Macalester’s student government isn’t the only local political organization looking for student representatives. If you want your voice heard outside the infamous Mac bubble, consider running for the recently established student seat on the Board of Directors of the Macalester-Groveland Community Council (MGCC). In the likely event that you are the only student to appear at the board meeting when your special election occurs, you may even elect yourself.
MGCC, one of 17 district councils in the City of St. Paul, is a non-profit organization serving the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood, which encompasses the area bound north-south by Summit and Randolph Avenues and east-west by the Mississippi River and Ayd Mill Road.
At its annual neighborhood gathering held in the Smail Gallery of Olin-Rice on March 9, MGCC announced several new board seats: one designated for someone renting in the Macalester-Groveland area, another for a landlord renting out residential properties in the area and one for a college student attending a school in the neighborhood.
The new seats were proposed by MGCC’s Inclusivity Task Force, which was formed in November 2015 to address several gaps in the representation provided by MGCC’s board members. The task force found that most MGCC board members were homeowners, most were middle to upper class and that men outnumbered women. There was a lack of representation of people under 24 years of age, of those ages 45 to 54 and of people of color.
“We started to have an interest to make sure that we were as representative of the neighborhood as we could be, and that we were being as inclusive and as welcoming to all parts of the neighborhood as we could possibly be,” Liz Boyer, the executive director of MGCC, said.
The Inclusivity Task Force also proposed that making MGCC meetings more understandable would make them more accessible; at the annual neighborhood gathering, community members present voted to change the bylaws in order to move to a simplified version that would be easier to navigate and less intimidating to newcomers.
While the new student seat is formally written in as a three-year commitment (the same duration as any other board seat), MGCC will hold a special election in the event that a student vacates the spot before a three-year commitment is up.
“Frequently people leave in the middle of a term and then we have a special election, so any student who comes to us shouldn’t feel like they’re making a three-year commitment. We want them involved as long as they can stay involved. If they can be involved for three years, great. If it’s less than that, we totally understand,” Boyer said.
The time commitment for board members includes regularly attending board meetings, which are usually held the second Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m., attending biannual board retreats, volunteering at at least one MGCC event per year (one example being the annual Frost Fest celebration) and serving on one of the Council’s committees or task forces. The committees are Housing and Land Use, Transportation, Community Building and Environment; each meets monthly.
Why should students get involved with MGCC? As one Macalester alumna, Kayla Walsh ’16, said: “There’s a huge opportunity to communicate your Macalester ideals with the Mac-Groveland community.” She added, “It’s easy to expand campus projects into community projects.”
Walsh was directly influenced in her career path by an internship with MGCC in which she and other Macalester students worked on a sustainability program that pushed for organized trash collection in the City of St. Paul. Walsh now works on statewide composting and recycling programs for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, a path that her internship with MGCC directly influenced. As she wrote in an email, “Working with MGCC gave me hands on organizing and research experience. My deep level of involvement with local community members inspired my work.” She also wrote: “As an informed citizen, you have more control over the decisions that affect where you work, learn, and live. Not only that, you feel bolstered by your fellow community and you have the opportunity to engage in lively debate and learn from others’ perspectives. I’m much more engaged in community events and I’m able to celebrate and appreciate Mac-Groveland’s accomplishments.”
She also pointed out that MGCC decisions directly impact Macalester students. “MGCC is a conduit to your city council-member, a place to get involved in local policy-making, a place to volunteer and give back to your community and a platform to voice your agenda. MGCC can be your key resource to help you get involved and make tangible change happen in your backyard.”
Boyer hopes a student representative would “provide a bridge” between the campus and the larger Macalester-Groveland community. She said students should get involved with MGCC as “it’s a great entry point to influence major decisions.” According to Boyer, with MGCC, “We have the latitude to really make a direct influence, which is a powerful draw, I think, for anybody.”
Students should not be intimidated by the MGCC election process. “At our regular board meetings, we frequently don’t have anybody in the audience – it’s just our board members. So if a student were to present him or herself for the student seat, they would essentially vote for themselves,” Boyer said.
Students interested in the board seat can contact Liz Boyer at [email protected] for more information or appear at a meeting to run for election at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 13 or Thursday, May 11 at Edgcumbe Recreation Center at 320 South Griggs Street. Open seats will already be listed on the meeting agenda in the event that someone does appear.
Students can also sign up to receive an biweekly email newsletter from MGCC by sending an email to [email protected] or check out the MGCC website at www.macgrove.org.