Building a better Mac: this semester and into the future

By Owen Truesdell

The beginning of a new year and a new semester provides a chance to set priorities and goals, for individuals, for groups, and for entire communities. As the Macalester community begins another semester in the deep freeze of Minnesota, we as students should take a moment and set goals for ourselves and for our campus community. Last semester, the Build a Better Mac initiative served as a place for students to come together and discuss issues that were important to students and the broader Macalester community. We discussed the divisions between student-athletes and non-athletes and between domestic and international students, the lack of interaction between students outside of the academic disciplines, and the lack of diverse political discourse on campus. These conversations began the process of building a stronger Macalester. This semester, in addition to holding more open community meetings, Build a Better Mac will be encouraging students, faculty, and staff to personally engage with questions of political diversity and civil dialogue between individuals of all political persuasions. Peter Fenn, trustee and founder of a political communications firm, said it best: “Macalester students can set the example for true engagement between people of different ideologies and points of view by bringing speakers who embody differences and encouraging the free exchange of ideas inside and outside the classroom.” In this spirit, Build a Better Mac, Mac GOP, and Mac Dems will be co-sponsoring a dinner and community conversation with conservative political thinker and columnist Reihan Salam on Thursday, February 24th. This event will be a chance to hear from an established figure in the conservative movement and discuss with fellow students our own opinions on politics and life. By sitting and sharing a meal with other members of the Macalester community and having civil debates about controversial topics, we can set a positive example for all who seek positions of leadership in our society and around the world.

In the wake of the horrific shootings in Tucson, Arizona over the January break, there have been scores of calls for increased civility in the realm of politics, and rightly so. As a community that has espoused values of civility and tolerance since its founding, we must use this tragedy as a chance to recommit ourselves to the values on which this college was built and has thrived. Students should be the ones to do this. It is our responsibility to live and practice our values; tolerance, respect and openness to new and different ideas must be more than words on our admissions materials. We need to actually practice them on campus in order to live them once we leave Macalester. The event on the 24th, while politically focused at face value, is not just for Political science majors or those interested in American politics and civil political dialogue. Rather, it is an opportunity for Macalester students, faculty, and staff to practice the values we preach so often.

As classes begin and old habits are reestablished, let us a ll take a moment to decide how each one of us can make Mac a better community. However you as an individual can contribute to improving life on Macalester, it’s important that we each take a small step toward that better community. The Build a Better Mac initiative, which will hold it’s first meeting of the semester in the Weyerhaeuser Boardroom from 1-3pm on Sunday February 13th, will continue to be a place where students can find others willing to work on eliminating the divisions between students on campus, but building a stronger campus community begins and ends with each one of us and the decisions we make. A truly collaborative, student-led effort to build a better Macalester will ensure that Macalester remains a place where all points of view can be heard and respected. As current students, we owe it to ourselves and to future classes to undertake this effort.

Owen Truesdell ’11 is the President of MCSG and can be reached at [email protected]