What were your expectations of the Macalester community before you arrived on campus for your first year?
Christian Smith: I thought that it was a really friendly place, that there was really great relationships between students and faculty and staff that were authentic and close. I thought there were good relations between students from different class years, which often isn’t true in high school. I thought there wasn’t a lot of drinking. I thought it was kind of a hippie school and in general I thought that there would be people with a wide variety of experiences in terms of where they’re from geographically, their religious beliefs, their ideas about the best policies to implement and just the experiences that they had in general.
How did your perception of the Macalester community change after you arrived on campus?
CS: There was a lot more drinking than I had anticipated. I think that was the biggest disconnect between what I was expecting and what was actually the case. And I realized that it isn’t really a hippie school. Macalester is a school with a lot of people who strive for social justice and a lot of people with liberal ideologies, but I don’t know a lot of hippies at Macalester. But it is like I expected in terms of a really friendly and warm place with a strong sense of connection.
How has the Macalester community changed since you’ve been here?
CS: It is hard to tell what is the community changing and what is me changing and what is me spending time in different circles, but I do think there is a greater overall sense of awareness about gender identity that wasn’t present when I first got here. Like my first year floor was so confused about the idea of gender pronouns when we did it at our first community meeting. At that time there wasn’t the gender-neutral floor in Doty, there were very few all-gender restrooms, but of course, there are a good number of all-gender restrooms. A lot of people I know do not identify as a gender that exists on the binary and I think that stating one’s gender pronouns has become more standard protocol than it was when I first got here.
What do you like most about the Macalester community?
CS: I love that other community members challenge me in a healthy way. Every day I have multiple discussions where my point of view is challenged by someone’s differing point of view, but the discussion is done in a very civil manner where we listen to one another and everyone gets something out of the discussion other than feelings of misunderstanding and frustration. I love that.
Do you feel like there is an acceptance of people having many different points of view here at Macalester?
CS: I do. I think that a lot of Macalester students do agree on a lot of issues. I’m not naïve about that. At the same time when the average Macalester student is presented with a perspective that differs from their own this standard response in my experience hasn’t been hostility, it’s been a healthy dialogue about the issue.
What do you feel is missing in the Macalester community?
CS: I wish there were more events on campus that were fun and energetic at night where there actually was a critical mass of people who were sober. I really appreciate things like Mac at Nite. I think they are really fun but they would be a lot more fun for me if I felt like most people there were not under the influence of substances that made them make unhealthy or disrespectful decisions. And then the events that I go to where there is a vast majority of sober people tend to be really small. And so growing the mass of people at those events would make this community even richer for me.
What do you expect from the Macalester community in your last year?
CS: I want people to make eye contact and smile at others when they walk by. I want people to sit with many different people at Café Mac. I want people to make investments in their sub communities, like their residential floors or their student floors or their academic departments, so solid communities form there as well. And I want faculty and staff to treat students like they’re humans just like everyone else and the students to reciprocate that treatment.
What do you want the Macalester community to look like in 15 years?
CS: I want to see really intentional efforts to increase systemic equity at the college. In particular equity for students of color and students of low income such that these students have genuine access to being admitted to and thriving at Macalester, instead of just a select exceptional few. I want to see professor promotions and tenure evaluations based more on teaching than on research. I want to see hardworking staff members like those in Facilities, Security, and in Bon Appetit deeply appreciated on a macro level.