Advocating for transparency and improved communication

Hello, MCSG!

I’d like to take the time to formally introduce myself. I’m the girl who’s been sitting in the corner of your past six or seven meetings, quietly typing away and recording the evening’s events so that I can write a nice, neat, unbiased perspective of Tuesday’s legislative body (LB) meetings for The Mac Weekly. I’ve been at enough MCSG meetings this past semester, official LB and informal, that I’ve even started joking that I might as well just run for office so that I can get a vote to make up for all the time I’ve spent in meetings.

Don’t get me wrong; I have found it extremely valuable to attend these meetings because it has given me a greater knowledge about the current events here at Macalester, and I have gained a significant amount of appreciation for the number of hours and work that every representative, executive board member and staff member puts into MCSG. And I sincerely mean that. There’s an insane amount of effort that gets put into committees and budgets and organizations and informal commissions by MCSG members and it has to be acknowledged that most students would not be able to make such a valuable and time-consuming commitment. I respect that and I thank MCSG for their work.

However, I’ve observed what I see as a serious trend in our student government over the course of nearly two months, and I’d like to take the time to comment on it here, where I don’t have to censor myself.
There are many big personalities in MCSG who care a lot about all the things that they are invested and involved in. That’s great, because it means that we have many passionate people representing us and our interests. However, it also means that the way that this representation happens in MCSG is often tense, disrespectful, and uncomfortable to witness. I have been privy to at least one meeting this semester that ended in tears, and one where a shouting match occurred in the middle of a discussion; during multiple meetings I have been tempted to just get up and walk away, the hostile and passive-aggressive atmosphere in the Boardroom becoming downright intolerable.

I’d also like to point out that these feelings have been echoed to me by members of MCSG that I have had the privilege to speak with outside of LB meetings. Personal relationships have been strained by what happens in LB meetings. Opposing views and the voices of quieter people are often overlooked or downright silenced by the aforementioned big personalities, and that makes for a space that, simply as a witness, doesn’t seem safe to me. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be on the direct receiving end of that sort of condescension or animosity.

These are your peers, your fellow Macalester students who also have opinions, goals and passions, and if, in an open space like a legislative body meeting, the diversity of these views and voices can’t be respected or safely expressed, then MCSG needs to take a serious look at its community guidelines and reconfigure what its priorities should be. We should not sacrifice the emotional well-being of our peers for the sake of an ego boost or an agenda that only a few people hold.

If there is truly a greater desire in MCSG to better communicate with students and achieve greater transparency between the two bodies, then I would challenge MCSG to first find better and more respectful ways to communicate amongst themselves. Practice what you preach. I’m not going to fall for your campaigns for transparency when a straightforward and respectful conversation isn’t even possible amongst yourselves.

That being said, I’d like to also offer a challenge to the student body. Let’s hold MCSG accountable. Let’s give them a reason to communicate more effectively and respectfully. I know I’ve heard noise on this campus about how MCSG seemed inconsistent this year or about how students have been disappointed in the lack of outreach from our student government. That’s a two way street, folks. Let’s meet somewhere in the middle. Please, please, let us all become more involved in the process of governing our school. I don’t want to complain about something and not propose a solution, and this is something easy yet influential for us to do. MCSG meetings are open to the student body. Starting next semester, GO TO ONE. Go to as many as you can. I can tell you for sure, two hours a week is a small commitment compared to what our representatives give on a weekly, even daily, basis.

Please, for our sakes, for the sakes of our peers, let’s remind MCSG who they are representing, and why.