Interviewed by David Andrews
Almost every day Ariel Filion can be found in the Upstairs Worner CCSGA office meeting with her fellow executives and student groups. As Vice President of Finance for CCSGA, Filion is driven by a desire to support student groups and cultivate community at Colorado College. The sophomore Education major hails from Chicago and is, of course, revelling in the Cub’s historic victory on Wednesday night in Game 7 of the World Series. Filion joined CCSGA as a first-year and was elected Vice President of Finance. In the position, Filion leads the finance committee and manages the $884,000 CCSGA budget.
David Andrews: You’re from Chicago? How long have you been a Cubs fan?
Ariel Filion: My family has been Cubs fans for as long as I can remember. When I was in middle school I tried to rebel and become a Sox fan and that just wasn’t acceptable in my house, so I had to go back and become a Cubs fan again. Even though I would always tell my family that we were terrible and haven’t won in like 104 years, but you know, the possibilities are endless. Look at where we are now.
DA: What was your college search process like? How did you end up at CC?
AF: I’m from a low-income area so not a lot of people go to college, so we actually have a scholarship program and it’s called Schuler’s Scholarship Program. They help low-income students and first-generation college students and minority students have access to higher education and kind of know what that is. We’re assigned a counselor and they help you through that process. I remember my college counselor saying ‘You should look at liberal arts colleges because they give really good financial aid.’ And I thought, ‘Liberal arts? I don’t want to be an arts major.’ I thought liberal arts meant like art school. My counselor told me ‘No.’ But my parents didn’t go to college so I didn’t know what they were talking about and they started with the basics. They sent me on a bunch of college visits and I really liked CC and really like the Block Plan and they were really generous in their financial aid. So all of it made sense for me and my family.
DA: What influenced you to join CCSGA?
AF: I did student government in high school, so that was the main motivator. I really like student government because I feel like you get to meet with a lot of important people and kind of learn the mechanics of the school that you’re in, and that’s what I wanted to do, learn more about CC. As I was in CCSGA it became more about how I can help the student body and how can this organization fuel community among the student body. It became more about other people once I got into it.
DA: Through your work with CCSGA, what are one or two things that you have learned about the school or how the “important people” work?
AF: I don’t know if that was the best word I used. I think last year I learned a lot about the different groups and organizations on campus and how many student groups there are, and how dedicated students are to these specific groups. Sometimes these groups and this group of people makes CC for them and their motivations within those organizations mean a lot to them. We have so many student groups and I didn’t even know some of them existed. I probably still wouldn’t know they existed if it wasn’t for CCSGA and getting to talk to students. That was the biggest eye-opening experience because you realize just how many different people you have on campus. This year, I’m VP of finance so I’m learning a lot about money and kind of how things are funded and the inner workings of the student activity fee.
DA: Could you talk a little about the student activity fee? What is it? I heard that it was recently increased?
AF: The student activity fee hasn’t been increased in about three years and the last time it was increased it was increased by five dollars. So you can imagine a lot of things were outdated in terms of inflation and just things that money can be allocated towards. They started to need more money.
I work really closely with the Business Office. My finance committee has been working a lot with proposing an increase to CCSGA and we got the increase passed last week and they’ll be meeting with the budget committee to try and present that increase, but whether they take that, that’s on them. My committee made this proposal and this proposal was not ‘oh, let’s raise it because we should raise it.’ It was very intentionally done and the ways in which we met with different groups on campus to see the ways in which this money could be allocated. That was my number one concern when my finance committee was like, ‘yeah, we definitely should raise it, but where would that money go?’ So we met with Arts & Crafts and we met with Club Sports.
We’ve also met with Llamapalooza and other places that really want a budget increase. I’ve been meeting with students and seeing where they want their funds and student activity fee allocated and a lot of people say Llama. So we looked into where Llama is spending their money.
My finance committee doesn’t want CCSGA Finance to just be a funding body. We don’t want to just be giving out money, we want there to be a lot of voice behind it and a lot of reason. Talking with students and meeting with student groups is what we’ve been doing in regards to raising the student activity fee and why we chose to raise it. It was definitely out of necessity.
DA: Do you feel like you’ve had doubts before in the past about this $848,000 number and if these things individually make up an important enough part of CC to merit $1 million, when there are people talking about financial aid at CC, and diversifying the student body, and just the other things that money could be going towards at CC?
AF: Definitely this number is huge and it’s only going to get bigger. I definitely have opinions on what the student activity should and shouldn’t be. As a student mostly on financial aid I can definitely say that almost all of these things besides CCSGA and Llama and the Butler Center Formal, which I didn’t go to but I definitely should have, I don’t do a lot of these things. I do play IM’s though. But the point is it’s easy for me to say that I don’t want my student activity fee to go to Club Sports because I don’t play a club sport. My committee and I have been meeting countlessly with the captains of Club Sports and that office and just seeing how much athletics matters to students, that matters to me. If it matters to students, it matters to me and it matters to my committee.
I could say easily that I don’t want my fee to go to some of these things because I don’t participate in them and the fact of the matter is that some CC students do and like I said with the student groups and organizations, that makes CC for them.
With something like the student activity fee, you’re not going to be putting your money towards everything that you like and that’s just something that a student activity fee does. This number is huge and some of the things may not make sense to me or make sense to you, but it makes sense to somebody and we could go find them. I don’t want to take anything away from that.
DA: What is the larger purpose that you and the Executive Council sees outside of the most obvious, surface-level purpose of giving money?
AF: Definitely that’s how CCSGA is known on campus, if we’re known at all. You come to us to get money.
It’s weird for me because last year I was on CCSGA but I was just a freshman representative so I didn’t interact with a lot of students and now being put in this financial position I meet so many students that the rest of Exec and Full Council doesn’t have access to, and that’s because they want money. I get to hear what students are interested in when they come and ask for funds.
When we were in goal-setting at the beginning of the year my concern was that I didn’t want CCSGA Finance and Finance Committee to just be money. I didn’t want to just kind of be a giant ATM. I want there to be discussion in regards to: why is this event happening? Or this event is super cool, how can we help? Or trying to go to these events or get Full Council to attend these events. Every Full Council meeting I’ll announce the events we funded and say ‘If you’re interested, here are the dates.’
Trying to get a Full Council presence at the events that we are funding is really important just for students to see that CCSGA cares about the events that we’re funding. The ideal is that students feel comfortable coming into that back room and asking for money and they don’t feel that I’m in some weird power hierarchy. And I don’t want that. I’m just a student too. So it started there for me: let’s create a comfortable space and introduce ourselves and see why we’re here. And that’s a goal for CCSGA as a whole, to make a comfortable space and see how CCSGA can help voice student concerns to administrative powers.
We have meetings with Dean Edmonds and Rochelle Mason and Bethany Grubbs constantly, and when we meet with these people we want the voices from the students to lead these meetings and the conversations we are having. It’s hard when students don’t feel comfortable coming to CCSGA with their concerns or when they don’t know that CCSGA even exists.
We’re trying to be there for students this year. Annika [Kastetter] is killing it. We’re doing these blockly themes where last block the theme was “Safe Spaces and Healing Spaces” and we had different groups come in and talk to us about their concerns. There’s a project coming out of that where they’re making a documentary. The co-chair of EQUAL and co-chair of AMAN are making this documentary to put a face to safe spaces.
This blockly theme is gender dynamics and power politics. So we’re having a dinner that’s open to the whole student body and it’s like a dialogue lunch. We’re having a professor present on the topic and we’re just trying to get students to engage with these hard topics to see if they want to do something with us.
DA: What sort of academic study invigorates you? What kind of classes do you like?
AF: I’m an Education major and people sort of find that interesting when they find out that I am VP of Finance because, I don’t know, some guy last year was like ‘Should you really be handling the money if you’re not an Econ major?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, I think I’m fine.’ I love Education classes and and that’s why I’m an Education major so I like little kids, dealing with students, that’s kind of my area. I also really love Sociology classes and Sociology classes, but like REMS classes. The best class I’ve taken at CC was Immigration on the US-Mexico Border. We went to Texas and it was fantastic. The professor was Eric Popkin. I think the best part about it was being in such a hands-on learning environment. We all worked in a family detention facility and we prepared people for their CFI, which is their Credible Fear Interview, before they can continue on with the asylum process. We worked at a detention center for families and children and we got to speak some Spanish and I like Spanish. We just kind of heard people’s stories and that’s what I loved the most about the whole thing. Sociology classes and Education classes you really get in there and you get a story. I love stories and I love hearing people’s stories. I’m in the process of hopefully writing a Venture Grant with someone from my class.
DA: What is something you believed strongly in five years ago that you have changed your views on?
AF: I’ve learned a lot about identity, and I think that my ideas about identity have shifted in the last five years. I feel like when you’re in high school you’re molded, and I can talk about the high school system for the rest of my life, because I just do not like the system of high school in general. In high school you are kind of programmed to look at yourself in one way. You are looked at immediately from the entrance of high school and you kind of know where you are going to end up after high school. It’s funny because my friends and I wrote down on pieces of paper our freshman year where we thought we would be after senior year, and almost all of it was accurate. Some of my friends were like ‘I’m going to be at community college.’ When we were writing it down freshman I remember saying, ‘No. We can do this together.’ And them saying, ‘No Ariel, there’s no way.’ A lot of my friends go to community college now back home. It’s pretty common to go to community college back where I’m from or don’t go to college at all. I remember reading what people wrote down and reading them again senior year and how accurate they were. I guess my views about how people view themselves has shifted. A lot of things play into how people view themselves, if that makes sense. A lot of my friends knew from the beginning that they wouldn’t go to college out of state because they had to take care of family members or something. It’s just a responsibility they have. Or they wouldn’t be able to get a job at so and so because of past things that they’ve done. There are so many things that go into making your identity that I didn’t know about and am constantly learning about. Your parent’s education levels, your race, your gender, your gender identity, your sexuality. All of these things go on top of who you are. It’s a constant learning experience for me. I’ve learned a lot at CC about privilege and the privilege I have because I’m white. My mom’s Mexican, but I’m white. I mean, you can see me, I’m white. Learning about all of these things that come with different aspects of your identity that I did not know about and learning about privilege and white privilege has been interesting.
TC: When was the last time you laughed until you cried?
AF: The only thing I can remember is I was driving first Block Break in the Grand Canyon with my two closest friends and we were talking about Snoop Dogg and my friend was like, ‘Oh, you mean Snoop Lion?’ And I was like, ‘No, Snoop Dogg.’ And she was like, ‘No, he changed his name to Snoop Lion.’ And we had zero signal because we were in the middle of the Grand Canyon. She kept saying, ‘No, it’s Snoop Lion, like he changed it.’ And me and my friend were just dying saying, ‘No, that’s not real, you are stupid. Snoop Lion is not his name.’ And she was like, ‘No, he moved on up, now he’s a lion.’ So we were dying laughing in the middle of the Grand Canyon because of this Snoop Lion sh-t.