Musings on MCSG

By Melanie Raydo

In most respects, I am not a particularly driven or motivated person, at least when it comes to school and its related activities. Getting my homework done often produces profound anxiety, and I’d really rather complain about a Kagin dance than plan or attend one myself. And yet the stars must have had something else in store this semester when I found myself diving headfirst into CineSonic, a fairly large-scale installation project in partnership with MIX NYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to queer experimental film.Firstly, let’s be real: I have spent the last couple of weeks cursing the stars above me every day for making me feel like I could actually do something that could be new and different for Macalester. I was deeply upset with myself for having the audacity to believe that my ideas had any sort of value inherent to them, or that these ideas were at all worthy of capital through the institution. It’s queer, it’s political, it’s art, and seeing as I’ve declared a fatwa against mocktails, it probably has no place on our campus. At the very least, that’s the message it felt like I kept getting while working through MCSG to get funding.

Okay, that’s not entirely fair. I encountered some really amazing and vocal supporters who were in attendance at MCSG meetings when my additional allocation through Queer Union and KAADATT was being heard. People I’d never met before were really excited about the prospect of something new, and some of the critiques levied in my opposition were more than fair; it is indeed an expensive event, and there are indeed several other things happening on that night (April 22, pick mine, trollops!). I felt like I was almost learning something while attending these meetings, that maybe some people who are interested in the governmental process aren’t necessarily completely irreconcilably evil, you know, in the way that people who listen to Coldplay maybe just don’t know that there are alternatives. And then, as all of my requested funding was denied despite the (acknowledged) impeccable organization of an event quite unlike any other events happening on campus with a group of professional, working artists who have ties to Macalester that go back to our heyday in the nineties, I remembered: oh yeah. The government is fucking evil, and at the end of the day, it’s no skin off their ass so long as no one calls them out on their routinely oppressive bullshit throughout the allocation process.

CineSonic was called “hedonistic,” I was asked in private during the meeting if any of my budget was set aside for drugs (short answer: no, you presumptuous boob, none of my budget is for drugs), and the event’s cost was criticized by individuals on MCSG who were actively in the process of submitting their own events with similar price tags. I found this meeting to be fundamentally disempowering, and left feeling judged based on some peoples’ perception of my identity and my politic. And again, if I wanted to be called out for being a lesbian and told that my ideas were frivolous, I would have stayed in high school. All of this functioned to affirm for me that MCSG as an organization, although comprised of my fellow students, is sure as shit not a group of my peers.

After all of this, at Tuesday’s meeting MCSG decided to overturn their previous decision and granted me $3,575 on appeal (an additional $1,000 was received through the Lavender fund on campus, which exists for queer-related events and activities on campus). This happened when I showed up with a large group of supporters and directly spelled out my above issues. And really, this Tuesday’s meeting was an entirely different experience from the week before; everyone seemed to be bending over backwards to make sure that I knew how happy they were that I had come back to appeal the decision, that they were all hoping for the best for its approval. And don’t get me wrong, I really appreciated it. It just made me sad to realize that my feelings, and the feelings of countless other people involved with countless other organizations are simply not considered by student government until the issue becomes personal, and until they are personally implicated as homophobic or racist or sexist, or any or all of the above.

I suppose the heart of my argument here is that MCSG as an organization doesn’t seem to recognize its own gatekeeping tactics with regards to events that they think are lame, i.e. based around identity politics or special interests. This fosters an environment where the popular kids rule and everyone else has to beg for the chance to do something that they feel is important or valuable for the greater campus community, which, by the way, is not homogeneous and should not be dominated by any single majoritarian social identification. And while I extend my deepest gratitude for the ability to make CineSonic happen, it is still only one event, and therefore the exception to a governmental policy that caters almost exclusively to its own divine interest.