As the semester ends, the long term future of Macalester’s MPIRG chapter is still undetermined. However, immediate efforts by students are focused on preserving and securing the student org’s funding and accessibility to resources for next semester.
“We are working hard to find an alternate funding mechanism that is acceptable to both MCSG and the state-wide MPIRG Board,” Akilah Sanders-Reed ’16, co-chair of MacPIRG, said. “Discussions about a long-term solution have started and will continue during next semester.”
A proposal stating the amount of money needed to maintain Macalester’s MPIRG chapter was drafted by MPIRG’s Executive Director along with other board members. MacPIRG presented the offer to the Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) as an additional allocation for review during their Thursday meeting. (Editors’ note: the FAC meeting took place after The Mac Weekly went to print.)
If the FAC makes a recommendation on an organization’s additional allocation, MCSG’s legislative body must vote to approve or deny the request. In this case, that vote would take place at their final meeting of the semester, Tuesday, Dec. 9.
“We have advised MPIRG to do this if they want funding for next semester,” Rothin Datta ’16 MCSG President, said. “But this is a quick fix, [and] we will need more comprehensive conversations to figure out the future for MacPIRG.”
If no funding is approved for next semester, MacPIRG will not exist as a chapter of MPIRG at the end of the calendar year.
“Additional allocations are the only funding MPIRG is allowed to receive under our current charter, without a contract,” Sanders-Reed said.
This Sunday, MPIRG’s Board of Directors meeting will occur at the University of Minnesota, and a main topic of discussion will be the future of the Macalester chapter.
“We have requested that the MPIRG Board grant the Macalester chapter ‘exceptional circumstances’ and recognize us as an operating chapter with the additional allocations funding, as a good-faith measure of support while we try to find an alternate funding mechanism,” Sanders-Reed said.
The MPIRG state organizations bylaws state that “the Board can, upon a clear showing of exceptional circumstances, contract with a school using a weaker financing procedure.” A three-fourths vote of all directors will be required to approve a contract based upon these exceptional circumstances.
Normally, unstable funding structures like the additional allocation would not constitute a chapter of MPIRG, because it is not sustainable for the statewide organization.
If the additional allocation funding request is denied, it is possible that the Board will agree to suspend their bylaws and permit Macalester to be an operating chapter through the end of next semester only. If no sustainable funding model is found by the end of next semester, the affiliation with the statewide organization will most likely end completely.
Samuel Doten ’16, an MPIRG Board Special Delegate, is confident that MPIRG will make an exception for this semester.
“The likelihood is rather high because we are in the middle of an academic year, and approval would just be for this semester. Long term solutions would still have to be evaluated,” Doten said.
If the MPIRG Board agrees to grant Macalester “exceptional circumstances” and recognize the chapter through next semester, Jenny Hunken ’16 (Board Secretary), Andy Timm ’15 (Board Vice Chair), Patrick Blomgren ’17 (Macalester Board Rep) and Samuel Doten ’16 (Board Special Delegate) will all be allowed to keep their positions on the MPIRG Board. If the Macalester chapter of MPIRG ceases to exist, those students will no longer be able to hold Board positions, vote at the Issues & Actions conference that decides MPIRG’s platform and priorities, or receive staff time from the statewide organization.
However, MacPIRG’s task forces will still meet, at least through next semester.
“Something we have already decided is that all task forces will continue to meet, but it’s true that we will get no help from a campus organizer,” Doten said. “And when we look at past events like Environmental Justice Week and Hunger and Homelessness Week, all those events had credible and well-known panelists at them, and the reason we got them on campus was solely because of the resources available through MPIRG. Without MPIRG we don’t have access to the same resources and it will be difficult for us to put on the same scale and quality of programming.”
However, Doten feels that students on campus aren’t necessarily opposed to the additional allocation funding model.
“People vocal on the opposition [to the referendum] were clear it wasn’t about criticizing the work MPIRG does. They mainly had issues with the funding structure and with the contract,” Doten said. “Many suggested that MPIRG should get money through the additional allocation model like any other student org.”
MPIRG members, such as Doten, recognize the additional allocation as a short-term solution, since it is unlikely the state chapter would continue to make exceptions.
“Our ultimate priority is to keep a relationship with the state chapter,” Doten said. “These are people we know and people we have a connection with.”
As for the future, the student body can only initiate a referendum to address an action taken by the MCSG Legislative Body, so a new referendum would have to be called by MCSG.
“Given recent events [a new referendum] is not a viable option at this point. It will be up to future generations of students to potentially revisit the idea of a contract,” Sanders-Reed said.
“For now, we are focused on trying to find another solution that would not require a contract or referendum.