Presentations of student organization charters and budgets dominated this week’s meeting of the MCSG Legislative Body (LB).
The first organization to present its charter for consideration, Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), had previously been denied a charter at a Nov. 15 MCSG meeting. At that meeting, the LB cited two main reasons for denying the organization’s charter: first, JVP’s commonalities with other student organizations focused on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and second, the high cost of sending students to a national JVP conference in New York.
JVP co-chair Serena Touqan ’22 addressed concerns about JVP’s overlap with other organizations, namely Mac SUPER and IfNotNow.
“Mac SUPER is a cultural, educational org and there are many Palestinian students who are not able to engage in many political actions because of the safety of their family and themselves and being able to return to Palestine,” Touqan said. “It is not safe for JVP to work under Mac Super.”
While Touqan made clear that JVP was open to collaborating with IfNotNow, she said that organizational differences make it impossible for JVP to exist as a part of IfNotNow.
“IfNotNow has a different goal,” Touqan said. “Their target audience is the American Jewish population. They don’t take an official stance on BDS or Right to Return. For JVP, one of the biggest things is a divestment campaign and Right to Return, and that is just not something that IfNotNow does.”
Co-chair Saskia Sackner-Bernstein ’21 and JVP member Adelaide Gaughran-Bedell ’21 defended the merits of funding the JVP conference. The two attended the conference on their own dime this past year and learned valuable skills for effective organizing that they would implement back at Macalester.
“It’s really hard to be an activist without any formal training,” Bernstein said. “It’s hard to organize, it’s hard to know how to keep people safe, how to talk to the media, how to publicize your events, how to even plan [an] effective event, and this conference serves as a way to teach those skills.”
Following their presentation, representatives from Mac Autism brought their charter before the LB. Rob Stokes ’20 shared his story of struggling to find people who understood his experience during his first-year.
“It was a bit of social overload,” Stokes said. “I wanted to find people to relate to, and there was no one. It got depressing for me to not have people to talk to, and eventually, by junior year, I was like, ‘What if other people are going through this? What if other people on the spectrum would like to meet other people?’”
Jennings Mergenthal ’21 explained that Mac Autism was applying to be an organization rather than an identity collective so that all community members could join in conversations about neurodiversity. “As an identity collective, it would explicitly create an insular community for this identity, but it would not have an informative component,” Mergenthal said.
The representatives requested a budget of $600 to host an informational panel, buy film rights for a screening and fund an awareness campaign refuting falsehoods about a link between vaccines and autism. The last organization to apply for a charter was Mac Pep Band. Julia Ricks ’22 explained that having a band to perform at football, basketball and volleyball games would add a valuable component to campus life.
“Sometimes I feel like arts and sports are separate and to have that overlap is a really good way to integrate both communities,” Ricks said.
The LB then heard budget presentations from the 13 current student organizations requesting over $4,000 for their 2019–2020 budget: MacSlams, High Power Rocketry, Adelante!, Afrika!, Climbing Club, MCSG, Black History Month Committee, Mac First Aid, Mac SUPER, MacHack, Outing Club, Chinese Culture Club and Mactivists for Reproductive Rights. Climbing Club and Outing Club had the most expensive budget requests, each topping $18,000.
The LB will convene next Tuesday to vote on the student organization charters and budgets.