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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

CSA President Apoorva Handigol discusses goals for upcoming year

<t inspired you to run for your current position?

A: I had been in student government since my first term at Carleton in various committees. Then I joined senate for two years and was excited to see how easy it was to start making changes on campus, get involved, and sit beside deans and important professors and have the chance to actually have your voice heard. A few of the past CSA presidents had talked to me about running and wanted to see me carry on the work that they were doing. I hadn’t really thought about it before and when I asked why I should run, they said that “I see you involved in a lot of things and that shows how committed you are to doing things for the right reasons.”


Q: You are in a unique position of being the CSA President while also having a large role in a campus-wide social movement, namely Carls Talk Back. Could you speak to the differences between an institutional and a non-institutional approach to change?

A: The current CSA government structures, which include our senate and committees, have existed for a really long time — and because a lot of people on it are staff and faculty of this school who have been here for sometimes decades, what change means to them can be sometimes very gradual and very slow. Being a student here for only four years, we want to see change a little bit quicker so we can experience the benefits of changing systems that are currently hurting us or putting us at disadvantages. I think that the CSA structures are very powerful because there’s this trust, this validity that’s given to them by the administration. But, the reason why we started Carls Talk Back is because the current systems we have aren’t working. They aren’t making change fast enough. Our concerns aren’t actually being acted upon by the administration, and we realized that as students we have a lot of power too — especially in a small school where in general, what we have to say is heard. And there actually are students that are involved in both CSA governance and Carls Talk Back, such as myself, and I think that’s really powerful because we get to see and hear exactly what students need right now. Administration is not the only group on campus that can give us the Carleton experience we deserve. Sometimes we just have to create it for ourselves.


Q: What do you see as your biggest challenge?

A: My biggest challenge, which I think the CSA has seen for a long time, is this idea that we’re a group that is boring, not able to exert any influence or create any change on campus, which is not true at all. We make everything that goes on as accessible as possible. Meeting minutes are posted online every week, all of our meetings are open, we’re constantly giving updates, and we’re actually creating a new CSA newsletter. People can literally start any project that they want on campus — our student project committee fund is currently over $140,000. That’s up to you to use those expenses to make improvements to better our campus community. We have $600,000 that we give out to student organizations every year, we have opportunities to charter a new club whenever you want to fill any gap on campus. But I feel like a lot of students aren’t recognizing how much power they have.


Q: What would Carleton need to look like at the end of the year for you to consider your presidency a success?

A: We have a lot of autonomy and authority and influence to make ourselves better, to make our classmates and friends better people and to change the structures that exist that affect you as a Carleton student. There are thousands of people here when you count students, admin, and faculty, so something I want to change is that students should be able to recognize what resources exist for them or how to create resources for themselves. That’s the building power piece. I also want students to see that student government is a very legitimate group on campus that has existed for a long time and has made a lot of progress, but as people who are just here for four years, progress can look really, really slow. Even if it does look slow, we’re building a foundation for future students to use the momentum of what’s been going on and build upon that. Even the smallest step you take towards making this place better, it might be small, but collectively it’s going to allow us to transform this place.


Q: So I think it’s safe to say that empowering students is a big priority of yours. Let’s say that I’m a first-year student — I come to Carleton and and when I see the huge social justice and activism scene, I feel very overwhelmed. What are some easy ways that I could get involved?

A: I would definitely resonate with that student. When I was a first-year, I didn’t know anything about anything. I didn’t know pronouns, I hadn’t met a lot of queer or trans people, I hadn’t met a lot of international students before, and I didn’t understand anything about structural oppression or social structures. I remember that what helped me learn, from upperclassmen especially, was just going to different meetings and listening, or volunteering to be representatives for others. When I came as a first-year, there were a few groups that had been created out of an incident that happened in the spring of 2015. They remembered what had happened and had felt the trauma of going through that experience on campus. First-years are coming in and they’re excited, and they’re seeing, “Oh, this place isn’t perfect and there are problems that are going on, but there are ways to get involved.” So I would say to show up to the meetings and listen. Upperclassmen on campus are not judgemental and are not going to be exclusive if you tell them that you’re there to learn and use the knowledge that you gain from these meetings to help out your friends in the classroom, outside of the classroom, at the party, and on the playing field. I would also say to take classes that you have no knowledge about. Take classes in departments that should be more funded, take more Africana Studies classes, women and gender studies, Middle Eastern studies, Asian studies, and try to understand. Try to get exposure to people who don’t look like you or aren’t from your community back home, people that you will be interacting with your whole time at Carleton and after Carleton for the rest of your life. Stay humble, and I think that the person you will graduate Carleton as will be very different than the eager and maybe sometimes naive first-year that came in.


Q: That wraps up my questions. Is there anything else that you’d like students or any Carletonian readers to know about you, your goals, the CSA, or anything in general?

A: I would say that CSA governance is not this black box. We take your feedback, when you show up to meetings we take consideration of that, we’ll follow up with you, we’re all here for you, you all have class leaders that you can email, and if you see us on campus just approach us. Being in this role as president for a few months, I’ve had so many students just message me and say, “These are my concerns and I feel like I should talk to you. Can you help me out? Can you point me to recourses? Can you do something for me individually or in your CSA Senate?” We are not a group that is exclusive. We just want to dedicate time out of the busy week that we all experience to make this place better because we feel committed to doing that. And I would say about Carls Talk Back, if you have not come to a meeting, not looked at our Facebook page, not looked at our website, and not thought about how Carls Talk Balk can help you, just show up. Give it a chance. By the end of last year we had maybe 150 students on our mailing list. Out of 2,000 students, that’s not a lot, and we did have a lot of pushback and criticism, which is good to have. It shows us that people are talking about us. They’re thinking about us, and of course we want to improve and make Carls Talk Back a group that more and more people on campus can identify as their community, as a group that is advocating for them. Of course, no matter how diverse or multidimensional Carls Talk Back is, it’s not going to represent everyone on campus, but we have a commitment to representing more people on campus. Just show up and voice your concerns or feel free to talk to any of the members because we don’t just care about Carls Talk Back students. We care about all students, all 2,000 students that are here and all of the thousands and thousands of students that are going to keep coming to Carleton in the future.

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