Student assembly passes resolution on staff income inequality

Students+gathered+on+Old+Main+Lawn+on+Tuesday+evening+to+debate+a+resolution+on+income+inequality+at+Mac.+Photo+by+Josh+Koh+%E2%80%9918.
Back to Article
Back to Article

Student assembly passes resolution on staff income inequality

Students gathered on Old Main Lawn on Tuesday evening to debate a resolution on income inequality at Mac. Photo by Josh Koh ’18.

Students gathered on Old Main Lawn on Tuesday evening to debate a resolution on income inequality at Mac. Photo by Josh Koh ’18.

Students gathered on Old Main Lawn on Tuesday evening to debate a resolution on income inequality at Mac. Photo by Josh Koh ’18.

Students gathered on Old Main Lawn on Tuesday evening to debate a resolution on income inequality at Mac. Photo by Josh Koh ’18.

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Students gathered on Old Main Lawn on Tuesday evening to debate a resolution on income inequality at Mac. Photo by Josh Koh ’18.

Students gathered on Old Main Lawn on Tuesday evening to debate a resolution on income inequality at Mac. Photo by Josh Koh ’18.

Last Tuesday afternoon, a student assembly called by Macalester Students Against Income Inequality met on the lawn of Old Main to discuss and pass a resolution proposed to MCSG on income inequality at Macalester.

The assembly began with Sam Doten ’16 and Nick Michalesko ’17 introducing the issue at the heart of the resolution and describing why ending income inequality is important. Ian Calaway ’16 acted as parliamentarian throughout the debate.

Through their own calculations, Doten and Michalesko found that President Brian Rosenberg was paid $358 an hour while Macalester’s lowest paid worker, an employee of the Highlander Bookstore, was paid $9 dollars an hour during the last academic year. Doten described how this contradicted the amount of $14.17 an hour, which Macalester had defined as its “red pay band, what Macalester says their minimum living wage on campus is and that no staff is paid below that.”

The authors said they found several jobs on campus, like those with Bon Appétit, the Highlander Bookstore and Document and Mailing Services, that were subcontracted to other companies. Once subcontracted to other organizations like Bon Appétit or the Highlander, employers were not required to pay the red band wage. When including subcontracted workers as Macalester employees, Doten and Michalesko said that Macalester was operating at a 40:1 pay ratio between its highest and lowest paid employees, meaning the highest salary is 40 times greater than the lowest. The proposed document called for the Administration to reduce this ratio to 18:1 by 2020 and to “renegotiate wages for subcontracted employees to the minimum pay Macalester College allows for its staff [$14.17/hour] by 2020 at the absolute latest.”

Students gathered on Old Main Lawn on Tuesday evening to debate a resolution on income inequality at Mac. Nick Michalesko ’17 was one of the students proposing the resolution. Photo by Josh Koh ’18.

Students gathered on Old Main Lawn on Tuesday evening to debate a resolution on income inequality at Mac. Nick Michalesko ’17 was one of the students proposing the resolution. Photo by Josh Koh ’18.

Following Doten and Michalesko’s description of their resolution and argument, Calaway opened the assembly up for discussion of the document. Several community members took to the mic set up to show their support for the resolution and challenge the voting body of the students to pass the resolution.

“I support this motion wholeheartedly. About a year ago, I wrote an op-ed for the Star Tribune, after finding out what the president was being paid and I was really kind of offended as someone who was being asked to donate every year,” journalist and alumnus Paul Scott ’86 said. “I think Macalester has begun an important conversation. It may seem ‘pie in the sky’ to a lot of people, but I think that tying the top wages to the bottom wages is important to look at and pragmatic. I am all for bringing up the lowest paid workers, but I’m not reluctant to talk about the highest paid workers.”

While the majority of the student speakers supported the movement, some were critical of the resolution’s statistics or its methods. “I agree that economic inequality is a huge problem. I also believe that there are a bunch of factors that contribute to [the inequality],” Hannah Mira Friedland ’17 said. “I don’t understand why [the resolution’s] specifically targeting Brian Rosenberg in this, considering he brings in a lot of financial aid to enable students to attend this school. How do you think limiting his salary is an incentive to bridge issues of income inequality in the future?”

Students gathered on Old Main Lawn on Tuesday evening to debate a resolution on income inequality at Mac. Jose Caballero Ciciolli '15 questioned the resolution's approach. Photo by Josh Koh ’18.

Students gathered on Old Main Lawn on Tuesday evening to debate a resolution on income inequality at Mac. Jose Caballero Ciciolli ’15 questioned the resolution’s approach. Photo by Josh Koh ’18.

Jose Caballero Ciciolli ’15 questioned the authors’ calculations and whether the measures being called for had really been thought through.

“Especially as a math major this was startling to me. Using numbers to provide a biased and unfair opinion is wrong,” he said. “Brian Rosenberg works way more hours and also his salary is not only tied to the number of hours he works. His job is so important that it can’t compare to a shift job. It’s not like he shows up 40 hours a week and gets paid.”

Caballero Ciciolli said: “The reason why we have such an expensive college president is becauses you have to hire someone who’s good and that’s expensive but it would be even more costly to the institution if he wasn’t good. I would say that a lot of people who are at Macalester right now applied in the first place thanks to the job that Brian has done over the last ten years. So all that needs to be taken into account.”

There was also concern that the value of $14.17 an hour would become unlivable after inflation. This concern prompted Michalesko to propose an amendment that the amount be “adjusted for inflation using the BLS’s yearly unchained CPI measure.” When called to a vote the amendment passed.

The document also experienced a name and purpose change. The document was originally titled “A Bill and Resolution to Address Income Inequality at Macalester College.” Calaway explained that the student assembly did not have the power to propose a bill or any document that MCSG would be forced to follow. Therefore an amendment was proposed to change the document to a resolution, which, following Calaway’s explanation, passed.

This process was far from easy, though. The proceedings were stalled by misunderstandings of the parliamentary procedure used during a student assembly. Though all attendants were provided with a document called “Parliamentary Procedure at a Glance,” many attendants remained confused by the process. Calaway attempted several times to keep the assembly in line with parliamentary procedures, but even he slipped in the practices‚ and at one point from his chair, causing an uproar in the assembly.

Eventually, in the final minutes of the assembly, the resolution passed with 80 ayes, 11 nays and two abstentions.

Going forward, Michalesko said that they will take their resolution to the Board of Trustees but they don’t know what to expect. “We met earlier with Steve Euller, who is the head of the compensation committee within the trustees, and he seemed to see no problem with the compensation system they currently use,” Michalesko said.

He said that they will continue to work for the rest of this year and following ones on meeting their goal of reducing income inequality.