What ever happened to the Lectures Coordination Board?

By Jonathan McJunkin
Last year Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) formed the Lectures Coordination Board (LCB) through a student referendum, creating a 13-member student and faculty committee with a $50,000 budget charged with organizing and improving lecture events on campus. After one year of operation, an overhaul is in the works. “Lectures Board has kind of been a mess,” said Mac McCreary ’12, head of the Financial Affairs Committee (FAC). “We’re trying to figure it out.” The LCB was created by a student referendum on December 12 of last year as part of a $21 student activity fee increase also used toward expenses such as ScotSync software. Proposed by then-MCSG president Owen Truesdell ’11, the LCB set out to coordinate lecture events planned by faculty and student groups in a comprehensive calendar and to improve the quality of speakers brought to campus. “In a nutshell, the goal of the LCB was to create a process where students, faculty and staff could plan and execute successful and interesting lectures that would bring students together across years and across disciplines,” Truesdell wrote in an email about his vision for the new committee. “In delusions of grandeur, I was hoping it’d spawn into something like Carleton’s weekly convocation,” Truesdell wrote, referring to Carleton’s campus-wide series of weekly talks and presentations from professors, student groups and outside speakers. “It’s a sense of community that Mac completely lacks, and so LCB was supposed to be a step in that direction.” “Most people’s lives don’t work on that budget cycle.” In practice, the ambitious goals of LCB have not been met this year. According to Dean of Students Jim Hoppe, a meeting of the committee last spring revealed that additional groundwork was required. After that meeting, the first and last of the committee as a whole, they decided to shift the allocation of the budget to FAC and Program Board. Of the $50,000 budget set aside for LCB, $15,000 was additional funds raised specifically for the committee by the student activity fee increase. The remaining $35,000 consisted of $25,000 of the existing FAC budget and $10,000 from the existing Program Board budget that were expected to be used towards lecture and speaker events.

According to Hoppe, the committee structure did not work for either budgeting the money to lecture and speaker events or coordinating a schedule. Budgeting responsibilities for the $35,000 in existing funds allocated to LCB remain with either the FAC or Program Board, and the additional $15,000 of funds from the activity fee increase is now the responsibility of FAC. The LCB’s other primary responsibility beyond funding and planning lectures is coordinating the calendars of the academic departments and student organizations that plan speaking events. This job, according to Hoppe, will be performed by a student employee of Campus Programs next year. Campus Programs is currently interviewing candidates for the job. Some of the difficulties have to do with the size and diversity of the LCB committee, Hoppe said. According to MCSG bylaws, the LCB could have as many as 14 members: the MCSG president, the Program Board chair, a student from the Speak! Series, four students appointed by the co-chairs, the Dean of Students, the Director of Academic Programs, a member of the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life and as many as four faculty members. Hoppe said the members of the LCB found it too difficult to coordinate enough times the committee could meet as a body and fulfill their responsibilities. “Most people’s lives don’t work on that budget cycle,” Hoppe said. He added that these kinds of delays and shifts in implementation are not unprecedented, bringing up the example of the travel fund, which took “about two years” to reach its current form. MCSG looks to the future Both McCreary and MCSG President Kathy Kim ’12 echoed Hoppe’s thoughts on the difficulty of coordinating meetings. “The original vision of the lectures coordination board was sincere and rooted in addressing a need on campus,” Kim said. “The reality of having a 13-member committee meet monthly to coordinate every single speaker and also plan large-scale events was not realized.” One difficulty cited by Kim was the lack of notice they were able to receive from some departments and organizations, who often don’t know their programming far in advance.

Another was the MCSG bylaws’ stipulation that the President of MCSG head up the LCB. “I don’t have an immense extra amount of time [to work with the LCB],” Kim said. “I feel bad that I wasn’t able to do very much with it.” “Unless the president is really gung-ho about programming lectures I’m not sure [they are] the ideal person to be chair,” Kim added. Both Kim and McCreary said the next year will bring about a re-focusing of the goals of LCB. The focus on coordinating various speaking events with each other will remain, though in the new year it will be done more directly through organizations that run cultural weeks and other events with prominent speakers or keynotes. A primary concern is overlap of events and programming focuses. Coordination of speakers between organizations would prevent people from getting fatigued, Kim said. “You get tired,” Kim said, “and I think also the campus can’t handle all that programming.” McCreary said he envisions something like Media Board—the twice-yearly meeting of all media groups on campus—for cultural organizations as a way for them to meet together and talk about ideas they have for their programming weeks or speakers they want to bring. At this point, the plans are mostly hypothetical. “Up until now this hasn’t happened, besides groups from within the same diaspora getting together, all of the orgs of the black diaspora for example,” McCreary wrote in an email, citing the meetings of a coalition of black cultural orgs in preparation for Black History month. “But it is something we have definitely planned for in the future.” “I’m not sure if something like that’s necessary at Macalester.” Beyond the question of cooperation between organizations and coordination of the speaking event schedule on campus, MCSG has also dealt with the question of what to do with the $15,000 in additional yearly allocations for lectures. This year, the money was used in part to bring I McCreary estimated the cost at between $3,000 and $5,000. It was less certain if the money was used for other events. “Frankly, besides I McCreary said. A more open question is how the extra money will be used in the coming years, as $15,000 from the student activity fee will be budgeted to the LCB specifically each year barring changes to the MCSG bylaws, though it will be administered by the FAC. One of the intended goals of the LCB was to bring big-name speakers to campus, but such speakers often need to be booked “8-10 months in advance,” Truesdell noted. They can also cost more than $15,000, leading to the suggestion that MCSG keep the money in reserve over consecutive years to save up for a well-known name to speak on campus. Saving up the LCB money could lead to “maybe every few years getting a really big speaker,” McCreary said. “Even the extra $15,000 wouldn’t be able to do much as far as a big-name.” McCreary also hinted at issues with LCB beyond pragmatic concerns. He pointed to a difference in how Macalester programs events in comparison to schools like Carleton.

“A drive for it came from the sense that we don’t have the same lecture culture here at Macalester that a lot of schools do,” McCreary said, citing the lecture series at Carleton, saying that programming comes from a school or student government level. “Here we’re a lot more grassroots, [programming] comes from the orgs,” McCreary said. “I think part of it was to create more of a culture like [other schools].” “I’m not sure if something like that’s necessary at Macalester,” McCreary said.

Editors Note

Due to a formatting error in the print edition of the Mac Weekly, it may looked as if the bolded subheadings were misattributed as direct quotations. It was not the Mac Weekly’s intention to misquote or mischaracterize any parties involved in this article. This issue has been corrected for the website. refresh –>