On Changing the Pizza

I went to a small elementary/middle school (K-8 all in one building). It’s about 20 students per grade level.

The school contracted with a local pizza shop to provide a lunch option for students, once a week. You could pre-pay to have pizza during lunch every week throughout the year. (Specifically on Tuesdays. On the other days, you would bring a lunch from home. With such a small school, there just weren’t the facilities, staffing, budget, or reason to support a daily lunch service.) In my early years I exercised this option, but stopped doing so as I got older.

The pizza itself was fine. It certainly wasn’t stellar, but it wasn’t like you were eating lukewarm cheese that was glued onto a hard crust. (That only happened a couple of times.) It was decent enough most of the time. Nonetheless, the students — especially those who were aware of the other pizza shops in the area — complained that the school really could do better by contracting somewhere else.

So, every year, at least one candidate for student council — particularly in the “lower school” K-4 arm, and also particularly during my kindergarten through second grade years — would run under the campaign promise of changing the pizza. (I’m told that this happened for a few years before I got there, too.) I used that line in my campaign when I was elected vice-president of the lower school student council in second grade. Most people made absolutely no progress on this promise; they just used it to get elected. I almost got it changed — and the teachers won’t admit it, but I made serious progress, with a spreadsheet and everything! — but that’s a story for another time.

Nowadays, among students and teachers who were there at the time, “change the pizza” is synonymous with “make a promise that lots of people will agree with, even though nothing will likely come of it”.

This week are the Carleton Student Association (CSA) Senate elections. This is the body that has been involved in the KRLX PNW funding process. They pass resolutions, fund organizations, and work on large-scale projects like a free textbook library. I ran (and lost by a wide margin) for Residential Life liaison last spring. I’m not running this term, but I know a lot of the folks who are, and their proposals have some interesting ideas. Here are some of them, which are taken from a variety of candidates:

  • continuing to push for improvements in the Title IX process
  • “ensure class representatives are truly communicating with their classes on updates within Senate and administration”
  • publishing periodic reports of Senate actions and plans
  • holding weekly office hours
  • increasing transparency about funding processes, fee waivers, and other financing options available to students and organizations
  • improving diversity within Senate and Senate subcommittees
  • providing more assistance to students affected by natural disasters
  • making the organization funding request process less intimidating
  • providing students with avenues of anonymous feedback submission about campus issues
  • investing student activity fees in the stock market rather than increasing them annually
  • adding a Funding FAQ page and list of funding sources to the CSA website
  • working with the Residential Life liaison to increase communication regarding housing procedure changes (such as when rooms change to or from a micro-lounge)
  • establishing executive pay for the president, vice president, and treasurer (turning them into elected campus jobs)
  • having students use color-specific dining hall cups to indicate whether or not they’d be cool with others coming to sit with them
  • increasing access to buildings for students with disabilities by adding ramps and other accessibility features
  • increasing availability of resources for mental health

Don’t get me wrong: I’m excited about a lot of these ideas and I hope they come to fruition. Some of them would provide an immediate and real benefit to a lot of students. Some of them, like holding weekly office hours or sending periodic communications, require personal investment from Senators — which can be hard to come by at Carleton where a ten-week term flies by and the workload is so intense — but would be worthwhile in the end.

Some of them probably aren’t in Senate’s jurisdiction at all, have already been done, or would be infeasible to even start, such as:

  • building accessibility is mandated in new buildings and those with renovations; all buildings on campus are wheelchair accessible with the exception of the 19th-century Willis Hall, Laird Hall, and some rooms in Goodsell Observatory, but these buildings can’t be modified to improve accessibility as they are historic and NRHP-listed
    • Update: After doing further research, halls face a requirement of accessibility, but houses do not. This candidate is trying to increase accessibility to houses, some of which (like Henry and Bird) are used as administrative offices.
  • you can’t put the entire student activity fee fund into a stock portfolio because that prevents you from being able to spend the money on organizations, so you would need to have a massive fee increase to start the fund while maintaining organization operations; plus, I’m not sure of the legal or tax implications of this plan

And some of them are certainly feasible, but probably aren’t going to happen for a multitude of reasons, which (depending on the issue) may or may not include the fact that others have campaigned on it before but nothing has been done about it.

So, to the candidates who are proposing these ideas that we’ve seen in platforms before, and to those who are proposing the more radical ideas: I’m curious to see where you could go with these proposals if you get elected, and I hope you make some good progress on them if you get the chance.

After all, no one has proposed changing the pizza.

Updated 2018-02-09: I misinterpreted the issue on building accessibility, notably excluding houses from the discussion. Carleton uses some houses (Henry and Bird come to mind) for administrative offices, even though they were originally residential homes before Carleton bought them. This candidate is proposing improving the accessibility to these buildings.

Update 2019-02-17: Even a year later I continue to learn new things about some of these, especially building accessibility, notably that Laird is not accessible by ADA requirements.

Posted by Tate Bosler