MCSG meeting focuses on MPIRG referendum, TMR recommendations

On Tuesday night, MCSG focused heavily on the recent MPIRG referendum, which passed last weekend, and on the Task Force for Membership Requirements in another overtime legislative body meeting. The TMR, which was composed of members of the various committees of MCSG, was given the task of exploring the current requirements for membership of MCSG and whether or not the guidelines should be improved or changed. The task force was created following multiple resignations in the fall semester.

Their findings, which they unveiled at Tuesday’s meeting, proposed no specific changes to membership or eligibility requirements.

“Despite these problems and disagreements [with eligibility], we do not recommend specific policy changes. We have come to the conclusion that there is nothing else to find in these documents that would give us more insight or clarity,” the recommendation argued.

“They hold water,” said Sam Doten ’16 of the current requirements, adding that upon finding that the membership requirements had not been violated last semester, the task force then looked to broaden their perspective. They examined how MCSG could become “a more active and engaged and respected” body on campus, said Josie Ahrens ’14.

“These are recommendations that we hope will begin to take effect as actual concrete ideas,” Ahrens said.

In researching the founding documents of MCSG and speaking with others, such as the Judicial Council and Dean of Students Jim Hoppe, the TMR confirmed the “bare minimum” of requirements, according to Ahrens. The task force wrote the recommendations as a way to promote what Doten called a “more affirmative, proactive approach” to membership.

The recommendations included each committee coming up with outreach plans to the student body, holding workshops on writing bills or resolutions and tabling, and adding an extra MCSG meeting each week on Thursdays for class representatives only.

“This is really an opportunity to build knowledge and have the skills…rather than simply showing up on Tuesday nights,” Doten said.

While the support for the recommendations as a whole was widespread, several members expressed concerns about holding meetings on Thursday nights, citing other commitments as potential conflicts.

“A lot of orgs meet then,” said SOC chair Maddie Arbisi ’14.

Discussions will be ongoing about the recommendations the TMR made, and the possibility of introducing a bill based off of the task force’s work was brought up.

“We should really try and get something in before the next legislative body is elected,” said Vice President Rothin Datta ’16.

The remainder of the time was almost entirely taken up with discussing the recent MPIRG referendum, which passed last weekend with a total of 263 votes cast; 144 approved renewing MCSG’s contract with MPIRG and 109 opposed the referendum. The contract between MCSG and MPIRG states that $12 of each student’s activity fee can be applied towards supporting MPIRG. Students may opt out of this decision if they wish, but the activity fee of students who did not vote at all will still be applied to MPIRG. The renewal of the contract and the low voter turnout for the referendum were sources of concern for many members of the legislative body.

MPIRG was present at the meeting to give their annual update to MCSG and was able to answer questions regarding both the referendum and the contract.

Many concerns revolved around the fact that MPIRG is the only org on campus that receives its funding in this way and that the money leaves campus for the statewide chapter before coming back in terms of support and resources.

“When the fee was allocated year by year, the stability just wasn’t there,” said Ian Kantonen, an MPIRG campus organizer for Macalester and Augsburg, to answer a question regarding any alternative funding forms for the non-profit grassroots org. “[The fee] provides that stability.”

Other issues discussed included how the low voter turnout on the referendum could not encompass the views of all the students of Macalester and whose responsibility between MCSG and MPIRG it was to promote the referendum.

“It’s supposed to be an equal thing, and that’s not happened,” Hoppe said. “I think there was a lack of communication between multiple people,” Doten added. Funding issues continued to be a source of contention and some confusion, and it had to be clarified that because the referendum had passed, MCSG and MPIRG do have a contract for the next three years. President Kai Wilson ’14, the only member from MCSG required to sign the contract, proposed an “informal commission” to discuss the contract with MCSG and MPIRG members. “I would feel being uncomfortable being the only person negotiating here,” Wilson said. If a new contract is not negotiated, the current model will roll over and be used for the next three years. The commission met Thursday night to discuss the contract and the funding model for MPIRG. Discussions will be ongoing regarding the relationship between MCSG, MPIRG and the student body.