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CSA and its shortcomings

What I’ve learned from three years as a senator: CSA is not always the productive force for change that I know it can be. We take a long time to get things done and are sometimes afraid to take firm stances on important issues. This is not a failure of CSA, per se, but rather an area in which CSA has potential to improve. And, at this time, we need to improve, to do what we can to help so many students who are going through hell right now. CSA has considerable financial resources, connections to administration, and sway with the student body: in short, we have what it takes to address urgent issues (like an insufficient pandemic response from administation, white supremacy on campus, lack of diverse and accessible mental health resources, to name just a few). If we cut through bureaucracy and are not afraid to make our voices heard to the administration, I truly believe that CSA can be this productive force for change. 

When I first broached the subject of running for CSA with Manjari this past summer, I knew she would be surprised, to say the least. And she was. But, Manjari has done so much work organizing for different organizations and facilitating difficult discussions on and off campus; I truly couldn’t think of anyone more qualified to be CSA VP. Even more than that, I knew that Manjari and I were on the same page about what needs to happen within CSA if it is going to be that productive force for change that both of us know it can be. 

Manjari and I come from different backgrounds. I’m a white woman from NJ who has never had to worry about how the color of my skin will affect my time at Carleton. Manjari is a woman of color from MN who reckons with some degree of white supremacy everywhere she goes. Though we found a shared vision, it took time before Manjari agreed to run with me for CSA. When she finally came around, she told me even though Carleton had let her down so many times, she wants to throw everything she’s got at finding solutions to those problems, so other students can have better experiences. Fast forward past a lot of brainstorming between the two of us: Manjari and I are running for CSA to get to work, as our slogan puts it, pushing for long needed equity and change that cannot wait one minute longer. 

When I talk about CSA as a productive force, I mean that we owe it to you to work for change on campus without a crisis staring us in the face. That begins with reforms within CSA, cutting through the bureaucracy that so often slows us down, because change can’t wait. One thing I can promise you: Manjari and I are not afraid to take on bureaucracy. We will hold both CSA and the administration accountable; we will cut through procedural red tape that so often bogs us down; and we will hold ourselves accountable: office hours with senators, hosting joint events with other offices on campus, routine public reports from the president, simple and accessible infographics on our budget from the VP. 

Another crucial component of CSA as a productive force means allying with student groups on campus. One (urgent) example of this is allying with Black students and student orgs: it is the very, very least CSA can do to offer allyship in demanding an institutional response to white supremacy from the administration. 

It’s important to recognize that CSA isn’t owed a position in every issue, but that we have so many resources (mandating anti-racism training for club leaders, for example) to offer when we are wanted. And this particular issue of equity is, hands down, Carleton’s most pressing problem. I discuss Black students, but the truth is that there are so many people on campus who deserve allyship: LGBTQIA+ students, first generation students, low income students, students of color, to name just a few. Even those of us with privileged racial or gender identities go through hard times and need support. As a student body as a whole, we need to start working towards our collective well being. 

There are so many other areas of student life in which CSA can make a difference. I won’t list them all here, but the point is that you deserve more from both CSA and Carleton. A vote for Manjari and myself is a vote for change, but also a commitment that you, too, will do your part to help us on this journey. Lasting change happens when we all make a decision to question our beliefs, to stand up for each other, to care about everyone’s Carleton experience.

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