Groundwork for a new vision

By David Boehnke

Every problem suggests solutions, every negative new potentials. Below is a vision for Mac. It is not a complete perspective, nor solely my own, but a compilation of pieces to ground a collective effort. Unlike intellectual property, vision is real only if brought forth as something to be done, owned by those who take action. I see three fundamental procedural problems at our institution:

1) Stagnation: established procedures are held as the right way even though they have glaring structural problems–consider the excessive meetings attended by staff and the structure of MCSG.

2) A Lifestyle of Over-Commitment: Our whole community seems to run on a dis-equilibrium of stress and distraction. We need to find ways to do less in order to do things well, single-task: learn more, chill out, get more satisfaction.

3) A Lack of Vision: To propose anything new, staff must justify via US News competitor-school standards. Last week’s article on President Rosenberg’s Strategic Initiatives appears to base our future on these standards. Other visioning news' includes a boring increase in basic requirements from the faculty, a reduction in international student enrollment from admissions, and a still vacuous vision for the Institute for Global Studies and Citizenship. The voices with power on our campus do not represent the vision entailed in the college's mission or the goals of the campus population.<br /><br /> The status quo is not providing adequate vision, so here others' voices will attempt to formulate an alternative:<br /><br /> Empower silenced voices: It is currently marginalized voices that have the potential to revitalize this campus, students being a particularly important group. A student-life example: there is an unfounded assumption that all students are atheists, upper middle class, liberal, and white. How would students' education, culture, and future be enriched by empowering theists, non-suburbanites, thoughtful politicos, and un-USA-whities to have impact, shattering the current hegemony? Empowering underrepresented voices to improve campus would have similarly excellent results.<br /><br /> Budgeting: We budget our values. To see what voices are being heard consider how money is or isn't spent and who chooses. Our current failure to live out our values can be seen in funding inequities and the repeated clashes regarding access, curriculum, programming, etc; need-blind being only the most dramatic, recent, example. Also: no students sit on the Taskforce on Budget, or Board of Trustees.<br /><br /> Get out of US News and World Report: We need to get out. It handcuffs us to standards not our own, castrating our values and potentials. Getting out would boost our excellence, hotness, and conscience.<br /><br /> Admissions: Who we admit determines who we are. Can't get out of US News because no one has heard of us? Hire staff in admissions to, among other things, involve alumni and students in recruitment, particularly regarding underrepresented communities. This is complex and requires a process of listening and experimentation, but if we figure this out people will know who we are and want to know who we are.<br /><br /> Work-study: While the college is full of wasteful spending no other area wastes so much potential. Use it. We currently have one student hired to make our purchasing socially responsible, lets have 10. Administrative departments understaffed? Give them a team of students.<br /><br /> Independent internships: Relevant staff should have the power to give students credit for worthwhile/educational campus-action: institutional research, master planning, inequity uncovering, courses for incoming freshmen on leadership with MCSG internships, credit for execs or activists, etc. But regardless, students can create their own courses on whatever they want via independent study. Do it!<br /><br /> Institute for Global Studies and Citizenship: This should include a policy/research center to compile the expressed needs of Twin Cities communities and serve them viaacademic action.’ Make what students do matter and they will care for real. Sweet visions already exist, including alumni and community banking. Make this more than a fundraiser; hire staff to do the above.

Get alumni involved: Has this come up? We have a database of all alumni and what they’re doing. Explore non-checkbook possibilities, too.

Create a plan for curricular change: Every year there is a curricular controversy (currently [email protected] studies, remember Chinese, Comm, Russ, etc). It is time for long term planning on this shit so department hires are relevant to our values and not mandated by academic feudalism.

Set faculty/staff demographic goals: Faculty and staff are people too. If we are serious about creating an anti-racist community, and one that is attractive to diverse communities, we need to have specific goals and act to achieve them.

Physical spaces: Informal space, student space, spit-on-the-floor space, space to make people want to stay in the dorms, coffee shop, bar, tree-house, MULCH space, etc. It’s a budgetary matter baby.

Restructure MCSG: Are we a political unit or a bank? It is time to examine how we can become more effective and what we should fund.

Administratively sponsored action forums: Every year the administration should take 50-100K or, 10-30K repeated costs and say: “students, we want you to come up with plans to do THIS.” Create an independent-study class around it, or just a forum. In any case we could use one on multiculturalism or sustainable living now. Student ownership of campus life is crucial to our educational and financial improvement.

Environmentalism: Save $, good for our image and self-esteem, a no brainer.

Student Forum: An attempt to create a place to meet each other, have fun, build and enact student visions. This Saturday 2 p.m., Weyerhauser Lounge. Believe it. Questions? Read the newsletter, see MPKB.net, or contact [email protected]

Contact David Boehnke ’07 at [email protected]