Global citizenship vs. bare necessities?


It seems the naked people in the fall dance concert this weekend are hardly the only nudes on prominent display on this campus. Turns out the emperor-global citizen-student we see represented in admissions and donation materials likewise has no clothes.For all the rhetoric selling the college to alumni and the families of wealthy applicants as a hotbed of global citizenship, this week’s inquiry into healthcare on campus suggests we’re struggling on more basic priorities. These “global citizens” aren’t getting care-at least not on campus, and for many, at least not without considerable help from their families.

Turns out-for who could have known?-that the adequacy of available health services depends on the department’s budget, not the size or sleekness of the building that houses it.

No one’s asking for miracles, or looking a gift horse in the mouth. The limitations on our health services-the lack of a medical doctor, the overrun mental health counselors-are pretty standard for a college of this size. What’s more, we’re getting a second full-time nurse practitioner in January.

But such news, taken with the recently announced lockdowns on faculty searches for next year, it must be asked: On the broadest level, are administrators trading fundamentals – the number of faculty hires, size of departments, faculty quality and ideological diversity, range and accessibility of health services available to our students – for glossy new buildings and institutional structures designed to bring in wealthier students and attract alumni attention? Obviously this question implicates different pools of money (tuition as opposed to campaign, operating versus capital costs), but at the level of vision, priorities and institutional commitments, it persists. Does this make sense in terms of fostering any semblance of a progressive student-centered culture at Macalester? Does it even make sense financially?

“Global citizens” or otherwise, Macalester students don’t live in transnational bank accounts, boardrooms or sustainable design certifications. They live in their bodies. For most of their semesters at Macalester, they live here, as neighbors in St. Paul. They work with faculty-ideally the most talented faculty that competitive salaries, sabbatical schedules and pluralistic faculty communities will allow for-here.

This is occasion for administrators, faculty, staff and students to give pause, lest we lose ourselves (and our “clothes”) in selling ourselves.