At 8 a.m. on Feb. 28, MCSG President Malik Mays ’19 announced that Blair Cha ’20 won her victory in the MCSG Presidential election, having beat Ryan Perez ’20 in MCSG’s executive elections last Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 25 and 26. Cha took just over 60 percent of the 838 votes cast.
Cha attributed her electoral success to those who have supported her throughout her time at Macalester.
“I just know that I wouldn’t be here without the … multiple people that touched my life through my time at Macalester,” Cha said. “Especially female leader[s]. “Without them, I wouldn’t have dreamed big,” she continued.
Cha’s campaign focused on supporting and empowering marginalized students on campus and increasing mental health resources. She said she will continue this mission into her presidency.
To achieve such systemic change, she believes the culture of MCSG needs an overhaul. She hopes to redirect the Legislative Body (LB) towards implementing programs and creating tangible changes to improve life for students on campus.
“I think another big part of that is having the energy and motivation to continuously pressure administration and the campus leaders to actually make change happen,” Cha said. “Ideas are great, we discuss at MCSG every day, but even we have a problem of just discussing ideas, and to make it work we have to have the connection with campus leaders. They’re the ones [who] make it happen.”
“I am the representative of the student voice, and it’s up to me to make it happen,” she continued.
Cha says that, in the past, she’s had plans to make campus a better place, but she never felt like she had the capacity to implement her ideas.
“There are so many things that I was aware of but didn’t have the capacity to do,” Cha said. “Hopefully this year, I’ll be able to focus attention on those more.”
Cha also brings experience to the position. She has served as MCSG Vice President since fall 2018, during which time she has championed bills and initiatives like Open Pantry, the Menstrual Hygiene Project, Safer Sex at Mac and the Professional Clothing Drive that work to support and empower marginalized students as well as improve student life. Now, Cha is looking forward.
“I want to make more room for new initiatives,” Cha said. “The important part is not restricting ourselves to any existing [initiatives] or feeling we’ve done enough because there is certainly room for more.”
One of her main goals is reducing sexual violence on campus. Cha also wants to raise awareness of the struggles that survivors face.
“I am coordinating a group against sexual violence and prevention outside of MCSG,” Cha said. “We gather together every Sunday and talk about ways we can create a healthier campus, but I think it’s more than just sexual violence, I think it’s actually addressing the core problem of supremacy, and people’s entitlement in the school and people not feeling appreciated.”
Cha believes that organizing small group communities to discuss sexual violence allows for a more intimate space for people to learn from each other about the issues and to comfort students who have experienced trauma.
“There definitely needs to be a student-gathering committee or identity collective for those who need a safe space for those issues and really look into the issue internally rather than pointing at the admin. I think we first need to figure out what [are] our priorities.”
Addressing mental health issues on campus is another one of her top priorities. “Raising the issue of mental health to professors and asking them to be a little more patient with students and accommodating [about] mental illness,” Cha said. “Professors could definitely do a better job acknowledging what kind of language they’re using, what kind of culture they’re creating in their classrooms.”
In Cha’s eyes, respecting and supporting students’ mental health is intertwined with teaching.
“Being an instructor also means protecting students’ mental [health] issues,” she said.
As President, Cha also hopes to focus on eliminating racial discrimination and biases in classrooms. Inclusion, acceptance and awareness are all tenets of her mission to make Macalester a more unified place. Cha would like to see more collaboration between the administration and student leaders to strengthen an inclusive campus atmosphere.
“The school tends to avoid issues like racial discrimination in classrooms, addressing those [issues] and actually coming up with a plan until a student forms a group to act upon these issues,” Cha said. “It’s up to [student organization] leaders to comfort their group members, comfort the students and fight for their accommodations.”
As President-Elect, Cha is deliberating the current MCSG controversy surrounding the student activity fee. Recently, MCSG members have spent time during their meetings and the annual Spring Retreat in February discussing how to define the fee, and if it should be used for equity and inclusion programs or solely for traditional extracurricular expenses, like funding new student organizations.
Cha believes that, although there is controversy surrounding the definition of the student activity fee, the LB should focus discussions on other topics during their weekly meetings.
“It’s a student activity fee, it’s purposely not defined because it can be allocated to be used for everything,” Cha said. “Why do we have to choose between giving this money to [student organizations] or equity programs? Why not both? I think it can be used for anyone who needs it.”
Ultimately, Cha hopes that students feel like they belong on campus and that their concerns are being heard and acknowledged.
“I want everyone to feel appreciated,” Cha said. “You are cared for, and people care about students here. Your voice matters.”