Student government gets behind bus-pass subsidies

By Katie Zager

Since Macalester introduced subsidized bus passes more than a year ago, students have become accustomed to paying less than normal value for the cards. Although the level and sources of funding have been the source of much debate over the past year and half, the school settled on a suite of offerings that includes the popular $40 value pass discounted at 50 percent, while other bus passes, including the semester long unlimited use pass, are discounted by 20 percent.MCSG has just passed a resolution calling for Macalester’s administration to commit funding to bus pass subsidies, and at the very least, provide 50 percent discounts on both the semester-long pass and the $40 value. With these discounts, the passes would cost $80 and $20 respectively.

After a short discussion in which they questioned the necessity and return on the subsidies, MCSG voted to add its name to a large body of support amassed by the Student Power Organizing Comittee (SPOC), who authored the resolution.

SPOC, a new student organization and authors of the resolution, has been campaigning for the subsidies all year.

“It doesn’t seem like a huge thing to change,” said SPOC member Eric Blom ’10. He said they got the idea just from talking to friends. The organization also noted that because the bus passess are both extremely popular and affect every student, it would be a good first project to tackle.

The organization hopes that by meeting with the administration directly and showing overwhelming student support, they will be able to get the passess funded. So far, they have collected 600 student signatures, as well as gained the support of the Sustainability Office and some academic departments.

“The administration at least needs a systematic way of allocating money year after year,” said Ali Fuhrman ’10, a member of SPOC. “It’s about the values of the college.”

Members of SPOC will be meeting with members of the administration later this week to present the resolution and discuss what steps should be taken next.

Although the administration has yet to take any action regarding the proposal, Blom said that they have been receptive, although the budget has already been drawn up for this year. Treasurer David Wheaton said that the the bus pass budget already has an 11.1 percent increase for the 2010/2011 school year. It is unclear whether this will be enough to meet the demands of the resolution. Fuhrman said that if these current efforts don’t work, she still wants to see the project through, although she isn’t set on what other tactics will be used.

Convincing the administration to tackle the issue of bus pass subsidies would be a major victory for SPOC in laying the ground for addressing other issues affecting the student body.

“SPOC is meant to provide a balance to the administration,” Fuhrman said. “We want to build a culture of direct action and reignite the political culture on campus, to be engaged in campus politics without going through MCSG.”

Macalester has a long history of students pushing back against the administration on certain issues, one of the most prominent being the protests against the abolition of the need-blind admissions policy.

Even though the issue at hand is mainly about bus passes, the result of this effort will say a lot about the relationship, or potential relationship, between students and the administration, Blom said.

“We all hope this is a good experience for the administration, and students thinking they can organize themselves,” he said.