This week’s meeting of MCSG’s Legislative Body (LB) – hosted in the DeWitt Wallace Library this week – began with a presentation from new Dean of Multicultural Life Marjorie Trueblood about her role and perceptions of Macalester thus far.
“Coming to Macalester and thinking about what this dean position should be about is thinking about setting a collective vision for inclusion, equity and maybe multiculturalism, and how we can more so live into those values here,” she said. Trueblood detailed three projects the Department of Multicultural Life (DML) has been collaborating on with other members of the Macalester administration this year.
Those projects include increasing cultural organizations’ involvement with the DML, expanding mentorship programs on campus and establishing a standard procedure for responding to hate incidents.
After Trueblood finished her presentation, Community Engagement Officer Fatiya Kedir ’21 asked Trueblood what she thinks is missing from the existing campus dialogue relating to diversity and multiculturalism.
“I think, within the Macalester culture, there is an aspect of perfectionism that comes up – which some people might say is a symptom of white supremacy,” Trueblood said. “So within that perfectionism, people are afraid to be vulnerable or to admit that they don’t know something.
“Even when we’re having a dialogue or creating spaces for people to connect or talk to one another,” she continued, “people are afraid to speak up because they might be afraid that they don’t know enough about that topic or that if they do say something they might say the wrong thing.”
After Trueblood departed, the LB dove into a discussion about Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), the student group that is aiming to launch a divestment campaign on campus as part of an international campaign for Palestinian rights.
The LB denied JVP a student organization charter at MCSG’s last meeting, citing its similarities to student organizations Macalester Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (MacSUPER) and IfNotNow.
Members of the LB were also concerned that JVP would be using its portion of the student activity fee for off-campus events, like transportation to a national conference, that do not serve the larger campus community.
This week, members of JVP, JVP Twin Cities, MacSUPER, IfNotNow and Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) attended the MCSG meeting to express their support for JVP’s student organization charter.
JVP co-chair Adelaide Gaughran-Bedell ’21 began the discussion by highlighting the differences between her group, MacSUPER and IfNotNow.
“An incredibly important part of JVP is divestment – that would be our main concern as an organization,” Gaughran-Bedell said. “IfNotNow is a national organization, and nationally IfNotNow does not support divestment, which means IfNotNow cannot file a divestment campaign.”
“MacSUPER is primarily an education-based group that is trying to change the way that this campus specifically is thinking about the Israel-Palestine conflict” she continued. “We absolutely support MacSUPER, but we have a more national connection.”
JVP could also call on the support of the other two organizations. “IfNotNow seeks to end of American Jewish support of occupation, and my understanding of JVP is it is more on the ground for Palestinians,” IfNotNow leader Ari Jahiel ’19 said. “That’s not the focus of IfNotNow.” JVP also mentioned that it would both engage students in activist opportunities in the larger community and involve themselves in JVP Twin Cities lobbying efforts.
“[Rep.] Betty McCollum, who represents this district, sponsored the [H.R.] 4391 that would require the government to withdraw aid from Israel that is used for the purpose of incarcerating children,” JVP Twin Cities member Barry Cohen said. “We’ve been working with the other congressional members [from] the state of Minnesota, actually three of them have signed onto the bill” In addition to filing a divestment campaign, JVP may also request funding to bring in speakers and sponsor a book club for students to read books, specifically memoirs, related to Palestine. Some members of the LB still had questions for JVP and its purpose.
“Insofar as you’re a divestment org, I think that’s super unique, it fits all of the requirements and it gives you the ability to fundraise,” MCSG member-elect Ryan Perez ’20 said. “My concern is that when we bring in book clubs and speakers… [could they be brought] through the other orgs?”
Gaughran-Bedell said that while JVP would be happy to collaborate with MacSUPER and IfNotNow to sponsor events, the other two groups would likely not support speakers who favor divestment or the BDS movement because they either do not support or do not take a stance on the issue.
“If two groups are focused on bringing people who advocate for Palestinian human rights to this campus, that is a good thing,” a MacSUPER board member said. “We need more discussion [about] Palestine on campus.”
JVP plans to request an organization charter again next semester.