Candidates seek to spark further interest in MCSG

By Taylor Uggla

As Thursday’s student government elections approach, candidates will focus on how MCSG can better respond to student concerns. Results will show whether student involvement will increase or remain stagnant.

This year’s presidential candidates, Jess Hasken ’07, Natalia Espejo ’07, David Boehnke ’07, and Kyle Wortman ’09, are trying to bring students closer to MCSG after a tough year. The additional allocations fund was nearly emptied early in the year and multiple people resigned, including the chair of the Financial Affairs Commission and several Legislative Body representatives. The Legislative Body has had at least one vacant seat for most of this academic year.

Candidates’ stated issues of interest are varied, ranging from multiculturalism and diversity on campus, residential life responsibilities, and plans for building renovations for the athletic facility and the Fine Arts complex.

Hasken stated that one of her goals for next year would be to implement more programs that affect everyone on campus, not just a select group of people. In her opinion, the Newspaper Readership Program, which supplies the New York Times and other newspapers to the student body for free, has been one of MCSG’s most successful accomplishments. “I think it’s important to reach everyone,” she said. “I want to create several more programs like this.”

In terms of increasing student involvement, Hasken believes that word of mouth is the best way to engage people. “There are certain groups of students who are involved in several activities, and other students who you never see outside of class,” she said. “I think that this is a perpetual problem at Macalester, and through talking to people, change is possible.”

All candidates acknowledged a problematic gap between students and representatives, and expressed desires to transform MCSG into a program that is more easily accessible to people not formally involved. Boehnke proposes a training program that if elected, he would work to administer. The program would focus on first-years, but would still be available to all interested students, and would simply exist to help people learn about Macalester politics and how the system works. Participants would be directly informed of ongoing campaigns and committees in order to receive information more easily. Boehnke also aims to invest in more long-term planning in order to distribute MCSG plans earlier, thus increasing student awareness.

“I just think that right now, people don’t feel that connected to MCSG because they’re not feeling impacted,” he said, “but if they feel affected by what we’re doing, they’ll contribute more.”

Espejo observed this same disconnect, and said she wants to receive and enable more student input, especially comprising the issues that affect Macalester students most. She voiced concern for projects such as the new building efforts on campus, and expansion of gender-blind housing—in her opinion, it is just a question of letting students know that their representatives have the ability to help them voice their thoughts. Espejo also said that she believes student interest comes in ebbs and flows, noticing that people seem to be more involved when bigger issues such as need-blind admissions are at stake.

“People connect with MCSG when they really care about the issues,” she said. “One of my goals is to bring forth issues that interest everyone. However, I do think that this is a problem that does not exist solely at Macalester. In fact, I know of some cases where it is worse. All we can do is try to improve our position, and I’m ready to get started on that.”

Despite these aspirations, many students still feel removed from MCSG events and decisions. Thekla Bacharach ’08 expressed concern with some of the program’s goals. “People don’t care because nothing noticeable ever happens,” she said.

Ben Billick ’08 said that he thinks some of MCSG’s goals, such as multiculturalism, are far too lofty. “I wish that our representatives would bring forth issues that could be resolved in the short-term as well, and I would feel more connected if the steps being taken were better explained to me,” he said. “I’m also disappointed in the similarities of the candidates. It seems like they’re all the same people but in different packages.”

Other students have voiced similar concerns. Nick Reynolds ’06 said that he would like to see MCSG adopt projects that are more tangible to the student body. “I think one area that hasn’t really been covered is student leisure and recreation,” he said. “There need to be more activities and places available to students when they want to take a break from studying. The only place on campus that students can go to is the game room, and I think a lot more could be done in that area.”

Reynolds also suggested that MCSG regularly publish their propositions and issues in the Mac Weekly. “This way, students would be able to know exactly what was going on, and MCSG could receive a lot of feedback,” he said.

Wortman was not available for interview.