Over the past year, several recent Mac alumni have followed the controversy regarding Macalester’s banking relationship with Wells Fargo, brought to light by the students involved with KWOC. Although the alumni we have spoken with have a variety of perspectives on the issue, after reviewing the administration’s response and KWOC’s reaction, we all agree on one point: it’s time to move on.
We agree that KWOC’s initial actions represented the values of Macalester students; the students promoted the use of activism by challenging institutions with a final goal of improving our community. In response, we believe the administration fully investigated the claims asserted by KWOC and re-evaluated the college’s banking relationship with Wells Fargo, while maintaining total transparency and dialogue during the process.
Unfortunately, instead of furthering civil discourse with the administration, the members of KWOC increased their protests, resulting in greater disruptions of campus life, such as the Weyerhaeuser sit-in. As discussed in a Mac Weekly article published on April 27, the actions of KWOC resulted in harassing calls to President Rosenberg and other administrators and led college employees to consider filing “hostile work environment” claims.
We believe the administration provided a fair evaluation of KWOC concerns prior to their April 22 decision, yet President Rosenberg and David Wheaton graciously agreed to meet with the student leaders of KWOC again on April 26. Although the administration had made their decision prior to this meeting, they came ready to engage in further discourse with the students. Rather than approaching the next meeting with open minds and a willingness to compromise, the students remained inflexible.
After this meeting, we continue to agree that the administrators have been overly considerate of the small group of students who claim to represent the views of a wide range of individuals. The actions taken by KWOC may have been justified in an instance in which the administration was completely unresponsive to student input, but they are an inappropriate use of civil disobedience given the current situation.
Not only are the members of KWOC ostracizing community members who disagree with their viewpoints, they are now also alienating those who share their concerns. Although the group may have initially represented a sizable group of students, alumni and community members, their tactics have substantially reduced support for their cause and ultimately have detracted from the overall issue. Additionally, their lack of civility and refusal to concede undermines the credibility of future activism led by Macalester students.
Consequently, we believe it is time for these students to acknowledge the significant effort put forth by the administration to address their concerns and recognize that it is time to move on to another cause. The leaders of KWOC should not consider this outcome a defeat, but instead an opportunity to demonstrate the maturity of Macalester students by appreciating the administration’s willingness to consider multiple viewpoints and responding tactfully to intellectual resistance. Now is the time for them to recognize that communication and compromise will always achieve far more than rigidity and antagonization.