Planning underway for Change and Exchange

By Hattie Stahl

On Monday March 26, President Rosenberg informed students responsible for planning a Day of Change and Exchange at Macalester of his decision to cancel classes from 11:50 through 2:10 on Wednesday, April 11.

“We will be taking a three-pronged approach to initiating dialogue and education on campus around the central issue of creating a community within which diversity of all kinds is not just a goal, and not just tolerated, but is a source of collective strength,” Rosenberg wrote in his response to the proposal submitted to him last Friday evening. According to the response, the three components will include the two full canceled class sessions, which will set aside time for structured conversations in venues across campus with lunch provided. A second component would entail faculty members incorporating issues raised in Wednesday’s conversations into classes during the rest of the week, and the third component involves inviting faculty and staff with expertise in issues of race, diversity, and related subjects to run sessions during the remainder of the week.

Rosenberg’s decision came in response to the proposal submitted to Rosenberg Friday, March 23, which outlined the following requests: to cancel all classes on Tuesday April 3, or Tuesday April 10; to provide funding for the day’s activities, including food for an all campus meal, snacks for organizing meetings, and supplies for the day; to provide leadership in the implementation of “A Day of Change and Exchange;” and to commit to attending the Day and encouraging all faculty, staff, and students to do the same.

“Although Macalester has a history of oppression, as of yet there has been no concentrated effort to address these issues in a way that adequately incorporates student initiative and allows for institutional change,” Samantha Robinson ’10 said. Robinson is one of the many students who have been an integral part of the planning process. “Change & Exchange is trying to set the standard, a trajectory of long-term discussion. This is only the first step.”

Members of MacDialogue, the group responsible for planning the event, believe that this is a critical time to implement such a day, because there is currently momentum on campus towards addressing issues that Macalester upholds as its four pillars; multiculturalism, civic engagement, academics, and internationalism.

“We need to create time and space for ourselves to assess where we are in the process of reaching these goals,” Robinson said. “We understand that education includes the academic sphere, but it also includes the social, day-to-day dynamics of this campus.”

MacDialogue held a meeting Wednesday to initiate the next steps in the planning process. They set up several message boxes around campus to offer students a means by which to contribute ideas to the process. Additionally, three open house dates will be announced next week during which members of the Macalester community will be encouraged to come participate and voice their ideas.

“Students are the community,” said Stephanie Stoumbelis ’10, another member of the planning committee. “In terms of trying to make change through this event, if it’s not student-owned and supported through and through, I don’t really see how anything productive can come of it.”

Members of MacDialogue intend to establish three committees to organize Change and Exchange events, each of which would ideally be comprised of faculty, staff and students. The committees are scheduling, publicity and logistics.

At the meeting Wednesday, planning for events surrounding the structured conversation began. Because there is a faculty meeting scheduled for the afternoon of April 11, student and faculty-led events will take place Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week so as not to cut them short.

In addition, those present at the MacDialogue meeting discussed the possibilities of holding orientations for faculty and staff facilitators of discussions to prepare them for the sensitivity of issues and emotions that may arise.