On Tuesday night, MCSG dealt with appeals by three student organizations who came to defend their proposed budgets to the Legislative Body, resulting in several lengthy and tense conversations. The Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) had the task to cut nearly $80,000 from the proposed budget for 2014-2015, resulting in cuts for many student organizations, including the Macalester Jewish Organization (MJO), Thistle and The Mac Weekly.
MJO, represented by Ronit Zemel ’15 and Noah Westreich ’14, came to appeal the decision to cut three of their events for next year, including their annual orientation brunch, Hanukkah party and Purim basket making. The FAC refused to fund the Purim event because the baskets are resold after the event, a process which conflicts with the committee’s bylaws.
The other two events remained a topic of discussion for a considerably longer period of time.
“We’re trying not to fund events that are happening during orientation,” said Jessie Shields ’15. The Hanukkah party was also removed from the budget because the FAC saw it as something that would work well with the Department for Multicultural Life’s “In The Kitchen With…” program.
Zemel and Westreich cited the fact that MJO events consistently draw a large number of students, whether they are Jewish or not, and that the orientation brunch and Hanukkah party were both important events that the organization had put on successfully in the past.
“We’d like to benefit the whole campus community,” said Westreich, who added that working with the DML to put on the Hanukkah party had not worked in the past.
Zemel asked the FAC to show some consistency, as they had been able to fund these events in years prior.
“We just sort of hoped we could structure [the budget] very similarly again,” she said.
Another issue that was brought up was whether or not the orientation brunch would even be allowed to happen, as MJO had not yet sought approval from Campus Programs.
The motion for the budget to be amended to include both the orientation brunch and the Hanukkah party did not pass, but SOC chair Maddie Arbisi ’14 proposed a new amendment in response, suggesting that the budget be changed to include only the Hanukkah party. The amendment passed, and was immediately followed by a separate amendment proposed by Annie Gurvis ’15, who suggested approving funding for the orientation brunch in the budget.
“I feel like it’s a critical event for the population it attracts,” she said.
Despite the overall length of the discussion, the amendment to pass the orientation brunch separately did not pass.
Thistle was represented by Rachel Seidner ’16 and requested reconsideration of the publication’s budget on the grounds that there had been a misunderstanding between one of the org’s co-chairs and the FAC liaison. The FAC had thought that Thistle would be splitting and becoming a new org with a different charter because a member of Thistle had been considering starting a new org based on writing workshops.
“We were concerned with whether it would be a separate chartering,” said FAC chair Ellen Washington ’14.
Seidner explained that while Thistle would plan on working closely with the new org, it would not be creating a new charter.
“Thistle will still be an org, and because of that we will still need money for our magazine,” she said. The original amount that had been requested for the magazine was $630 for two publications. Another concern that rose from the budget request was the size of the org’s membership, as orgs with membership under 10 people are considered non-budgeting organizations.
“We’ve been rebuilding our org a little bit,” Seidner said.
In the end, it was suggested that half of the amount be added to the budget. The amendment passed to give Thistle $315 to put out their publication.
Tensions rose considerably when The Mac Weekly appealed its budget allotment. In an effort to be more sustainable and to follow the MCSG constitution more closely, the FAC decided to cut media orgs with budgets over $1,000 by 15 percent.
Joe Klein ’16, both an MCSG member and News Editor of The Mac Weekly, represented the student newspaper.
“We would have to cut probably four issues per year,” he said, explaining that simply printing fewer copies per issue would not be feasible. The company The Mac Weekly uses to print their paper requires a minimum of 900 copies per issue, and printing 1,000 copies is more cost-efficient because of scale.
The FAC had hoped that The Mac Weekly would be able to make the switch to a more sustainable printer in order to reduce the number of extra newspapers being recycled. The discussion grew heated as some members of the LB defended the publication while others noted the importance to the whole student body of bringing more sustainable practices to campus.
“We shouldn’t be making cuts on the basis of a hypothetical change,” Vice President Rothin Datta ’16 said.
“We want more orgs to be conscious of how to be sustainable,” Washington said. “We’re trying to be sustainable overall.”
The initial vote to restore the budget cut was denied, with two abstentions from Merita Bushi ’14 and Klein making the vote 11-11. A motion to reconsider the amendment was immediately proposed by Datta. Chief of Staff Ian Calaway ’16 had to shout for order as the meeting erupted, members debating the merit of Bushi’s abstention and the process of reintroducing the amendment.
After a tense roll-call vote, the amendment finally passed. Later in the meeting, the overall budget for 2014-2015 also passed and was made available for the student body to see the following day.
MPIRG contract introduced after long wait
The MPIRG contract, which has been in the process of renegotiation for the past two weeks, was also introduced to the LB on Tuesday for approval next week.
“We’ve spent many hours on this,” President Kai Wilson ’14 said, enumerating the various changes that the informal committee between MCSG and MPIRG had created for the contract. Those revisions included a new stipulation that MPIRG would meet with its SOC liaison twice a semester, that the next referendum will be held in 2017, and that the number of students needed to sign a petition to bring forth a new referendum on the contract will be 15 percent. A more formal commission will also be created for the next renegotiation process, which will include four MCSG members, four MPIRG members and the MCSG president.
Danny Surman ’14 was there to represent the views of the students who opposed the referendum, saying that he was disappointed that the opposition had not had the chance to sit in on the informal commission and give input.
“Those of us who were opposed to the contract…weren’t really approached,” he said. “I can’t help but feel burned in a certain sense.”
The contract will be voted on by LB next week and, if it passes, will be sent to the MPIRG board for approval.
The end of the meeting was used as a time of reflection on what had been another long and stressful meeting. Several members brought up their disappointment at the process that the LB had gone through that night to approve the budget.
“While we can be proud of what we did, I don’t think we can be proud of how we got there,” Konnor Fleming ’15 said.
The meeting ended in silence after a few words from Dean of Students Jim Hoppe.
“I’m glad people are voicing things,” he said. “Community’s tough, and it takes a lot of work.”