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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Referendum measures pass easily in student vote

<nday, October 23, the student body passed two amendments to the Carleton Student Association (CSA) Constitution. The first, which creates a position for the CSA President on the Board of Trustees Student Life Committee, passed with 91% of voters in favor. The second amendment, to add an Office of Health Promotion (OHP) liaison position to CSA Senate, passed with 95% in favor.

490 students voted on the referenda. There are no minimum voting turnout requirements.

On Thursday, October 12, CSA President Walter Paul ’18 sent an email to the student body announcing five new policies. Three were bylaw amendments, which CSA passed on Monday, October 16, and two were constitutional amendments, on which CSA voted on Oct. 16 and then publicized to the student body to be voted on within the week.

Bylaw amendments must be approved by Senate by a two-thirds vote, explained Paul. Constitutional amendments go through a referendum process that is voted on by the student body.

“Both of these initiatives were what I came into the presidency hoping to get accomplished,” said Paul. “It makes sense that the student body president should be able to be in conversation with the highest level of governance about the life of students at Carleton. The OHP liaison position is important because we need to address mental health more proactively, and in order to do so, we need to broaden our source of information.”

Originally, Paul envisioned having two student liaisons serve on the Board. After conversation with President Poskanzer and Dean Livingston in the spring of 2017, the three “agreed to start with a system that replicates what the faculty have,” said Paul.

Poskanzer and Livingston proposed the idea to the Board last spring, said Paul. “They came back to me and said the Board felt good about it. And then it was my turn to have a conversation with Senate.”

The faculty liaison serves on the Board of Trustees but does not have voting power. The CSA President’s role on the Board of Trustees mimics the faculty liaison position, said Paul.

“This sets proper foundation for moving forward in the future,” said Paul. He noted that future CSA presidents might seek to expand the role by gaining a vote, but for now, “I’m really there just to listen in on the meetings and share my opinions if necessary.”

Informing the Board about campus climate is one of Paul’s priorities. “They don’t go to Carleton. They’re not in touch with students,” he said. “Reminding them that mental health is a pressing issue, and reminding them that sexual misconduct is a pressing issue, is very important. And I think that’s what the importance of this referendum was: There is a big gap between where the Board is and where students are—it’s just closing it.”

Part of Paul’s motivation for putting the CSA President on the Board was to expand the CSA’s source of information, he said. He hopes to create some form of electronic newsletter for CSA.

“We’re connected to college council, and we’re connected to many different committees—Education and Curriculum, Admissions and Financial Aid, and now the Board of Trustees,” he explained. “If we can report all the information we gather from these areas, that’s going to help out a lot in terms of what students know about Carleton and the different things going [on]. I can’t keep that information in my head and just tell Senate. It’s always all about the students.”

The OHP liaison position “came out of a need for some form of connection between the different initiatives that were in place regarding mental health,” said Paul. “Having someone who can connect us to those initiatives and those policies while also understanding what CSA is will be very helpful,” said Paul.

Bennett Herson-Roeser ’18, a Student Wellness Advocate who previously served as College Council liaison, will now serve as CSA’s first OHP liaison.

The OHP liaison will serve as a “de facto” leader of CSA’s Mental Health working group, according to Herson-Roeser.

The liaison position “provides some knowledge and some connections that might not otherwise have been there,” said Herson-Roeser.

“For example, if we want to meet up with MHAC and organize an event that involves both the administration side and the student side, we’ll have a better working relationship and could coordinate that a little more easily. I serve as a liaison between that gray area—between students and the administration.”

“The OHP liaison position demonstrates a commitment to students’ mental and physical health, which is incredibly important,” said Lauren Kempton ’18, a leader for the Mental Health Awareness Collective (MHAC). “Without good physical and mental health, we can’t do well academically, volunteer in the community, engage politically, or relax and have fun. It’s the foundation of all the other great things we do as Carleton students.”

One of Herson-Roeser’s goals as OHP liaison is “making it a little bit more collaborative and cohesive,” he said. “I think sometimes there’s a really big gap between students and the administration, and especially when it comes to things like mental health, that can be really problematic.” 

“It’s important to acknowledge that we’re in a stressful environment, and that struggling with mental health is common,” said Kempton. “I’ve noticed that a lot of conversations about mental health at Carleton happen between friends in dorm rooms and lounges—in private spaces. What I’d like to see is a campus-wide conversation about how common it is to have a mental illness here.”

“If we don’t talk about it, then we’re not doing anything about it,” said Herson-Roeser.

As part of Paul’s campaign platform, one of his priorities was to make CSA impactful. “You have to ponder what that means,” he said. “What does it mean that CSA is very impactful? That requires looking into CSA’s role as an advocate for students. And I think both referendums accomplish that.”

“At Carleton, students oftentimes don’t know where to look,” said Paul. “There’s this blockade between where things really happen and where students are. So creating that channel to the Board of Trustees, and breaking that barrier so that student voices can actually enter the ears of those people who make decisions will make our advocacy very impactful.”

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