A majority of students voting in this week’s referendum chose not to renegotiate MCSG’s contract with MPIRG. The total number of students voting in the referendum was 1,229, with 501 voting in favor of continuing the contract with MPIRG and 727 voting against. While it remains unclear exactly what will happen to MPIRG on Macalester’s campus in the long run, the “No” vote on the referendum means that they will at least not be present on campus next semester.
“We are going to stop existing at the end of the semester and there’s going to be an interesting struggle after that. There will be at minimum six months of no MPIRG. Obviously in the long run we want to hope for the best, but we cannot do it alone,” MPIRG co-chair Miranda Adams ’15 said. “Obviously we’re all very upset. This is something we worked really hard on and MPIRG means a lot to us. We’re passionate about organizing and doing this work and we don’t want to have to keep wasting our time on this [issue].”
Comments made by MPIRG Executive Director Ryan Kennedy suggest that the organization will be working with MCSG and Macalester’s MPIRG chapter to find a way to fund the school’s chapter through MCSG’s Financial Affairs Committee (FAC), but that if no solution can be found, MPIRG will not be able to have a staff presence on campus.
“We’re sticking around through the end of the year in [the] hopes of working with MCSG to find a way to fund MPIRG through the FAC. If that doesn’t work out, it won’t be financially viable to continue staffing an organizer at Mac,” Kennedy said in a comment on the Macalester MPIRG Facebook page.
For their part, MCSG is devoted to figuring out a solution for Macalester’s MPIRG chapter, also known as MacPIRG.
“It is an absolute priority of this student government and executive board to maintain the most productive and positive relationship between MCSG and MacPIRG,” Student Organizations Committee (SOC) chair James Lindgren ’15 said. “It is our priority and responsibility to support these students in the best way we can. We don’t want to be an inhibitor to them doing the work they want to do, and especially the work they’ve already been doing. As we’ve seen in the last week or so, they clearly care about and are very invested in the work they do.”
The high turnout of this election demonstrates the passion that those on all sides of the issue exhibited. Sixty-three percent of the student body voted in the referendum, marking the highest turnout in any recent election.
“It’s the largest turnout since I’ve been here. It’s remarkable,” Lindgren said. “There was some fear that the amount of publicity it was getting would lead to some apathy, but it clearly didn’t. Students read up on [the referendum], figured it out and voted. It’s exciting to see that many students engage on an issue.”
Students did more than just vote on the referendum, as many on both sides were actively publicizing the vote and educating students. Both MPIRG and the opposition worked tirelessly, handing out flyers in the snow, chalking the campus and posting actively on Facebook.
“I think the bottom line is that [the opposition movement] may be something that Gabe [Garbowit ’15] and Timothy [Gondola ’15] and I [initiated], but beyond that there were literally dozens and dozens of people who started sending us messages and texts saying they wanted to help,” Elliot Averett ’15, one of the main organizers of the opposition, said. “It was like a snowball: maybe we pushed it off the hill, but it kept picking up and picking up and I think during the last few days there was nothing we could have done to stop it.”
Given how passionate students were about the referendum, it will be important to see how the campus moves forward. While it is still unclear how conversations between MPIRG and MCSG will play out, it appears the hope of all involved would be a scenario that allows MPIRG to stay at Macalester.
“I think the most important thing is that we not let this divide us as a campus,” Lindgren said. “We need to move forward as a student body. I would hope no one is opposed to that. I think that it’s going to be easy to not let this go for a while. I know that feelings are probably hurt, people are probably upset, and that makes sense, but I think as quickly as we can come together as a community to move forward, the better for all of us.”