Cleveland, Ohio native Malik Mays ’19 will be the next MCSG president, beating Andy Han ’19 and Jed Buchholz ’19 in a three-way race for the position as MCSG held its executive elections for the 2018-19 school year on Monday and Tuesday.
Mays, a first-time candidate who has not previously served in student government, took 56 percent of the more than 900 votes cast to win in the first round of ranked choice voting.
For Mays, the decision to run for the student government’s top job was years in the making.
“When I first came to Macalester, it was great in comparison to my high school,” Mays said. “It was everything I wanted it to be. It was the inclusive, diverse space that I was told about. But when I realized that it wasn’t what I thought it was, or what I was told it was when I was applying, that’s when I thought, ‘okay, something has got to change.’
“It took me a long time to finally get the confidence in myself, my own identity and my own space at Macalester where I fit in. But with the walk-in, talking at that… it felt necessary to [get involved].”
Han, who has served on MCSG since the start of his sophomore year and just saw his proposal to end the publication of the college’s Dean’s List passed by MCSG, finished second with 34 percent of the vote. Having lost the election, his time in student government is coming to an end.
“I have done my part in serving the Macalester community,” Han said. “It’s time for others to contribute.”
Buchholz, who was an unsuccessful candidate for vice president last year and was a late entrant in the presidential race, won only nine percent of the vote. Buchholz is a running back on the football team and serves as vice-chair of Mac GOP.
Mays, for his part, has been preparing to take the reins. He has been attending MCSG meetings this semester, and planning for what might come next year. Increasing communication between students and faculty, especially around issues of race and identity, is a priority.
“I’ve had to talk about race my whole life,” Mays said. “So of course it comes easy to me. But for some of my professors, they haven’t had to do that – especially if the class is about chemistry, talking about race is probably not the number one priority.
“But for me, I want to at least acknowledge that these things happen,” he continued. “Because when I walk on the street, I’m a black man first. No one is going to know that I’m a chemistry major at Macalester.”
That became especially clear in Nov. 2016, when Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.
“After the election, there were all kinds of feelings that I had,” he continued, “and it would have been great if a professor could have said, ‘we have something to do, but I see you, I see what’s going on. If you want to talk to me about something other than this assignment, my office is open.’ It’s just showing that they are aware that makes the biggest difference.”
Mays is working on bringing student panels to speak about their experiences with race on campus and mental health to faculty meetings in the coming months.
He is also aiming to introduce a mentorship program to connect younger and older students from similar backgrounds and with similar interests. He plans to be in contact with the admissions department and Department of Multicultural Life (DML).
Turnout in all races was up from last year, when just 750 students voted in the presidential election. This year, more than 750 votes were cast in all six of the college-wide elections.
The ebullient current MCSG president Suveer Daswani ’18, who spent several weeks encouraging students to vote, was pleased with the turnout.
“We’re certainly seeing an increase in student engagement and involvement with MCSG,” Daswani said. “I’m excited to see what’s next.”
In another departure from last year, no races required a second round of ranked choice balloting.
The closest of the six races, for the vice presidency of MCSG, was won by Blair Cha ’20 with 54 percent of the vote compared to the 44 percent secured by runner-up Marco Hernandez ’19.
Other winners included Sahra Abdirahman ’19 as Student Organizing Committee (SOC) chair, Taneeya Rele ’19 as Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) chair, Soniya Coutinho ’19, who won an uncontested race for Program Board (PB) chair, and Kofi Ofosu ’19, who was resoundingly elected AAC chair.
In addition to the Executive Board, MCSG got several new class representatives this week. Kristijan Peev ’19 will represent his class, Jordanna Palmer ’18 hers, through the end of the school year. Neither election was contested.
The executive elections were originally slated to happen a week ago, on Feb. 19 and Feb. 20, but were postponed after the death of Matias Sosa-Wheelock.
The new Executive Board will begin its service next August. Mays, for one, is eager to get to work.
“As I’ve talked to more people on an individual basis and in different groups, a lot of people understand that there are a lot of ways in which the Macalester they applied to is not the Macalester they are at,” he said.
“It’s not that Macalester isn’t great. I love Macalester. It’s changed who I am, for the better. But it’s because I love it so much that I have hope that we can be better.”
That hope dates back to Mays’ experience of applying to and arriving at the school in the fall of 2015.
“When I applied to Macalester, it was the idea that we’re not just an elite liberal arts school that’s small, but that we’re different,” he said. “Right now, I don’t feel that. Honestly. But I want there to be someone in this position who cares, who really wants to change – so some day I can tell someone who is asking me as a prospective student should I go to Macalester, ‘Yes. Macalester isn’t just any small liberal arts school, it’s a place where we want inclusive and diverse community. [Where] professors really want to talk to you about who you are as a person before who you are as a student. Where you really feel supported. It’s somewhere that is different.’
“The thought of that is just exciting.”