The flurry of chalking, tabling, bathroom stall posters, and flyers in mailboxes that have engulfed the campus for the past two weeks is over: the results from the CSA election are in. More significantly to the torrent of propaganda, the results of the MPIRG referendum are in. As announced in an all-campus email and the on the CSA website, the referendum failed. The question on the ballot was as follows: “Do you support continuing the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) $7.50 refusable/refundable fee?” 847 students responded no and only 321 responded yes.
The outcome of this vote broadcasts a change in the way Carleton students have chosen to tackle the issues that MPIRG represents. This is a positive move for the college. The environmental and social justice issues that MPIRG stands for will not cease to be important to the students of our campus. Carleton students have impacted local, state and national issues, both under broader organizations and under initiative entirely independent of any outside support. It is entirely possible that without the structure and support of MPIRG, Carleton students will become better acquainted with the issues.
Those who worry that the failure of the MPIRG referendum will diminish their activism should see this as a challenge. Carleton students must rally to create an organizational structure that incorporates the purposes of MPIRG but is shaped around the needs and principles of the college. If and when Carleton students decide to financially support MPIRG in the future, there will a foundation in place for a productive and supportive relationship.
Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, the sheer number of votes that were cast on the issue is noteworthy. Of the 1223 students that voted in this CSA election, the MPIRG issues received the most votes, hundreds more than any single candidate or any of the other two issues on the ballot. Perhaps this is because a Carl couldn’t leave their dorm room without seeing three separate posters (one yes, one no, and one urging us to skip voting entirely) or stepping on pink chalk bubble letters urging YES (or yes to dinosaurs).
No matter what the cause, it is exciting that so many students were compelled to vote, especially in light of the apathy that Carleton students have shown in past elections. Last year, only 754 students participated in the spring CSA elections. Many senate positions usually go uncontested, a trend that continued this year, with winning candidates often receiving less than a third of the votes of the entire student body. The level of dialogue and campaigning that the MPIRG referendum created is an exciting development that will hopefully continue in future elections.