This week’s meeting of MCSG began with a moment of silence for Matias Sosa-Wheelock, a sophomore who died unexpectedly on the evening of Feb. 18.
After the moment of silence, the Legislative Body (LB) segued into an unscheduled, 30-plus minute discussion of mental health and mental health resources – or the lack thereof – at Macalester.
“We don’t have enough resources, and the resources we do have are inept,” Aidan Tepperna ’19 said. “There aren’t enough counselors on campus at all. Every spot is filled all the way through the semester.”
“It is true that we do not have the staff to meet the demand [for counseling],” Associate Dean of Students and MCSG Advisor Andrew Wells said. “Right now, they are definitely working at 110 percent of their capacity.”
Wells highlighted how differing health insurance plans complicate the process of providing care for students, and noted that – because it cannot keep up with demand – the Center for Health & Wellness has focused this year on providing group counseling.
There are seven counseling groups for the Spring semester, including a grief and loss support group and a sexual assault support group. The availability of counselors for individual work, however, is severely limited.
“I know that there are a lot of students whose insurance doesn’t cover out of state,” Shelby Witherby ’18 said. “If Minnesota isn’t their home, Health and Wellness is their only option. Because of that, I think it’s really important to urge Macalester to have a higher budget for Health and Wellness, provide more services or do something of that nature.”
Towards the end of this conversation, Fatiya Kedir ’21 asked Wells why Macalester held classes on Monday – in the most immediate aftermath of the events the night before.
“I was not part of or privy to any conversations about whether or not classes would be cancelled, so I don’t know whether that suggestion was ever raised or not,” Wells said. “My personal concern about canceling classes on Monday is that it would have left fewer people around and about on campus for those who needed community… A lot of the students I talked to in the last 48 hours said it was helpful to have that routine and to take their minds off their pain.”
Wells said that the college did notify faculty members who teach students directly involved in Sunday night’s events, as well as their work study supervisors, to request leniency with attendance and deadlines this week.
“I think it’s really important that we continue to have this conversation the rest of the semester,” MCSG Vice President Ariana Hones ’18 said. “I think it’s really uncomfortable to talk about, but I think it’s really important that we do right by Matias and everyone who is suffering with [their] mental health. There are solutions, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work.”
The meeting then moved ahead with its scheduled agenda.
The Financial Affairs Committee’s revised financial code was passed unanimously, before the LB heard a proposal to standardize end-of-semester faculty evaluations with the aim of providing consistent feedback on the diversity of their syllabi and their skill in fostering a respectful classroom atmosphere.
The streamlining of course evaluations may be proposed to the Educational Policy and Governance committee (EPAG), and an MCSG committee may be drawn up to discuss the broader question of how academic departments are serving students of color.
Dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship (IGC) Donna Maeda is currently leading two groups connected to improving the quality of classroom environments at Macalester – one that brings students and faculty together in conversation throughout the semester, and an educational course for faculty to create more open classroom spaces.
MCSG President Suveer Daswani ’18 said that he has been in conversation about forming a similar committee of students to engage in ongoing meetings with Provost Karine Moe.
Next, Sustainability Officer Molly Flerlage ’18 presented on the ten-year anniversary of the Sustainability Office. The news from Flerlage was largely good: the college has reduced its carbon output by 38 percent since 2009, and reduced its waste by 83 percent since 2008.
After Flerlage’s presentation, LB members split into small groups for a discussion of class representatives’ roles before MCSG President Suveer Daswani ’18 brought the meeting to an end.
After Sunday’s events, the MCSG executive election – originally scheduled for Feb. 19 and 20 – was postponed. On Tuesday night, after some consideration of a Wednesday-Thursday election this week, the decision was made to send ballots out early next week.
The campus, as well as the LB, is still in the process of grieving.
“Our job is really not to give out money, or sit in two-hour long meetings,” Hones said, “but to care for this campus, this community, and all of the people who are here.”