Carleton Student Association (CSA) has been hard at work the past few weeks. On Monday, the CSA issued a resolution denouncing Minnesota’s proposed voter ID law, an action that comes exactly one week after it released a similar statement opposing the upcoming ballot measure that would constitutionally prohibit same-sex marriage in the state.
“These amendments, were they to be passed, would have a real material impact on students, faculty, and staff here at Carleton,” explained CSA President Michael McClellan ’13. “If we have barriers preventing people from coming to Minnesota, we will have real trouble attracting the top students and staff to Carleton.”
The two amendments, which Minnesotans will vote on this November, have already proven highly unpopular on campus, with a number of student organizations actively campaigning against them.
Many Carleton students view the voter identification initiative with particular enmity—it is widely considered an attempt to lessen the electoral influence of college voters, who often lack proper in-state identification, and who are generally considered solid allies of the Democratic Party and its affiliates.
But both of the Senate’s resolutions come at a time when many in the CSA are themselves advocating for amendments to the CSA Constitution, which was last altered in May of 2004. One proposal includes an amendment that would make it easier for the CSA to allocate funds to student groups and organizations. McClellan, the primary supporter of this proposal, highlighted the necessity of making such a change.
“We were in a situation where we had plenty of cash on hand, but were over the budget we had made,” he said, referring to cases of stalled financing that occurred last spring. “We had to declare emergency sessions to unlock any money for student organizations; it made us look terrible from the standpoint of pulling the purse strings closed.”
McClellan insists that many of these problems that hampered last year’s Budget Committee could be easily remedied through minor changes to the existing CSA Constitution, changes that he plans to put up for a referendum by the end of this term.
“Most of the problems came about from obstacles in our constitution—if we make some changes students will have easier access to their money,” he explained.
However, the planned reforms hardly stop there. The CSA, taking inspiration from St. Olaf’s famously inclusive Student Government Association, has begun to make a concerted effort to better communicate with the vast majority of Carleton students that do not actively participate in student government.
“I think that St. Olaf has done publicity in some very good ways—they are good at getting the word out and connecting with the student body,” McClellan said
Student government leaders would certainly benefit from refocusing the school’s attention, especially in light of the recent on-campus controversy surrounding printing quotas (Editor’s note: for the CSA’s view on the printing quota, please see the Opinion section).
Many in the CSA believe that the best way to do this is by demonstrating the instances in which the CSA’s decisions clearly line up with initiatives that find wide-ranging support among the student body.
An example that is commonly provided is the ongoing renovation of The Cave, a project supported entirely by the work of the CSA Budget Committee.
“The biggest thing that we are doing is putting lots of money in the Cave; into furniture, the sound system, and the stage,” said McClellan. “We want it to be the absolute best space possible, and we think it will be.”