Making plans for 'Matters'

By Marissa Warden

Community Matters has set a date for another day of conversation at the beginning of next semester. They held a meeting at the beginning of this month for anyone who was interested in joining the committee, but few people attended. They plan on holding another meeting in the near future to decide a theme for the forum and begin the planning process.The Community Matters Initiative aims to sustain a dialogue about important issues that are facing the Macalester community. Its organizers said it is the result of a continued interest in maintaining conversations with students and faculty about civic responsibility and diversity.

“The quintessential Mac challenge is building community out of difference,” said Franz Meyer ’09 an active member of Community Matters. “It’s crossing that divide which helps us become more cohesive at Mac, but practicing now helps us understand other perspectives for after we leave here.”

The Day of Change and Exchange, held in April 2007, was the first of these discussions. At the forum, held over the lunch hour, students sat with faculty and staff in small roundtable discussions to talk about being more informed and better community members. Students, in collaboration with faculty, organized this event in response to the politically incorrect party held in Jan. 2007.

At the party, themed “politically incorrect”, people were dressed in politically incorrect and controversial costumes. The news of this led to much debate, and the Day of Change and Exchange gave people an opportunity to respond to the party and also explore other issues facing the community.

Meyer said that his experience at the roundtable led to lasting relationships and open dialogue, which is why he wanted to create another Day of Change and Exchange, which was held last February. The response to that event was not as large as the first, but the “energy gained from the small group was meaningful and positive and we still built connections,” Meyer said. “The quality inspired us to continue.”

“We’ve made a sincere effort to respond,” Tommy Woon, Dean of Multicultural Life, said about listening to the students’ desire for more conversations about community and diversity. “What’s important is that we have a lot of opportunities to be more informed, and it’s important that we take advantage of those educational opportunities,” Woon said.

“We want this to be more of a grassroots initiative,” Woon said. “We want to survey the campus to see what are the issues that people want to discuss.”

Community Matters isn’t about the politically incorrect party, but about continuing the conversation since then.

“We don’t want to wait for something like the politically incorrect party to happen to do something,” Meyer said, “because ignorance breeds misunderstanding. Community Matters will help us move past these misunderstandings before they happen.