make our own funding without impacting students financially, especially lower-income students. It’s by having these big picture ideas, where we can begin working in the short-term to head in the right direction and create the foundation for future work to be continued. 

But, these ideas and goals need to be communicated effectively, especially before elections, so that potential candidates are made aware of them and can advocate for their own ideas to continue these long-term projects. So that candidates can stop saying vague statements like “I’m going to look for ways to expand the budget,” but instead say let’s look into using alumni donations to fund some activities, let’s try to invest savings so that they’re providing more income, or try to create some business platform as an alternative method for funding activities.

What makes you qualified to be the voice of the students?

My desire to make Carleton a better place for students, my willingness to take the time to work on behalf of others, and my history of supporting students and their organizations in my committee roles for years. While this doesn’t make me qualified, at least I hope it shows that I have the interest of the student body in mind and the desire to support my fellow Carls.

In your eyes, what is the role of CSA President/Vice president?

In my eyes, the CSA President is a guide, it’s their responsibility to promote the voices of the students and guide progress for solving issues on campus. The CSA President is a support role, they take the concerns and ideas of students and present it to the relevant parties, gather information, share what they’ve learned to the students, and work with other students on what are the necessary steps for finding solutions. The CSA President is given a foot in the door with school administration and it’s their duty to open that door to the voices and concerns of the student body.

Alé Cota and Maya Rogers

Cota is running for CSA President. Since the publication of this article, Rogers, who was initially running for Vice President in a joint campaign with Cota, has withdrawn from the race due to personal reasons and responsibilities. Cota encourages students to support Delina Haileab for Vice President.

Who are you?

Cota: I am a junior double major in Latin American studies and Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality studies from Los Angeles County, California. I am a trans, nonbinary Latine who uses they/them pronouns. From the first moment I stepped onto campus, I have tirelessly organized, fought, and advocated for the most vulnerable at Carleton without hesitation. My unwavering attitude did not come easily. The fear, uncertainty, and frustration with growing up as a first-generation, low-income, queer, trans and non-binary, neurodivergent, and Latine person informs and shapes my abolitionist perspectives when it comes to drafting solutions for CSA Senate and my larger communities.

Rogers: I am a junior psychology major and Spanish minor from Tulsa, Oklahoma. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I am heavily involved at Carleton, including as a Peer Leader, college committee member, student, and volunteer. My multiple marginalized identities have shaped how I navigate the world and driven me to effect change where it is needed most. I am never afraid to speak my mind, or to bring up groups that are often looked over—particularly disabled students, low income students, and women of color like myself. 

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

Combined, we have the most experience with CSA compared to other candidates. Alé has been on the CSA for three years and Maya has been on CSA for two years. We have a strong familiarity with the inner workings of bureaucracy that comes with serving in the CSA Senate—we know how to negotiate and demand change with Administration that works. Alé has also ignited conversations with previous CSA presidents and the leaders of CarlsTalkBack where these changemakers have provided detailed guidance and advice on how to ensure sustainable change on campus. Even outside of CSA, Alé participates within grassroots organizing centered around abolition and mutual aid, leaving any semblance of an idea that I would maintain the status quo out of the question. Additionally, outside of CSA Maya has worked within the social justice sphere to advocate for universal healthcare, diversity and equity in nonprofits, and funding for education.

We are also both assertive, and not afraid to speak our minds or go against the status quo. In CSA, it is important for the President and VP to set the tone and guide what goes on, and it takes being assertive and confident in oneself to do so. We both have experience with speaking our minds and effecting change within Carleton, Alé in the form of organizing around queer, trans, and low income and DACA/undocu students and Maya in the form of students orgs, college committees, and advising groups that work behind the scenes to make things happen. There has not been a single initiative that Maya or Alé have worked on that has failed to get remedies for the harmed parties. 

We not only have our own ideas and initiatives we want to accomplish, but we are also closely informed by the experiences of current and previous Carleton leaders on how to make change permanent, lasting, and able to be built upon.

What do you want to change about CSA?

Together we want to increase accessibility and build equitable systems within CSA and Carleton as a whole. This includes working with campus offices to make resources like financial aid, gender-neutral bathrooms, and online counseling more accessible to marginalized students in particular. Our goal is to develop robust solutions to issues of racial, gendered, and disability equity and accessibility that directly name the actors responsible and provide honest, needed accountability. 

Two particular focuses we have are on financial aid—including pushing Carleton to become a loan-free school for lower-income students, much like our peers such as Williams and Pomona—and improving the functioning of CSA Senate, including how reporting and working groups currently function. 

What would top priority be if elected?

Connecting into Carleton’s cultural orgs and keeping the Cultural Org fund going while finding a more sustainable source of income for the fund. 

Anything else you want voters to know?

We believe that radical loving makes radical living. That starts with centering the voices we need to hear most (those of marginalized students), and the work does not end with us. We are just a step, and we hope to set up a pathway to make future steps even more accessible to those who come after. We want to be representing CSA because we love our school and believe Carleton can become a wonderful home, but only if we fight to make it so.

Alé: It is also important to make a positionality statement because despite my experience of being a survivor, unhoused, trans, queer, first-generation, low-income, and xenophobia (racialized), at the end of the day I am a non-black student. As such, I understand and believe in the necessity for me to step back and center the voices of the most vulnerable. And for me to be the best supporter of Black trans lives that I can be as a non-Black student, I will develop and work closely with Black cultural organizations in a manner that is trauma-informed, culturally-receptive, and understands that my body is the one that needs to be on the line — not theirs. This is what radical loving means. To love Black students and to love each other. Together with our radical love we can make Carleton a place of radical living.

Molly Zuckerman and Manjari Majumdar 

Zuckerman and Majumdar are running a joint campaign, with Zuckerman running for CSA President and Majumdar for CSA Vice President.

Who are you?

Zuckerman: Hi Carleton! My name is Molly Zuckerman. I am in my third year on CSA and am running for CSA President along with the amazing Manjari Majumdar, who I am so lucky to call a friend. I think our slogan “Let’s Get to Work” encompasses why we are running: to cut through the messiness of bureaucracy so that CSA can be a force in uplifting marginalized voices, in pushing for equity, and in making desperately needed changes at Carleton. I hope you’ll consider reading (or skimming!) our platforms to learn more.

Majumdar: Hi! My name is Manjari Majumdar (she/hers), and I’m a junior Poli Sci major & Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies minor. I’m running to be your next CSA VP, along with my good friend Molly Zuckerman. If it helps at all, I am an Aquarius. 

What sets you apart from the other candidates? 

Zuckerman: I’ll start by saying that every candidate in this race has done amazing things for Carleton! Two things that set Manjari and myself apart from other candidates: our ideas and our experiences. Regarding experience, as both an organizer for a grassroots organization in the cities advocating affordable housing for formerly incarcerated people, and as a campaign worker for Sanders and Biden, I’m aware of major problems with bureaucracy, as well as the opportunities it presents (more later on that + in platform!). Manjari is deeply involved in activism on and off campus and brings fresh perspectives and critiques to CSA. 

The other thing that sets us apart is our vision for Carleton. Some of our major initiatives are to establish a social activism fund for Carls with volunteer or internship ideas; have a new graduation requirement exploring social identity and privilege, expand and diversify SHAC, ally and work with Black leaders when CSA help is wanted; free and sustainable menstrual supplies; and much more. I feel like a broken record, but our platform lays all this out! 

Majumdar: Most of my leadership experience comes from my time working in MN politics, or just navigating life as a brown woman in this school/state/world in general. While I’m not on CSA, I’ve been closely observing CSA happenings for a while now. My experience at Carleton as someone who likes to stumble into random events, and my general tendency to yell about the injustices that plague us all helps me bring to the table a fresh perspective—some new ideas, means of motivation, and critiques—while Molly’s extensive experience on CSA helps us know what’s working right now. We make a great team, and also great dinners together. 

What do you want to change about CSA?

Zuckerman: CSA needs to take a more prominent advocacy role, actively partnering and allying with student groups currently fighting for equity when our partnership is wanted. I mentioned earlier experience with bureaucracy. Well, I want to use this experience to make reforms in CSA so that we can focus on allyship and benefits for the student body—including Black student leaders, who should not be solely responsible for advocating for an institutional response to racism. 

This starts with saving time in meetings by deemphasizing procedure to focus on our collective agenda. I don’t want to throw Robert’s Rules out the window! But if you’ve been to Senate meetings, you know that we sometimes get bogged down in the mud. When we do this we can take advantage of CSA structures to enact change, while getting rid of what isn’t working. Since my freshman year on CSA, I have challenged Senate to take a more active role in student life, from expanding sexual violence prevention training and co-leading the 2020 Election Working Group, to increasing access to sustainable menstrual supplies and helping author resolutions in the Social Activism Working Group on a Black center on campus and the murder of Breonna Taylor.

Majumdar: Internally: less cookie cutter student government bullshit! There’s a lot of bureaucracy and drama where there doesn’t need to be. I’m not afraid to cut right through it. 

Externally: the way CSA positions itself in relation to the greater student body. CSA is everyone’s organization, and I’m running to see that through. Of course, accountability goes both ways: Molly and I have some great ideas for how to make Carleton and CSA work for you, but we need your help, your energy, your ideas to make Carleton equitable, safe, and joyful for all.  

What would be your top priority if elected?

Zuckerman: Carleton is hurting right now, and it’s not just COVID. We need an institutional response to systemic white supremacy; we need more accessible mental health services with a commitment to diversity; we need higher student wages; we need so many things. My top priority as president would be building back student trust in CSA that we can be your ally. 

I want Carleton students to know that CSA has your back. When we cut through the noise and messiness of bureaucracy, I think CSA can make such a difference in issues where and when our presence is wanted and appropriate. CSA can’t force its way into different areas of student life and try to unilaterally fix things; that would be weird and unproductive. Ensuring trust is crucial to building the legitimacy that we need to be your ally in uplifting marginalized voices, in fighting for mental health resources; in initiating discussions about privilege and identity; in so much more. 

What makes you qualified to be the voice of the students? 

Zuckerman: I’ll start by saying I do not believe the role of CSA president is to speak for everyone. It’s to listen. No one person’s life experience or identities give them the insight to represent all the life experiences and identities held by Carleton students. This is most especially true for a white woman like myself. That is why I believe in the importance of listening to students: closely, consistently, and proactively, and to use positions of power to create change, something Manjari and I are fully committed to doing if elected. 

Majumdar: No no no, I’m not qualified to be the voice of all students because I will never have the lived experience of others. I’ll never fully understand how it feels to be amongst the most marginalized at Carleton, nor the most privileged. My own positionality as a middle-class Indian-American woman who’s dealt with racism at Carleton + my experience as a relational organizer and a student facilitator qualifies me to work with my peers, rather than speak for. That’s how Molly and I coined our “Let’s Get To Work” slogan; we don’t have all the solutions to problems at Carleton and beyond. This is a combined effort amongst all of us to make Carleton work for everyone.

Delina Haileab

Haileab is running a joint campaign with Rahul Kirkhope, with Haileab running for CSA Vice President and Kirkhope running for CSA Treasurer.

Who are you?

Hello! My name is Delina (she/her) and I am running for the Vice President position along with Rahul Kirkhope who is running for the Treasurer position. Thank you for taking the time to read my responses to these questions (tried to keep it short, sweet, and to the point) and I invite you to check out my platform (as well as the other candidates’ platforms) on the CSA website which includes more detail about my proposed initiatives and qualifications. 

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

We have a great group of candidates running this year with a diverse mix of talents, strengths, and experiences. However, to my knowledge, I am the only candidate running for the Vice President position with extensive experience on the Budget Committee. During my sophomore year, I joined the Budget Committee and ever since, I have been actively involved in this process as well as some of the key achievements of the last two administrations, ranging from the cultural org fund to the conference showcase event.  This hands-on involvement not only inspired my run for Vice President of CSA, but also informed much of my platform. I have seen first hand what CSA does well and what CSA could improve upon, and with me I bring the experience of organizing large groups of people in various contexts which I believe will be useful when implementing my platforms and serving the student body at large. 

What do you want to change about CSA?

In more ways than one, CSA has the potential to run much more efficiently. I go more into depth about this in my platform, but I think that the centralization of power in CSA slows down the potential that it has. Therefore, something I want to change about CSA is redistributing power and influence amongst all who are involved with CSA so that the experience is not only more meaningful for everybody, but also so that we can build more momentum behind our initiatives and in turn, get more done. Subcommittees and working groups work great to an extent, but at a certain point these groups become redundant and very little ends up getting accomplished. I hope to bring an approach of horizontal organizing to CSA, which will require a bit of restructuring, but in the long run I believe that it will be worth it. 

What would top priority be if elected?

My top priority if elected is equity; of course, this is a broad term but an important and critical framework to operate under. I would make sure that every decision, project, and initiative centers equity and makes Carleton a more equitable place. More specifically, I will actively make sure that all members of the Carleton community are advocated for, especially members of the Carleton community that are in the margins of our campus and whose needs aren’t always prioritized; this needs to change and if elected, I will work tirelessly to make this change and uplift our marginalized students through all means possible. This won’t be easy, particularly because these are widespread systemic changes that need to take place, and it will take more than just the executive team of CSA, but it can be done. The first step towards equity is that we as CSA need to have some tough conversations about how we need to prioritize and intentionally make space for the voices of marginalized students and community members in CSA spaces. I am ready to ignite these conversations and I believe that this will open the door for actions and initiatives that center equity.

This article was updated on Feb. 18 to reflect Rogers’ withdrawal from the Vice Presidential race.

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