Rosenberg, Samatar address student IGC concerns

By Matt Day

President Brian Rosenberg and Professor Ahmed Samatar hosted a discussion Tuesday in the Chapel to respond to student questions and concerns regarding the Institute for Global Citizenship. The IGC, the most ambitious programmatic endeavor in Rosenberg’s five-year tenure at Macalester, was the subject of a March 7 Mac Weekly editorial asking the Institute’s deans to help explain the role of the IGC.

Students and administration members quickly organized the event, which was held over two hours in the early evening and attended by more about 100 students, faculty and staff.

In his opening remarks, Rosenberg outlined what he saw as the three main goals of the IGC: to take separate units of the college responsible for connecting students beyond Macalester and put them under one roof, to create an “incubator” for new ideas and programs and to improve the integration of civic engagement into Macalester’s academic curriculum.

Rosenberg also said he sought to dispel what he saw as the myths surrounding the institute.

“My goal from the beginning has been not to take funds from [other organizations] and shift it to the institute,” he said, noting that the majority of IGC funding comes from the budgets of the programs under the IGC umbrella.

Funding has been a source of anxiety among critics of the Institute, and Rosenberg spent much of his time addressing the economics of the IGC.

“I was happy to know that the administration was paying attention,” Macalester College Student Government President-elect Alison Tray ’09 said, noting that Rosenberg was well informed about concerns students had with the IGC.

Samatar, who spoke after Rosenberg, opened his introduction by listing internationalism and quality of students among the reasons why he chose to teach at Macalester.

He then encouraged students to better articulate questions about the IGC.

“Please read first,” he said, referring to the information on the institute available online and in the international studies office. “Then, if you have a specific question, bring it.

“My office is open to you,” Samatar added. “There are no closed doors. Let’s begin the conversation.”

Lelde Ilzina ’10 agreed with Samatar’s point about being prepared to address specifics.

“They’re not going to come and slip [IGC information] under your dorm room door,” Ilzina said. “There’s a difference between questions that are informed and questions that are not.”

Ilzina went on to say that she was pleased with the quality of questions at the discussion.

Tray said she thought that students held back because of the novelty of the forum style.

Rosenberg and Samatar spoke for a combined 35 minutes, after which they took questions.

One student raised a question of the roles of gender, race, and sexuality within the IGC. The Institute’s Global Advisory Board, a group Rosenberg stressed has only a limited oversight role, is composed of 13 men and one woman.

“The gender makeup on the global advisory board is an embarrassment,” Rosenberg said, promising that it would change with time.

Helinna Ayalew ’10, who said she shares the concern about gender balance, called Rosenberg’s response “an answer some people were not satisfied by.”

“Maybe it was because of time, but I don’t know that everyone’s questions got answered as they’d hoped,” she said.

The Advisory Board features a number of well-known members, including Kofi Annan ’61, NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, and former Vice President Walter Mondale ’50.

In response to a question about campus priorities in relation to the pending renovation of the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center, Rosenberg said that Janet Wallace was “the most expansive and complicated project the college has ever undertaken,” noting that the complex includes five buildings “conveniently” situated on top of the college’s utility headquarters in facilities management, a statement that drew laughter from a crowd that remained silent through most of the event.

One of the most striking moments of the discussion came from the last question of the evening. A student challenged the ethics of spending money on the IGC in the wake of the elimination of Macalester’s need blind admission policy, drawing applause from the audience.

Rosenberg responded with one of his strongest worded statements of the discussion. He said financial aid is the largest single program funded by the ongoing capital campaign, with $35 million to be raised. The capital campaign is raising $3 million for an endowment for the IGC.

Other questions raised at the discussion include concerns about the degree to which the IGC would involve the outside community, the reshuffling of campus space use, and the relationship between new academic concentrations.

The discussion was followed by a students-only conversation in the basement of the Chapel.

Helinna Ayalew ’10 reflected on the program saying that though it wasn’t perfect, she was happy with the event.

“It was a really good way to have a conversation as opposed to people telling you about it,” she said.

Ilzina said that the campus debate needs to continue, proposing that students call for a similar discussion upon the completion of the IGC building.

Tray said she will encourage continued campus conversation about the IGC as MCSG president.

“This is just a first step,” she said.