Reactions to Brian Rosenberg's seven-year review: Less quirky Mac still needs support

By Libby Snelson

The “old school tie” for Macalester Alumni isn’t orange and blue neckwear, but rather the intellectual pursuits that we engaged and were supported in while here. In my era, most students’ primary allegiances were to individual faculty and academic departments, with the common enemy being the Administration. President John B. Davis broke through that antipathy and set a challenging mark for any subsequent college president with his broad smiles, effervescent optimism and endearing, personable charm and warmth. I don’t see Brian Rosenberg in tweeds and bow ties trying to fill that mold any time soon. But I know from many sources, ranging from cold hard statistics to hardly-ever impressed alumni leaders, that Brian Rosenberg is a success at Macalester. The visible indications of Brian’s success might actually be a concern for alumni: where is our adored but slightly seedy Mac? Who slipped in these corporate-style plazas and sparkling facilities where we had Stalinist-drab concrete, dirt paths and dull brown signage someone lettered with his wood-burning kit? And what is this Mac-the-Scot thingie?

Seriously, Brian Rosenberg’s tenure to date has not eliminated controversy on campus and beyond campus in greater MacNation. Former debaters are even now debating cutting back debate at Macalester. Many alumni would not – or perceive that they would not – have become alumni if not for the need-blind admission policy dropped since Brian Rosenberg became President. But if that is the way we alumni really feel, turning our backs on Mac and a successful President is not the answer. We need to step forward (to steal a phrase) and put Macalester in a financial position that obviates funding or the lack thereof as a barrier to any student. It is our failure, not Brian Rosenberg’s, that Mac’s alumni-giving percentages are embarrassingly low.

What could he do that he is not doing now? Teach. I sat in on a Bookclub with Brian event at a recent – and terrific -alumni reunion weekend, and even though I had not done the homework (yes, I am a Mac alum), I was fascinated. By that time I had repeatedly witnessed with envy Brian presenting without notes – and owning an audience of ever-questioning alumni. So I was not surprised that his teaching skills drew me into a discussion of a novel I had not read. Sitting in on some lectures from this excellent lecturer on my beloved Dickens – especially the snarky bits about lawyers – would be a great treat.

Libby Snelson ’78 is the Macalester Alumni Association President. She practices law in St. Paul and can be reached at [email protected]