The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Change: it’s on us, not just Rosenberg

By Timothy Den Herder-Thomas

A number of my close friends signed the November 17 Open Letter to President Brian Rosenberg, calling for him to redress a wide number of grievances against the student body or tender his resignation. Last week, I found that some of my other friends had signed a counter petition, thanking our president for his leadership. While I tried to find a single name who had signed both petitions, I was, alas, disappointed. You see; President Rosenberg does a great many things in the week that promote the impoverishment of the global poor, strengthen massive domineering corporations, and sustain practices that threaten our entire society with ecological havoc. So do you on an average day.

‘But’, I can hear the protests coming, ‘we can’t help it – we’ve been forced to depend on global corporate exploitation, fossil fuel energy, and elitist education without our consent’. You were never given a choice.

Um … and he has?

Brian Rosenberg is a small fish in a very big ocean roiling with problems. Were Rosenberg to suddenly commit to the transformation of Macalester into an egalitarian community not complicit in global abuse he would be sacked; it would financially ruin Macalester, strip it of much of its ability to serve as a force for conscientious education and citizenship, and make it impossible for it to engage society. Rosenberg sits in Weyerhaeuser, but the Trustees, and more importantly the global society, call the shots.

What are our ideals if they have such foundations? What are our lives if they depend on global poverty and bio-spheric chaos? How can we accept a Macalester which requires these things to exist?

We can’t. So we better be building an alternative that will withstand the tempests we have sown. Cursing our selves sure doesn’t help, and it helps even less to start blaming our compatriots simply because they haven’t done better. I could yell at you for paragraphs for complacency, for accepting the opportunity to build your future while ignoring the global forces right at your finger tips robbing us of those dreams. None of those accusations would make a slightest bit of difference. Doing something about it does. But we have to be smart about it, since these kinds of problems are incredible adversaries.

Let me share an example very close to my heart.

I’m sure you are by now aware of the daily toll of our dependency on coal and oil; the deaths of soldiers in Iraq, villagers in Nigeria, rural folk of West Virginia, and citizens of New Orleans. You may have some comprehension of the end of suburbs, the choking of global commodity trade, the failure of modern agriculture, the flooding of the coasts, and the displacement of millions yet to come. I am desperate to reach you now, because I know you will see the collapse of your dreams if your future relies on a fossil fuel world, and the crucial time of transition we now enter.

Knowing this, and knowing that indeed this is not the future you want at all, should I go push President Rosenberg to abolish Macalester’s use of fossil fuels? It could be done; I could tell you how in an hour or two—although you might not like the logistical requirements. I could argue to our manager-in-chief that it is irresponsible to do anything else as we are contributing to the greatest challenges our society has yet faced—and that it is his responsibility to rectify this grave ill. And I would be right. And he would shoot down my proposal, stating that he cannot take responsibility for such a move, and that it would ruin the institution. And he would be right. And I could quite unhappily spend the rest of my days at Macalester trying to convince you that our administration is the seat of global injustice and elitism.

We can use the abilities of Macalester better. Much better. When I go talk to Rosenberg—note that students at most colleges aren’t allowed to do this—I try to treat him as a supporter of our cause. It changes the power dynamic, bringing our initiatives that alter infrastructure and engage students not as options but as realities, and ask for the institution’s official support when it can be most useful. We make the changes, and we invite participation—we constantly affirm that confronting this challenge is a job for all of us. Of course they really should do it without our prodding—the future of Macalester depends on it, but does that really matter? Most students would also stay put— even though they care.

I must admit I was initially tempted to write a third Open Letter petition for The Mac Weekly, one to rally students who want change built throughout and beyond Macalester both supporting and pushing for expansion of administrative engagement in transformative change. Then I realized that’s not what I wanted to say. This is not the citizens’ message to their managers; it’s an affirmation of participation. We’re Macalester students, and that makes us mighty at confronting the challenges of our world … if only we affirm that yes, we do belong at the frontlines, not because we have the intellect, or will get the skills here, but because that’s what we do.

Real transformation is fought in the mind—it is fought in the voice in this article, and what you take out of it. It is fought in affirming shared power when power is not assumed to be shared – and building solutions that embrace everyone. We don’t have much alternative; this is our only bright future; we’ve got global citizenship by the people staring us in the face, even as it is critically needed.

And while you’re at it, give my regards to President Rosenberg.

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