Campus talks prompted by party theme

By Emma Gallegos

The “politically incorrect” party held Jan. 16 has provoked nearly two weeks of continuous networking, letter-writing and, ultimately, plans for broader, campus-wide dialogue to take place in the Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.The executive members of Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) announced the forum in a Bulletin Flash this past Wednesday.

Jess Hasken ’07, who in her role as MCSG president has helped create this forum, said the issue has become “so much larger than a party.”

The whole community bears the responsibility of creating a climate for such a party, Hasken said. For example, no one has stepped forward or commented on the “white trash” or “pimps and hos” parties on campus.

In particular, Hasken said that the “white trash” parties disturbed her, because she grew up in a rural community. But she said that up until this point she didn’t feel like there was an appropriate venue for talking about these concerns.

According to Hasken, many students feel uncomfortable asking why certain stereotypes are so offensive and painful because they feel that, as Macalester students, they should already know and understand the history of these stereotypes.

She said that she is looking for input from Macalester community members about topics to discuss and how the event should be structured, even though she has worked with students, faculty and staff to come up with a rough outline of the way the forum will proceed.

For now, the forum will include an introduction by Lucy Forster-Smith, the college Chaplain, who will then facilitate a discussion. Event planners chose Forster-Smith in particular for her ability to facilitate discussions that will enable people with divergent opinions to voice them in a safe space.

Afterward, there will be a panel consisting of faculty, staff and students, ensuring that there are representatives from every aspect of campus life. This panel will include Dean Laurie Hamre, Dean of Race and Ethnicity Jane Rhodes and Hasken.

“Because it’s a campus-wide problem, it will require a campus-wide solution,” said Hasken.

Many students and student organizations are in agreement with this sentiment and met over the past week to discuss their concerns and draft the letter that appears in this issue of the The Mac Weekly on page 19.

Because of their broad concerns, Danielle Sigwalt ’08 and others who drafted the letter have shifted the focus away from specific individuals or costumes or even what happened within the bounds of the “politically incorrect” party.

Sigwalt said that the stereotypes portrayed at that party elicited concern from students and organizations far outside the bounds of Black Liberation Affairs Community (BLAC) and even the Department of Multicultural Life (DML), including Macalester Jewish Organization (MJO) and Macalester Martial Arts Club (MMAC).

“It’s symptomatic,” said Sigwalt, who is chair of Bridges and a member of Queer Union (QU).

The letter signed by student organizations states that the party is part of a “general trend on campus of insensitivity around issues pertaining to race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, religion and ability.”

Hasken has said that expanding a sense of responsibility to the greater Macalester community will be a key premise of Tuesday’s forum. She said that as long as she is a part of this forum “the focus cannot and will not be on specific acts of a group of students.”

After the main forum on Tuesday, Hasken said that she is encouraging people to participate in smaller forums on campus with the purpose of continuing the dialogue. The

Civic Engagement Center and DML will offer training for those who volunteer to facilitate these smaller groups.

Sigwalt and Sylvester Gaskin, Assistant Director of Campus Programs for Multicultural Life, both emphasized the need to continue talking about the issues brought up by the party.

Gaskin said that in his position, he has been a conduit between policymakers on campus and students, making sure that students’ concerns are heard, that information is shared and that everyone is getting feedback.

“We have to keep it going,” Sigwalt said. “Or else it won’t be as beneficial.”