MCSG Class of 2013 Executives

By Shasta Webb

The Mac Weekly sat down with the Class of 2013 MCSG Executive Board members this week. Patrick Snyder (President), Ezequiel Jimenez (Academic Affairs Committee Chair), Kai Peterson (Vice President, Student Services and Relations Committee Chair), Kate Hamilton (Financial Affairs Committee Chair), and Will Johnson (Program Board Chair) spoke about the benefits and challenges of being student representatives at Mac. The Mac Weekly: How did you initially get involved with Macalester College Student Government? Kai Peterson: I was asked by Cailin Rogers ‘13 to run as a junior class rep and she said she would only run if I was the one who ran with her. I thought it over and decided to do it, and it’s been great. Will Johnson: I saw a table tent advertising cinema coordinators the end of my freshman year. I applied to be on Program Board my sophomore year and I was on it for two years, and this is where I am now. Ezequiel Jimenez: I served on the Board of Trustees, and then I ran as a junior rep for spring. Kate Hamilton: Sophomore year I was a student rep to the Board of Trustees for Academic Affairs Committee, and then next year I was asked to be the chair or Academic Affairs Committee for MCSG, so I did that. And this year, I was kind of asked to be the Financial Affairs Committee Chair. Patrick Snyder: I’ve been involved in student government since my first year. I initially got involved because I was overwhelmed by all of the things there were to do on campus. I wanted to do all of them at the same time, so I decided maybe a better idea would be to get involved in student government. I get to live vicariously through [student orgs]. TMW: What have you liked about being part of student government? WJ: You get to know what’s going on, mostly. PS: You learn about how the college operates in a more nuanced way, in ways that other students don’t necessarily know. EJ:This is also a way to do things we want to do, in terms of what you see slacking and how to make them better. It’s about getting involved, and if you want to do it, there are ways. And the administration is really good about empowering us to do it. TMW: What are some challenges you’ve faced, individually or as a whole, over the last few years? PS: Well there was that one time that people tried to dissolve student government in the spring of our sophomore year. I ran away to Spain for a semester. I think that highlights the challenge that comes with being a representative and having to be engaged with your position at all times and be able to accurately describe how things work. We’re all students and sometimes it’s hard to synthesize all of that information. KP:The biggest challenge for me is overcoming the notion on campus, “Wait, MCSG does stuff?” People just have no idea what we do, and have no idea that we do anything. WJ: For Program Board, I think it’s people’s misunderstanding of how big our budget is, or how much things cost. People will say “That’s a really crappy Springfest band,” and it’s like, well, they’re really expensive. KP: Springsteen! WJ: He makes two and a half million dollars a concert. That’s not exactly, you know, our semesterly budget. Nah, that’s what we go through for each meeting and snacks. EJ: The biggest challenge for me as the Academic Affairs Chair will be the study away issue. I’m an international student, and I was able to go abroad because the program allowed me to take my financial aid. EPAG and a new task force is looking at study away, and it will be difficult to try to make the case for every student, knowing that there is some inequality for international students. TMW: You mention that students don’t necessarily understand what MCSG does. I know as a student not involved with MCSG, I sometimes have wildly incorrect understandings of what goes on in student government. How do you deal with that? KH: I cry myself to sleep. PS: I run away to Spain. KH:Plums! KP:I mean you can always talk to the person you overhear saying something. But that’s not the real issue. The real issue is this broader, general misunderstanding of MCSG. All you can do is do the best to educate people about what we do. TMW: If a student were to approach you and ask “What does MCSG actually do?,” what would you say? PS: As most people are well aware, MCSG is tasked with allocating the student activity fee to students on campus, usually through student organizations. While this is of course a very important responsibility, it is by no means all that we do. MCSG strives to represent student interests in every facet of life at Macalester, from academics and residential life to wider neighborhood issues. In this position of representing student interest, there is a great deal of potential for MCSG to positively affect the lives of Mac students–from creating a textbook reserve program and subsidizingeco-shells at The Grille to establishing a mechanism for individual student projects to get funding through the Community Chest. But these initiatives are only as strong as the feedback we get from students. If we are to be faithful representatives of student interest, we need to hear from you! We’re all students and at the end of the day, this doesn’t work like a perfect government, or like a business or anything. We’re students who are all overcommitted, and really, the burden falls on MCSG to try to explain as much as possible what it is that we do. EJ: And the problem is that we do a lot of stuff, small and big. You just can’t get through the whole list. KH: I don’t want MCSG to just be the face of who gives money away. It’s a whole lot more than that, I think sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle. TMW: What have you learned through your experiences being MCSG representatives? EJ:You learn how to be articulate in a way that makes sense for students. You know, not just throwing these acronyms to them. We need to explain the problems to students as they affect them, and not so much what the problem is. I’ve learned to be more concise, but also to make people realize the government has done much more than you think. KH:I’ve learned how to talk to people and get a better sense of their background and really listen to what they have to say, and try to internalize that so I can adjust accordingly. It’s easy to hear and not listen. KP: I hope to go into a career in public service and [MCSG] is very applicable to that. We have to be engaged with our campus community and I’ve learned a lot about the governing side of this—the policies, the intricacies, the bureaucracy. I’ve also learned about the communication side of it, reaching out to different groups on campus and the students. It’s been very enlightening for me. TMW: What are your perspectives as seniors on MCSG? PS: For me, I’m able to compare my experience throughout the years, because I’ve been involved since my first year. I don’t think I said anything my entire first semester. KH: Patrick not talk? PS:I know, right? Oh look, Kate’s funny! One thing I’ve learned is that it’s just a really good collection of people year after year, volunteering and taking an interest and dedicating their time to trying to make this campus a better place. TMW: Have you formed any meaningful relationships during your time on MCSG? KH: It’s really interesting being chair for two years. You’re the leader and you’re organizing, but you also want to be friends with your committee and hang out. It’s an interesting dynamic, but I’ve met a lot of really, really cool people. KP:We all have fun together. We had the retreat this past weekend, and we had a lot of fun as a group doing that. Everybody on the legislative body was there. We hold some dinner parties occasionally. PS:Sometimes we hold hands. WJ: All of us, together. PS: In a circle, around a campfire. KH:Wait, dinner parties? PS:On a serious note, yes, obviously we’re all here, but it’s not exactly like an athletics team or a publication. We do create a community here as a student government, and we get along, and we’re friends, but it’s a
little bit different because there is the business aspect of it. Sometimes it’s difficult to get beyond that, and be peoples’ friend. WJ: The experience of Program Board is very different. It’s more fun. The meetings are better. You get to just plan all the cool stuff. TMW: It sometimes seems like students don’t necessarily know how to get involved with MCSG. How would you recommend students get involved? Is MCSG an open community? EJ: We don’t bite! WJ:With Program Board, all of the events that I’ve done with other orgs or with other students have been the best ones that we’ve done. That way, you get two groups of people: people who want to do Program Board stuff, and people who want to do, say, MULCH stuff. We had a really good MULCH movie once, and we have twice or three times as many people as we usually would for movies ‘cause it was really awesome. I always want people to come and talk to us, because it’s really helpful for both groups. KH:I’m friendly! If anyone has any questions they can email me. KP:I think the key is MCSG is here for the students, and so if they have an idea or a comment, we want to hear it. We benefit from that, and we think that the community benefits from that. KH:If you’re having an issue with MCSG, come talk to us. We’re very open to having a conversation and taking steps forward. And if you’re still not happy, you should join MCSG and change it. We’re working very hard to make things better for students. refresh –>