Introducing: Student Liaison Alvin Kim

Ever since the Student Liaison position was created eight years ago, various students have worked to make this job more visible, accessible and, ultimately, less mysterious. In response to the student backlash that resulted from the college’s decision to go from need-blind to need-aware, the Board of Trustees, along with Macalester Senior Staff, created the position so that students could better communicate their needs while also learning more about what goes into various Board decisions. That being said, the actual responsibilities and duties of the Student Liaison are somewhat open. I plan, of course, to attend all Board meetings, work with various committee representatives (including the Resources and Planning Committee, the Student Affairs Advisory Committee, etc.) and communicate information from the Board back to students on a regular basis as all past Student Liaisons have done. The unspoken responsibilities, however, are a bit more ambiguous.

As many students know, the Student Liaison position comes under significant scrutiny and criticism right around election time in the spring of every year. Students and orgs alike have expressed frustration that not only have they had no voice or involvement with Board committees, but they often don’t even know who the Student Liaison is. I think there are a number of factors that explain this loss of information, but I don’t think blame can be attributed to any single person or campus entity. Mac students are busy. Finding time to meet with every org and every student is physically impossible, but I’m committed to meeting students wherever they are.

For the past three years, I’ve worked in a number of different capacities on this campus. Between cultural orgs like QU and BLAC and a variety of different extracurricular activities, I have consistently found the number of meetings students have in one week to be incredibly overwhelming. My goal as Student Liaison, however, is to appreciate the diversity of student activities on this campus. This variety, both of people and of interests, involves more than simple programming. Dialogue and communication takes on a specific direction when placed in different spaces. Because of this, I’d like to meet with students on their chosen terms as much as possible. Rather than requiring feedback at an open forum or Café Mac lunch (these events will still happen, don’t worry), I hope to meet orgs at their own meetings, talk to teams and ensembles at specific practices or rehearsals, and find staff members who can help make visions a reality. If you’re not involved in a group entity, that’s OK too; let me know where you’d feel comfortable expressing your concerns and I’ll do my best to accommodate. Will I be able to meet every single org or person on this campus? Absolutely not. But in collaboration with the other student committee representatives, I want every student and group to at least have the option of meeting with one of us during both semesters and in a space where we are the visitors, not the other way around.

As a general rule, the Student Liaison is responsible for voicing student opinions on campus. That being said, I do come into the position with some specific goals in mind and I am committed to trying to make these aims a reality. As a child of the beautiful cultural orgs on campus, I am concerned about diversity at this school. I want to see more students of color on campus, and I worry about what feels like a dwindling population. This process—i.e. changing the ways in which we commit ourselves to multiculturalism—is long, complicated and collaborative. I acknowledge the efforts that have been made and come in only as someone who wants to create more dialogue and find ways in which both students and staff can work together on this pressing issue.

However, my goals and opinions should never deter a person from feeling like they can voice an opinion. I am a student with strong opinions, yes, but I love nothing more than healthy arguments and feeling persuaded by a way of thought that I have never considered before. I am confident that this year will present both old and new challenges, and it’s only through a strong commitment to communication that we can actively participate in Board decisions and conversations. I will do my best to meet students and orgs in their own environments and look forward to the open dialogue. The Student Liaison position has a lot of ambiguities, but by the end of the year it should no longer be a mystery.