Last spring, Old Main lawn hosted public discussions of income inequality at Macalester. Some students expressed concerns about the 42:1 wage ratio, which means that the highest salary at Macalester is forty-two times greater than the lowest. People from both sides of the issue took the microphone and in the end, MCSG passed legislation to reduce income inequality at Macalester.
Some points from the resolution include data about Macalester’s “growing ‘slope problem,’ wherein expenditures are exceeding revenue, tuition is projected to increase 3.5% annually over the next ten years,” and “senior staff income has increased by 6.6% on average…since 2005.” The resolution calls upon administration to reduce the wage ratio to 18:1 by the year 2020. It also resolves to renegotiate subcontracted employees, such as those working in Café Mac or the Highlander bookstore, to earn the minimum pay of $14.17 per hour that Macalester allows for its staff.
In an interview, President Brian Rosenberg said, “We work very hard to ensure that we are compensating employees fairly and constantly benchmark against the workforce outside Macalester.”
Rosenberg’s salary has played a major role in the discussion. “I’m in a public position and a legitimate topic for public discussion,” said Rosenberg. “My hope always is to be an asset to Macalester, but others must be the judge of that.” As for the 18:1 wage ratio, Rosenberg said, “I don’t know what data that goal is founded on. I don’t know if it is achievable.”
In response to concerns about repairing Macalester’s growing “slope problem” through a three-year residency requirement and cuts to study away expenditures, Rosenberg said, “Any move to a three-year residency requirement is only in the earliest stages of discussion. Simply put, we don’t have nearly enough beds for such a requirement. My goal, if we were to add living space, would be to add space that students would want to live in and not feel forced to live in. As for study away, there are no plans or proposals to cut expenditures, simply a hope to reduce the rate of growth through more careful vetting of available programs.”
The debates last semester on Old Main lawn drew attention because of their visibility and the number of people representing both sides of the issue who stood up to speak. Income inequality has revealed the engagement of many people in campus issues, whether they spoke in support of the President’s salary or against it. Rosenberg said he has “no strong feelings about the legislation. MCSG has the right to explore any questions that it finds important.”