Last week The Mac Weekly sat down with Suveer Daswani ’18, President of the Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) for the 2017-2018 academic year. The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
The Mac Weekly: You’ve been involved in Student Government since your first year. Why are you so committed to MCSG and what change do you believe the organization can affect?
Suveer Daswani: The one thing that really keeps me going is the ability to interact with students across campus, so not just like a monotonous nine-to-five job for example. It’s much more interactive than that. It’s really given me the opportunity to feel the pulse of the student body, and to actually work with students on issues, and to know that I’ve played a small role to make a difference in even the smallest way possible has been something that’s really been the driving force behind why I’ve decided to stick on every year.
TMW: Can you speak on Macalester’s stance on becoming a test-optional school, and perhaps your personal stance on that issue?
SD: Last semester MCSG passed a resolution to make Macalester test-optional, and that resolution was passed. I voted in favor of Macalester going test optional. It was a unanimous decision, and I was one of the members who voted for it. The last I heard about test-optional, I know it’s something that has not been forgotten, but it’s something that the administration is hoping to bring to light later this semester, or later this year, once the logistics and the setting up of the academic year […] and the beginning year pace settles down. So yeah, I don’t think it’s the only solution to increase representation within Macalester, but I definitely think that it’s one step towards achieving the broader goal of representation.
TMW: I believe you expressed interest in bringing back alumni from previous years, from times of political strife, to campus. How do you think that will help the student body in consideration of the totality of today’s political climate?
SD: It’s an idea that’s a work in progress. It’s something that I haven’t structured one hundred percent. I’ve spoken to a couple students who have expressed interest in working with me on the project, so I’m hoping to rope them into the process and structure it a little more. But, the broader goal, I’d say, is equipping students with the tools to engage in conversation, in dialogue, especially after they leave Macalester because I feel opinions outside of Macalester are different than those we see on campus.
TMW: Continuing in that same vein of student involvement and engagement, in March 2017, there was a News article that claimed that low voter turnout “reflects disconnect and lack of representation in MCSG.” Do you agree with this assessment? And what is being done to foster more student involvement in order to remedy this perceived disconnect with the student body?
SD: That’s definitely true to some extent. I would say it’s not the full puzzle. I’d say it’s part of it, but another part of the low voter turnout is also that students just don’t know where to vote, or forget that it’s as easy as reading the ballot in their emails; I think that a lot of students don’t check their emails. They receive the emails, but a lot of students are not mindful enough to actually read every one that they get, especially when it’s like a blast that’s sent out. It’s oftentimes ignored, and there are so many times when I’ve had questions as to where I vote when it was sent in the email early in the morning. I also think that early in the morning, you get at least 5-7 emails from stores or news updates or from other departments. The morning is a pretty busy time […].
Another big piece that explains the low voter turnout is also lack of accessibility in the election process on both fronts. Students can be held responsible, but I also take responsibility, or we take collective responsibility as well, and how can we make the election process more accessible for students. Maybe we could have an incentive system; maybe we could have a physical voting booth outside the CC or in the Harmon Room of the library where students can see that there’s something going on, and they can personally come there and vote so they feel more invested in the process and also see something tangible happening.
TMW: Can you speak to me about your “Panini with Your President” idea?
SD: Absolutely… I had forgotten about that. To give a little background, when I was running my presidential campaign, the panini press was taken away from Café Mac, and so I was running my campaign on the “I’m going to bring back the panini press.” Now, that wasn’t my be-all, end-all goal, it was just one way to attract the student body. It’s interesting to think about because the day I was elected, or a couple days just after that, the panini press was brought back to Café Mac. I’m not gonna say if I had a role in that or not. It could be coincidence. It could be fate. It could be just a matter of luck, but the fact of the matter was that I was elected, and in the span of the time, we got the panini press back.