Students host visiting activists

By Matt Day and Zac Farber

After a year of planning and a summer of negotiations with the college administration, Macalester Students for a Democratic Society hosted around 400 student activists who came to St. Paul to protest the Republican National Convention Sept. 1-4.According to statements by SDS to the campus community, Macalester served as a “convergence space” for activists. “We want everyone to have a safe space to stay,” Bassam Khawaja ’10 said at the campus forum on the RNC held Aug. 28.

Students volunteered to host guests in their dorm rooms, houses, backyards, and apartments for the length of the convention. Students checked in with SDS representatives upon arriving on campus and were paired with Macalester students at a one-to-one ratio.

SDS’s plans had originally called for guests to be allowed to camp near Bateman Plaza, but Dean of Students Jim Hoppe said the college wouldn’t allow it.

“When you invite folks on the campus, the college becomes responsible for their safety and we didn’t think that was a good idea,” Hoppe said at the forum.

The forum included SDS members Emily Cox ’10, Elise Goldin ’10, Arella Vargas ’10, and Khawaja. Director of Campus Life Keith Edwards, Minnesota Public Interest Research Group liaison Thom Boik, Director of Security Terry Gorman and Hoppe also spoke.

Gorman said that the college added four round-the-clock security guards for the week of the convention. “We just don’t know what the situation will be,” Gorman said.

American Security guards on duty Wednesday said they hadn’t heard of any disturbances with the guests on campus.

“I’m less worried about what the protesters will do,” SDS organizer Brendan Rogers said at the forum, “and more worried about the people walking around the campus with guns.”

Rogers said negotiating with the administration over the summer didn’t go smoothly. “We didn’t feel respected by the administration in the negotiation process.”

Vargas agreed. “They didn’t consider at all letting us do what we wanted,”she said. “Originally we wanted to have campouts, but they never let us do anything besides having people in the rooms.”

“I’m really sorry if they felt disrespected,” Hoppe said. “I do know that it was nonagreement. If it’s Macalester students, we feel differently. If it’s visitors, then we don’t know.”

“We felt welcomed here,” said Ian, a visiting college student who declined to give his last name. “The environment was great.”

“It went really well,” said Robin, who also wouldn’t give her last name. “Our hosts were awesome.