This week’s MCSG meeting began with a presentation by seniors Andy Han ‘19, Erika Aguilez ’19, Min Hee Cho ’19 and Channelle Ndagire ’19. They introduced a resolution aimed at addressing the needs of undocumented students at Macalester.
The students targeted five facets of Macalester in their resolution – Admissions and Financial Aid, the Career Development Center (CDC), the Laurie Hamre Center for Health & Wellness, student programming and services, and legal counsel for undocumented students.
Their proposal included adding a full-time staff position to support undocumented students, more mentors in the CDC to help undocumented students with their specific career needs and programming to support undocumented students during and after their time at Macalester.
“A lot of this has been started from the ground up,” Ndagire said. “There’s been a lot of us asking, and receiving, which is great, but nothing that’s actually structured.”
“We do have a staff person from the DML [Department of Multicultural Life] but, again, there is no distinct separation of programming between undocumented and first gen students.” Min said.
According to Ndagire, the group wants the Legislative Body (LB) to endorse their resolution to expedite the process of getting their resolution pushed through to the Board of Trustees.
The LB will vote next week on the proposal.
Next, Student Organization Committee (SOC) member Jason Kohn ’20 introduced a proposed amendment to the affirmative action statement in the MCSG Constitution. Kohn pointed out a “glaring omission” in the statement of students with disabilities, indigenous students, and students of varying religions and socioeconomic statuses.
“In conversation with various other parties, including friends, the DML with [Director of the Lealtad-Suzuki Center] Jason Jackson and posting to the [class of] 2020 facebook page, we continued to notice these other identities that were missing from our statement,” Kohn said.
Kohn clarified that the proposal needed a two-thirds majority in the LB to pass. The proposal would then move to the rest of the student body, where it would need majority approval to be ratified.
The LB will vote on the amendment in next week’s board meeting. If they approve the change, the referendum will be on a ballot later for a student vote.
Next, Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) Chair Taneeya Rele ’19 presented proposed changes to the Financial Code. These alterations would decrease by 10 percent the amount of rollover funds Program Board receives from the reserve fund. In addition, funding for The Mac Weekly and WMCN’s would be listed as a part of the Financial Code instead of in a separate document.
Furthermore, the new Financial Code would also require that all student orgs meet with FAC liaisons to discuss budget requests. In the future, overspending or misspending funds would lead to disciplinary measures.
“Next week, we’ll be voting on these changes to the Financial Code,” MCSG President Malik Mays ’19 said.
Mays then segued into a discussion on the use of the student activity fee – a continuation of the LB’s discussion during the spring retreat last weekend.
Academic Affairs Committee member Ryan Perez ’20 and Kohn introduced a proposal to create a permanent infrastructure within MCSG to support student equity programs such as the Open Pantry and the Graduate School Admissions Test program which help alleviate financial stress for low-income students.
Perez wants to create a committee within MSCG to deal with these programs and to serve as student advocates to administrators.
“The idea [of having] a group of students permanently dedicated to interacting with the administration on the behalf of students seems ideal to me,” Perez said. “I do want everyone to agree that we’re missing this infrastructure.”
But these programs are currently run by other committees, and LB members raised questions about whether or not it is beneficial to switch over leadership.
Matt O’Brien ’19, a guest at Tuesday’s meeting, expressed frustration and anger at the lack of support from MCSG and Macalester’s administration for low-income students at Macalester. Members of the LB agreed.
“To me, it’s very important, not even the structure of how this happens, but the fact that we are actively putting money that the LB has into programs like Open Pantry which I have been working on with [MSCG Vice President] Blair [Cha ’20] and the SSRC [Student Services & Relations Committee].” SSRC member Em Friedman ’21 said. “It’s also frustrating to me to see those things failing to find funding when there is plenty of funding for things like Climbing Club.”
Others echoed concerns about apathy in the discussion of equity programs that allow low-income students to afford to attend Macalester.
Following this discussion, Strategic Planning & Analysis Committee member and Program Board Chair Soniya Coutinho ’19 presented the findings of the report on student housing at Macalester. The report explores the possibility of developing the recently-purchased vacant lot at 1661 Grand Avenue into additional student housing.
The report revealed that most peer institutions house a much larger proportion students on campus than Macalester does. Macalester houses less than 60 percent of students while its peer schools house a median of 95 percent.
The report demonstrates that the high cost of living on campus influences a majority of upperclassmen students in their decision to move off campus in their third year.
It also revealed that students were overwhelmingly strongly opposed to a third year residency requirement.
“To clarify some misconceptions about the report, there are no decisions that have been made … it’s just an exploratory report of what [1661 Grand] could look like,” Coutinho said.