Board of Trustees chair holds office hours for students

By Matt Day

Macalester’s Board of Trustees is a mystery to most students. Mainly comprised of alumni successful in a broad range of fields, the Board is a body that many students know only as a gathering of important people in suits who run the college. In an effort to eliminate some of the mystique and inaccessibility of the Board, Rev. Timothy Hart-Andersen, interim chairman, chatted with students for two hours Oct. 23 in the Campus Center.

The event, advertised as “Sundaes with Tim” on sandwich boards and flyers distributed to every student post office box, was held in an armchair filled conference room.

Hart-Andersen greeted each student with a smile, a handshake and the greeting, “Hi, I’m Tim.”

Despite the timing of the event-during midterms-about 30 students came and went over the course of the two hours.

Attendance was good only because of the presence of the lavish Sundae bar provided by Bon Appétit, Hart-Andersen joked.

Jason Rodney ’10 started the conversation, asking, “What are the big issues for the board this year?”

Andersen detailed the board’s priorities, which he said include raising funds to finish the athletic facility, finalizing plans for the Institute for Global
Citizenship building and starting to plan for the renovation of the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center.

“Our focus is on [a] long range strategic plan,” Hart-Andersen said. “We work very little with the day to day workings of the college.”

After his explanation of the board’s workings, Hart-Andersen encouraged students to tell him what was on their mind.

“I’m a preacher,” he said. “I can talk all day long. I want to hear from you.”

Macalester’s students responded. Students brought up comments and criticisms concerning issues including diversity, sustainability, Café Mac meal plans, need-blind admissions and transparency within the college administration.

“He was very willing to talk about a wide variety of controversial issues,” Jessica Hawkinson ’08 said.

After a student raised doubts about the student body’s diversity, Hart-Andersen responded: “We think we have too few domestic students of color. The board has made it clear that diversity is a high priority.”

Hart-Andersen shared an optimistic view of Macalester’s future with students. “We want to make Macalester a good public space with good interface with the community,” he said.

Timothy Den Herder-Thomas ’09 ended the conversation on an optimistic note.

“There’s a lot to do,” he said. “But there are a lot of us that are doing it. All of us, faculty, staff, students, the trustees.”

Macalester’s student liaison to the Board, Blythe Austin ’08, said she was happy with the evening.

“I thought it went well,” Austin said. “It was good conversation between Tim and the students about our perceptions of the school. This was a great opportunity to put a face on the board.”

“He was down to earth,” Hawkinson said. “He seemed like a normal person. I think this helps us get a better feel for the administration.”

Hart-Andersen, a longtime board member and Presbyterian pastor from Minneapolis, was named interim chair following the resignation of Jeffrey Larson in July.

Hart-Andersen is planning on hosting similar events with other board members from around the Twin Cities, Austin said.