From placing furniture on the Bald Spot to adding water bottle refilling stations to Sayles, the CSA’s Committee for Student Projects (CSP) is researching how to spend the $170,000 that has accumulated as a result of the Carleton Student Association’s past 12 years of budget surpluses.
"Last year, we had more requests than we could pay for with the annual budget, but we had $170,000 in reserve," Senate Treasurer Henry Gordon ’15 said. "It’s hard because this looks hypocritical. We don’t have money to give to clubs because we’ve used up our annual budget, yet we have this entire separate fund with lots of money that we can’t give to students."
At the end of the academic year, the money that has been placed in student organizations’ accounts but that has not been used is returned to the CSA and placed in a rollover account. This account is separate from the annual budget account.
Occasionally, the CSA uses the rollover money. For instance, last year, some of the rollover funds were used to make the spring concert more extravagant, according to Gordon. In addition, this fall, the Committee allocated $2,500 from the rollover account to the Rec. Center for buying ice skates that students can use on the Bald Spot in the winter.
Besides these occasional circumstances, the CSA had no way to use the rollover money. Gordon wanted to find a way to use this money, so he formed a committee to investigate. The committee decided to form the CSP, which has met throughout fall term to research ways to spend the $170,000.
"The CSP exists to tackle big issues and to allocate big sums of money," Gordon said. "The Budget Committee does not have the collaborate system to handle the type of projects the CSP looks at."
To decide how to spend the $170,000, the CSP has a proposal form on its website, which Carleton community members are encouraged to fill out.
So far, proposals include a Public Policy Innovation Lab in which students would propose solutions to policy problems and the person with the best proposal would receive a grant
to implement his proposal.
Senator Robert Kaylor ’16 said, "Personally, I want to see the money used for more ideas like the PPIL. Although not my idea, I think things that help Carls gain real-world experience and job applicability will go a long way."
Other proposals are to increase bicycle storage on campus and to engage more with the Northfield community.
Student-At-Large Lindsey Weber ’16 would like to see the money used for "something that will be visible to all of campus, so the student body would be able to see it and use it and understand that student initiative had brought it to campus."
When students submit a proposal, a member of the CSP meets with them to go over their idea. Then the CSP meets as a whole to discuss the project.
"When judging the proposals, we decide how easy it will be to implement the idea, how cost effective it is, and how much it will benefit the Carleton campus," said Kaylor. "In our sessions, we try to cover every possibility. We want to see this money spent on the best possible ideas."
According to Weber, "The process emphasizes collaboration and when looking at projects, we make sure they benefit the entire student body and will last in the long-term."
In the second or third week of winter term, the CSP will choose between two and five proposals to place on the CSA ballot. In order for the proposal to make the ballot, all members of the CSP must consent.
"After the projects are put to the CSA, the CSA has the final word on which projects make it to the ballot," Kaylor said. "They are under no obligation to put any forward."
On the ballot, students will rank these proposals, and the CSA will implement them in the order of preference.
Gordon said, "This is super great because Carleton students get to vote on how their money is spent in a big way."
In seven years, the CSP aims to bring the $170,000 down to $45,000, which is the minimum amount mandated by CSA guidelines. In the future, the CSP will form when the rollover account has over $60,000.
Leaving money in the rollover account is a way of ensuring that the CSA can address unforeseen circumstances and that no student organizations go into deficit.
Even with $45,000 left in the rollover account, there is significant money to spend on campus-improvement projects, according to Weber. Thanks to the CSP, "We now have a way for students to benefit Carleton and future students," she said.