Whether they were riled up about Rotblatt or excited about the student-proposed referenda, Carleton students were in a political mood last week. More than half voted in the election--the biggest turnout in eight years, according to outgoing President Matthew Fitzgerald. Here’s a look at the executives they chose to represent them in student government.
President-elect Becca Giles got her first taste of politics in her high school’s forensics club, which she swears is a kind of debate team.
“Everyone always says, ‘Oh, that’s probably something you do with dead bodies,’” she says. “No, not at all. I’m as far away from being a science person as possible.”
She’s a history major, a Packers fan, and a lover of Quentin Tarantino movies. She campaigned for President Obama in 2008 (He gave her his waterbottle when he visited Eau Claire, Wisconsin) and served on CSA as a liaison to the College Council.
On the College Council, she gained insights into the administration that troubled her, she says. “Some of the directions the administration is taking are antithetical to our principles.”
For one thing, she isn’t happy about Rotblatt. Administrators, she says, are generally too concerned with running a business--investing only in sciences, cutting financial aid, and avoiding liabilities. But they aren’t the only ones at fault.
“If we want the administration to treat us as adults and give us trust, we have to prove that we’re worthy of it,” she says. “I think there’s a tendency among certain student groups to think the administration is out to get them. I don’t think that’s true.”
The Rotblatt controversy, she says, was in fact an example of poor communication between students and administrators--something she hopes to improve as President.
Giles is, according to outgoing President Fitzgerald, evidence of a progressive swing in CSA. She plans, for instance, to create a committee to assess the environmental impact of big events like Rotblatt, push for more funding for financial aid and the SHAC, and increase student participation in decision making by moving CSA meetings from the Weitz center to the Great Hall and creating online forums for campus-wide discussions.
Marielle Foster--Vice President
It can be hard to find a printable quote after talking with Vice President-elect Marielle Foster. You get lines like this: “I think internally, we--Hey Sherry!” Foster knows everyone. To say that she doesn’t spend all her time in the library is an understatement. She’s a Residential Assistant, CSA liaison to the College Council, and future Math and Computer Science double major.
As CSA Vice President next term, she will also be the head of the Budget Committee, responsible for doling out half a million dollars to student groups each year.
“There are people who say, ‘If I had one-hundred dollars, I could do this great idea,” she says. “They don’t know that it’s an option.” Foster’s first order of business as Vice President will be to schedule workshops about how to start and fund a club.
With an ear to most of the campus and now a mouth in the college’s most influential committees, she also plans to be a megaphone for students’ grumbling.
Foster, who grew up in Minneapolis, began her political career at age 17, when she served as a delegate at the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party’s state convention in 2010. She ran for student government positions in high school but never won. “I don’t think I fit my high school’s idea of what a leader should be,” she says. Having gone to Montessori schools until high school, “I was a little bit too much outside the box.”
But during Foster’s first year at Carleton, CSA President Matthew Fitzgerald encouraged her to run for College Council Liaison. He said the position would give her a taste of how student government works at Carleton. Now, in addition to sitting on the council, she’s working on a side project to bring a system of rental bikes to Northfield, similar to the system in Minneapolis. She’s also working to put vertical bike racks in the Watson basement, where bikes are now chained to railings.
Matt Cotter loves computer coding. President of the Carleton Computing Society, his conversations with friends usually begin with “Yo, I just made a really cool tokenizer for my programming languages class” or “Hey, on my algorithms test, my thing was complexity of n squared.” Of course, he’s also passionate about his new role on CSA. His first plan as treasurer? “I really want to change the website,” he says.
Cotter, like many other recently elected members of CSA, is concerned about the group’s inaccessibility to students. Its website, especially, is hard for the average student to navigate, he says. “If I want to look at the meeting minutes of budget committee, it takes me four clicks from the CSA home page. This is an issue.” He plans to create more visible links to meeting minutes, budget request forms, and information about how to charter clubs.
Getting the word out about funding will be especially important in the future, he says. Carleton’s constitution requires the CSA to have $65,000 of cushioning at the beginning of each year. But much of last year’s reserves rolled over to this year, freeing up thousands of dollars in this year’s budget. With nearly a quarter of the student body listed as leaders in student clubs, Cotter says, there are plenty of good ideas out there for how to spend the extra funds. Now, he just needs to find them.
After entering CSA as a class representative last year, Cotter helped found the Committee for Student Projects last fall. The committee meets whenever the CSA’s general funds exceed $65,000. It invites students to think of ways to spend the extra funds, chooses certain projects and figures out exactly how much they will cost, then puts them to a campus-wide vote. Last week’s ballot included the first set of projects, chosen by Cotter and five other students: improved lighting in the Cave, a Paul Wellstone memorial, reusable cups in the dining halls, and more furniture on the bald spot.
Cotter will be the first treasurer responsible for implementing CSP recommendations. “I’ll be a guinea pig,” he says.