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Why not run for CSA?

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If you click on the link for CSA polls, you’ll be redirected to a white background with words stamped in the corner proclaiming that “Elections are over.” Indeed, after a weekend of debates and appeals to vote, elections are finally over.

But for some positions, there wasn’t even a real competition. For example, there was only one candidate for the treasury position, Jeremy Keane ’17.

For three out of the four class years, there were only two candidates for each of the two available class representative positions.

Choosing between Jeremy and Jeremy for treasurer is a tough decision for voters, I know. What obstacles or preconceived ideas keep students from running for CSA? And what does it take to convince someone to run? I talked with current CSA officers and candidates to find some answers.

Current CSA president Marielle Foster ’16 has a theory to explain the lack of interest in joining CSA. “I think a lot of it stems from the fact that people at Carleton are much happier to critique than they are to actually do stuff,” she said.

This preference for criticism over action isn’t a problem only at Carleton, she noted. As Foster points out, this is generally true of the world: it’s much easier to critique than to actually do something. This surplus of criticism means that it’s hard to get up on stage and debate or ask people to vote for you when a majority of students in the audience are waiting to disagree with you.

Foster explained that this is probably why there are so many more applicants for internal jobs that are decided on by a committee, not by the entire student body, saying that in those positions “you’re not on display, you don’t have thousands of people criticizing or voting for you.”

Another deterrent for possible candidates is the sheer amount of work CSA requires, most of which no one ever sees. According to Foster, “ninety percent of the work you do as a senator is grunt work that nobody cares about.”

The presidency, especially, requires a grueling amount of time. Foster says she spends anywhere from 8-20 hours a week working on CSA, but that it’s worth it. “Well, worth it to me,” she adds. She sums up her feelings, saying “I’m excited about everyone who’s running. I’m also excited not to run Senate.”

Vanessa Martinez ’18, the current TRIO liaison, echoes Foster’s sentiment. Martinez says that her decision not to run again “isn’t quitting Senate, it’s moving on to other things that I’ll finally have time for.”

Against these intimidating forces, what convinces students to run for CSA? The answer is hearteningly simple: words of encouragement. “A lot of the people running are people I’ve sat down and said ‘You’re awesome.’ Or other people have sat down and said ‘You’re great. You have a lot of things to say and I think you’d be good at this,’” Foster says.

Many other candidates agree. Martinez says that the TRIO liaison last year encouraged her to apply. Ankita Verma ’17, one of the three presidential candidates, says she ran because, “My friend came up to me in Sayles and said ‘Hey Ankita, you should run for CSA president.’” The rest, as Verma says, is history.

It’s clear from the abundance of critiques available that students have ideas about what’s best for CSA to do, but sometimes all it takes to turn those ideas into a platform is someone telling them that they can do it. Which is heartening, to say the least, because CSA truly is an integral, beneficial role to hold at Carleton. As Foster says, “You walk away and get to say ‘I managed $700,000. I am the go to person for every administrator. I led 2,000 students.”

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