Board of Trustees meets to discuss IGC, Winter Ball

By Jonathan McJunkin

The Board of Trustees held a series of meetings on Thursday and Friday of last week for the second time this academic year. They discussed a number of plans for the college and met with students to address Winter Ball, substance use and other concerns. On Thursday, the Board held meetings mostly dealing with confidential matters or internal affairs. The Investment Committee, the Committee on the Trustees and the Senior Leadership Committee—which evaluates the President’s performance and is only open to the trustees—all met in Weyerhaeuser Hall. Sara Peterson ’72 joined the Board this semester, along with Sandra Ortiz ’97 and Juan Rada who joined in the fall as this year’s newly elected members. Peterson is the Principal Counsel and Manager of Insured Litigation for the Bechtel Corporation in San Francisco. At the end of the day the trustees held a dinner in Weyerhaeuser to celebrate and reflect on the newly ended Step Forward capital campaign. “The two most important messages that were sent during that dinner was, number one, the work is not done—this is just another step in a long process,” said Igor Stanceric ’12, the student liaison to the Board. “Number two, it’s sort of a Macalester culture shift. We needed to learn to ask more.” Stanceric said that Step Forward was a shift towards a more proactive Macalester when it comes to donations. “[The fact that] previous capital campaigns involved amounts of up to 40 million dollars is a witness to this, because this is the first really large three-digit campaign we’ve run,” he said. On Friday the trustees met with more students and faculty at a series of committee meetings. The college’s Vice President for Advancement Tommy Bonner made a presentation on Step Forward at the Advancement Committee meeting and discussed plans for the future. “It is likely that in the next five years or so, the planning and the start up of a new campaign will happen, but they need to give a break to the donors now,” Stanceric said. “They have asked for a lot, and they’ve gotten it—we all need to recover.” Discussion at the Academic Affairs committee centered on EPAG’s recommendation to discontinue the Russian Studies department and the work of the General Education Requirements Committee (GERC). Patrick Schmidt, the head of EPAG, emphasized that the current faculty in Russian Studies would continue their work even in the absence of a department, and that the concern was with a lack of tenure lines. On March 20 faculty will have their final vote; they’ll need a two-thirds majority to reject EPAG’s recommendation. The committee discussed the feasibility of replacing the major with a concentration. Provost Kathleen Murray said that the initiative for such a change has to come from the faculty, not EPAG. “I think at this point, the faculty is immersed in this conversation first,” Stanceric said. “Depending on the outcome, they might start looking into other options.” Erik Larson—the head of GERC­—presented the committee’s new first year writing workshops and previewed their ongoing assessment of the writing requirement. On the same subject, professor Kendrick Brown presented troubling data that indicated a lack of writing improvement across majors. “That’s their challenge—to find some more data that would give them any kind of an idea of what they could implement…change to create some kind of significant change in writing,” Stanceric said. Student issues were also prominent at the Finance Committee meeting, on which Jacob Kunkel ’14 was the student representative. “There was some discussion of need-aware vs. need-blind admissions in the context of additional practices by which Mac could control the escalation of the discount rate [the average proportion of financial aid for students],” Kunkel wrote in an email. If Macalester continues to meet 100 percent of student need, the need-aware policy restricts Macalester’s ability to control the demographics of its classes, Kunkel said. “That said, President Rosenberg took a strong stance in favor of continuing commitment to the need-aware policies and the necessity of covering all demonstrated need,” Kunkel said. Stanceric made a presentation discussing Winter Ball and student behavior, as well as the Health and Wellness “Stop at Buzzed” campaign and several other topics, before the Campus Life Committee. “They were surprised about Winter Ball and the extent of the event and how negative an impact it had among some community members,” he said. Denise Ward, Lisa Broek and Lauren Martinez ’12—senior staff for Health and Wellness­—talked about student health behavior and use of alcohol and drugs. Reports indicated that Macalester students use twice as much marijuana as the national average, as well as more alcohol. Of men, 20 percent reported binge drinking within the last two weeks. However, Stanceric described the report as belying the myth of the universality of such behavior, and positive aspects of campus health were also discussed. Sixty-one percent of Macalester students get adequate exercise, and our amount of sleep is around the national average. The new Dean of the Institute of Global Citizenship Christy Hanson made a presentation at the Plenary Session, where current projects are discussed, and the Board discussed the IGC as a whole. Provost Murray and the trustees also discussed preliminary plans to switch the construction of the art building to HGA, the same firm that has been working on the music building. “At the May meeting we’re going to have a more intentional conversation about that,” Stanceric said. “Between now and then, [Provost Murray] and the architects can come back with more solid projections about what the space might look like and what the numbers might mean.” Stanceric urged students to be proactive about contacting the Board with their concerns. His email address for such requests is [email protected], and he holds office hours on Tuesday from noon to three in the MCSG office. Stanceric is also working to make the Board of Trustees website more interactive and trying to establish a forum for student concerns. He wants students to see the board as more accessible while easing the process of contacting board members. “At the end of the day, they are not these big scary people in suits. They’re just normal people who enjoy having conversations,” he said.