Redefining Macalester in its own image

By Jeff Herbst

I was wrong. This past semester, as I milked cows on a rural farm in Bhutan, time did not stop in America. Home did not stand still in anticipation of my return. The motions of life brought both the good and the ugly. As I return to you, Macalester, I wonder how you have fared during our semester apart. A quick look suggests everything progressed in the right direction. Kofi stopped by, we moved up in the national rankings, and we are now considered to be among the Ivy League schools. Yes! This is great. It is almost as if we are not Macalester anymore.

Exactly! Forget tradition (the Scottish fair) and values (need-blind), Macalester has fallen into the identity crisis of a junior high student. We saved up our bankrolls, bought the newest Air Jordans, and presto: we get to hang out with the cool kids. We have become another puppet of the media, and it takes just one glance at our web site to recognize it. Newsweek named Macalester one of “The New Ivies,” but this title should upset us more than excite us. We are not an Ivy League school. We do not want to be an Ivy League school, nor do we want to be a school for Ivy League rejects. In the administration’s pursuit to attract wealthier students, let’s make a point not to lose the qualities that make us uniquely Macalester.

We, the student body, are Macalester. Yet at present we are not defining the direction of the Macalester community. President Rosenberg, US News, and popular society are forcing us to follow their plummet into elitism and corporatization. However, we are not spectators to this nosedive. The student body has the power to communicate that these externally celebrated standards are not measures of success at Macalester. We have the power to choose our own ideals that resonate with us as a community, and to actualize them.
Macalester is wonderful: not because of Reader’s Digest, the soon-to-be-new gymnasium, or because the Fiske Guide says we’re a “Best Buy.” It is something less tangible that makes us the Macalester I love. This core essence of Macalester has as many possibilities as its students, but this should not dissolve the unity of our efforts. If we approach this challenge of redefining our community with a determined passion and a constructive mentality, our actions will direct Macalester. It is the selfless, community-building efforts of organizations like Mac Soup and the Experimental College that have the ability to shape Macalester.

Pulling us out of our current nosedive will take both dedication and sacrifice from us all. It will require each individual to be inspired by a larger mind, a community mind, that transcends the duality of you and me. This Big Mind will motivate us to applaud each other’s efforts and nurture each other’s weaknesses. This is a reality that we can bring to Macalester. We are not a stagnant community.