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The Carletonian

CSA to Add New Liaison, Push for Transparency

<tives in the Carleton Student Association (CSA) Senate this term include the addition of a Disability Services liaison position; a push to increase CSA’s transparency, efficiency and accountability; a new publicity committee; and a series of speakers from various campus offices and groups. After taking office at the end of last winter term, CSA President Apoorva Handigol ’19 hopes to start putting their plans into action in Senate this term.

So far in their presidency, Handigol has created a Disability Services liaison position in Senate, which has not yet been filled. The position was proposed to Disability Services on March 30 and was added to Senate at the beginning of April. Students will be able to run for the position after 5th week this term, Handigol said.

Christopher Dallager, Director of Disability Services, expressed support for the addition. “CSA has appointed a student to the Accessibility Awareness Committee but that is a more limited connection to Disability Services,” Dallager said over email. “I think there is an opportunity for increased communication between students, the office, and the college on a more regular basis with the liaison role. I am appreciative of President Handigol and CSA Senate members for including disability as part of the larger communication. Including disability goes beyond a symbolic gesture and makes the invisible visible to the campus. This move on the part of CSA follows the increased support provided administration for Disability Services in some important financial ways to provide increased staffing, space for testing, software support, funds for captioning video, and adding peer leaders.”

John Mullan ’20, CSA Treasurer, said that the position has long been needed in Senate. Giving examples of times when Senate became aware of problems students had acquiring accommodations, Mullan said, “We felt like if there was more communication between different offices, that problem could be avoided. From the student perspective, at least in Senate, we find that it can be extraordinarily helpful if you have students from those offices working and talking together in a collective body.”

Another of Handigol’s major initiatives will focus on finding ways to increase CSA’s transparency. Through a series of group discussions in Senate, they hope to discuss ways to change and improve Senate’s structure.
Ahead of April 16’s CSA Senate meeting, Handigol said, “I am setting it up to be a reforming CSA meeting. I’m going to lead a discussion of ‘how do we make senators more accountable?’ We’re going to split up into groups of class representatives, office liaisons and committee liaisons to think about our own role and increasing our own transparency and accessibility.”

According to Handigol, CSA Vice President Selam Nicola ’19 was then set to lead a discussion “talking about how we can make Governance Committee a more powerful place that can really keep Senate in check; it doesn’t really exist like that right now.” Last, Mullan would “lead a similar discussion on Students Project Committee, figuring out how we can make that more efficient,” said Handigol.

Mullan said that CSA had discussed efficiency and accountability before, but in different contexts. The discussions were “well-received” in Senate, he said.

“There’s a struggle to sort of work in a system that hasn’t yet fully ironed out all the requirements of members of the Senate other than the officers,” he said. “Whether it’s an office or a committee or a class rep, there is some precedent as to what the rules are, but there’s not a document that says ‘this is the expectation.’ So it was really meant to be a conversation to put on the table the expectation that people will, to the best of their ability, maintain regular communication with whatever group they’re representing.”
“Since it’s the beginning of our term as executives, we want to set it up the way that we want to work within it,” Handigol said. “It’s easy to come into this role and just do what’s already been done, because it’s so hard to change the structure, and it’s so hard to have the time to do more than just checking the boxes. So I really want to change that structure so that we can continue to make all of these forms of governance more efficient.”

Also new this term is the Committee for Media, Publicity, and Outreach (COMP). According to Mullan, COMP now has a chair and some students-at-large, but has not yet filled all of its positions.

“That committee, I think, for a really long time [has] been missing from Senate,” he said. “Because there are so many things that, as people that are on the inside, we would love for people to know. And there are a lot of questions that people have that they want to know from us. And as often as we can, we will facilitate that exchange. But the reality is that we just can’t get as much information as we would like to get out there. So I’m super excited for the work that they’re going to be doing.”

Handigol will also bring a series of speakers from across campus into Senate meetings this term. These will include Paul Thiboutot and Rhemi Abrams-Fuller from the admissions office, and Handigol also hopes to bring in Laura Riehle-Merrill and Mary Dunnewold from the Title IX office, the SEED student group, representatives of the Office of Health Promotion and representatives of TRIO. Finally, Handigol is continuing CSA Senate’s working groups, originally begun by former CSA President Tiffany Thet ’17. According to Handigol, there are currently five groups, each working on a different issue: Budget Committee reforms, sexual misconduct, the CSA textbook library, mental health, and political engagement.

Handigol also remains active in the student-led protest movement Carls Talk Back, which they co-founded with Bethany Bobo ’20, Gaby Tietyen-Mlengana ’20 and Alexis Tolbert ’20. “These two things aren’t separable for me,” said Handigol. “Because, for me, being CSA President is being a leader of Carls Talk Back, and vice versa. Because I believe, even though Carls Talk Back does not represent everyone on campus, it’s the most intersectional of ways to bring together what changes students really need to see on campus right now. And the CSA President role, for me, is working on those changes and being that direct link between the students who are most marginalized, who are struggling the most, who need the most change and advocacy, and bringing that to administration.”

Handigol hopes to maintain the energy of Carls Talk Back and the beginning of their term as CSA President going forward in their presidency.
“I really have been trying to figure out this term, how can CSA Senate better support Carls Talk Back? And what does that kind of cross-collaboration look like?” Handigol said.

“I came into this role expecting, or really wanting, a lot of constructive criticism,” they said. “I just want to figure out the best way to hear people’s criticisms and hear what they want to see different in how CSA works. Because I really want to make CSA a reflection of the students and not a reflection of what I think it should be.”

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