In the 10th grade, I sent an email to the IT staff of my high school calling them communists. Specifically, I wanted to know why websites with flash games were being blocked. This, I had decided, was proof of an authoritarian state more like the ‘great firewall’ of China than the way a school should be run.
I don’t need to tell you I was wrong, just like how I don’t need to tell you my leading sentence (while based in truth)was semi-facetious. My misguided indignation produced a stern talking to and, once the stinging sensation you get when caught being an idiot faded, a more grateful perspective. Gratitude – and no small amount of concern – is why I have written this editorial.
I have watched as most of my friends and many of my peers organized to support two professors and one staff member near to their hearts. Lara Nielsen, Ping Wang, and KP Hong are beloved by more than a few lives they have touched in their time at Mac – and rightly so, I’m sure. With that said, I do not believe we, as a student body, are doing justice to our peers and to a balanced conversation on campus with our current course of action.
Before I go any further, let me say this: I have no intention of passing judgment on any of the three faculty members, or the chaplain position previously supported by the endowment, or the community members so committed to all of these things. I know – and deeply respect – that KP does not want to become a source of conflict or, for that matter, part of a broader controversy. My hope is not to approve of supporting someone who has supported you; an impossible, if not immoral task given its emotional weight. My goal is that we moderate the accusations against the administration, and in doing so support the generous people who sustain many of us.
My freshman year at Mac, I was ready to quit. My academics were the worst I ever remember them being, and the long-distance relationship I believed I could sustain into college was falling apart. I was falling apart. Macalester and its extensive safety net saved me. I was witness to a determination and concerted effort to help that continue to inspire and warm me, and I know I am not alone.
As the student director of MCEMS (the campus medics) I am uniquely privileged in my ability to care for the Macalester community. Not only is this an opportunity to positively change the lives of people I would not otherwise meet, but I can do so (for the most part) receiving the gratitude that comes with being a volunteer. All of us donate our time and resources towards sustaining Mac’s safety net with the comfort that comes from administration support and trust of our capacity to do so.
We are fortunate because, as volunteers, expectations are not placed on us in the same way they are of administrators; faculty, and student staff. Chances are, not only is your RA right next to me when one of their residents needs our help, but they are there for everything else day in and day out. The same is true for many faculty, ResLife, and administrators alike.
My concern is that, in the process of voicing what we have at stake in each of these three cases, we cause needless grief and even harm some of those who work hardest to protect and advocate for the student body. Direct messages to, and outrage expressed during MCSG meetings at members of the administration for their supposed role in your pain does no one any favors. As MLK said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
While we fight to preserve the things we love, let’s not forget the value of those who draw our frustration. Many of us don’t know how the faces of Weyerhaeuser feel. We have no idea how this affects those we don’t see—MCSG’s scribe, assistants on the second and third floor—who are no less wounded by the perceived outrage. I know that there are plenty of us who don’t express violence or fury at the human beings running our college, but I also know there are also threats and rage. We need to disagree under peace before we build more harm than we set out to prevent. As someone who has the privilege of working with the administration, I know I am wounded. I know I am not alone.