The second Cornerstone Forum, held on the evening of Tuesday Feb. 27, featured Vice President of Administration and Finance David Wheaton in the Harmon Room of the DeWitt Wallace Library.
The forums – organized by Mara Steinitz ’18 and Malik Earle ’18 – are meetings that aim to promote conversation between students and administrators.
Wheaton, who has been at Macalester for 16 years, began by handing out a colorful diagram highlighting his responsibilities as an administrator, which include the oversight of Business Services, Employment Services, Facilities and the Sustainability Office.
During the meeting, Wheaton spent several minutes discussing the High Winds Fund – money that Macalester invests in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood.
Initially, the college used the fund to buy, renovate and resell properties near campus. More recently however, Macalester has recently turned to investing in local businesses. Among others, the school owns the buildings housing Patagonia, Pad Thai and Breadsmith.
“It helps us a lot with the relationships with the neighbors and businesses,” Wheaton said. “It’s a great thing for the college and we pay a lot of attention to the neighbors.”
Recently, the college used High Winds Fund money to purchase the empty plot of land at 1661 Grand Ave., across the street from Patagonia. Macalester now owns the entire block.
In the past, the administration has considered sealing off Macalester St. and turning the area into a new quad. But according to Wheaton, there are no current plans for the property. It will likely serve as extra parking for the construction crew working on the new Theater building for the foreseeable future.
Wheaton also addressed concerns about making Macalester a more accessible community for diverse students and staff.
“I’d say that in my world, the place where some of those questions come up most are staff hiring and staff attention,” Wheaton said.
“I think our staff is probably not as diverse as it could be.” Wheaton said.
During the Forum, Wheaton discussed rising tuition, the endowment and the Board of Trustees.
As the meeting adjourned, Wheaton thanked the students for attending. He said that the Cornerstone Forums were a unique idea that afforded administration the opportunity to connect with students in new ways.
“I’d rather have more contact with students that isn’t structured,” he said.