The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Lectures Coordination Board: First year in review

The Lectures Coordination Board (LCB) at Macalester was first established through a student referendum in late 2011. In the following years, challenges and disagreements regarding the size, budget, advisors, scheduling and coordination kept the LCB from getting off the ground.
This year, the LCB was fully revived and brought two speakers to campus. Still, during Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) budget meetings in recent weeks, there has been considerable dispute about the role of the Board on campus and its right, or lack thereof, to handle its own affairs, including funds.

Before the proposal brought forward by MCSG student representatives, there was no organization or department on campus to fund the LCB, which is given $50,000 per year. Currently, half of the funding comes from MCSG and Program Board. The other half is provided to the LCB through the student activity fee.

This past fall, Ezra Klein, political journalist and founder and editor-in-chief of, came to Macalester to speak about polarization in Washington politics. In the spring, comedian W. Kamau Bell gave his talk “The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour.” Both speakers were organized by the LCB.

LCB member Jolena Zabel ’16, who is also a member of MCSG’s legislative body, said that the need for a Lectures Coordination Board emerged from students’ awareness of well-known figures speaking at colleges in the area. For example, Bill Nye spoke at the University of Minnesota-Morris in October, and interest increased around bringing a popular media figure to campus, such as Stephen Colbert.

Zabel described the LCB as being “by students, for students.”

“The LCB started because there’s a demand on campus, first and foremost, for big-name programming, right?” she said. “So not a university professor-from-the-U level programming, but a Stephen Colbert, Bill Nye, Toni Morrison [level] kind of thing. And frankly, that requires big bucks and is more than what a single department or org can do.”

Prominent speakers, Zabel said, tend to draw a large percentage of the campus community and therefore can unify Macalester as a whole.

Zabel pointed out that the time chosen for Ezra Klein’s talk, a Sunday afternoon, led to an underwhelming turnout given the fame of the speaker, and that this was a learning experience for the Board.

“I feel that we as a board learned a lot with that event, specifically with regards to scheduling and other logistics,” said LCB member Zane Vorhes-Gripp ’17 in an email.

Referring to W. Kamau Bell’s talk, which was followed by a reception where students could meet the speaker, Zabel said, “It really started a conversation on campus, and it was really powerful as an organizer of it to see students laughing, and to see a full room really engaging with something. There’s not that many events on campus [where] you get the student body in one room together.”

The LCB ended the 2014-2015 school year with excess funds due to a contract violation by Bell which discounted the event. Although this number was disputed in different accounts during the writing of this article—the number ranging from $5,000 to $14,000—Director of Campus Activities and Operations Joan Maze confirmed it to be between $10,000 and $11,000.

Zabel proposed a bill on March 24 to alter the LCB’s original charter so that it could collaborate with orgs and faculty more to work with academic departments and, according to the MCSG meeting minutes, “synthesize funding.”

MCSG President Rothin Datta ’16 expressed his disagreement during the meeting. He said, “The bylaws of this group [exist so that] all the perspectives of the departments on campus are there when speakers come to campus. Money should come into [the operating fund]; the LCB is made just for speakers, not for handling requests.”

A bill that passed on April 14 amended Article X of the MCSG bylaws, which concerns the LCB. One amendment within the bill states that although a large part of the LCB’s objective is to collaborate with departments and orgs, they are not obligated to fund speakers as part of other programs, and reserve the right to choose where they will deposit their funds. Additionally, the amendments removed Director of Academic Programs Ann Minnick from the advisory board, so that the board will only have one advisor, and therefore be consistent with other supervised committees. There will also be a chair of the student committee starting next semester, which will be voted on at the first fall meeting. Although the LCB’s aim is to use the entirety of its budget each year, members can still vote at any time of the year to return funds to MCSG, which the bill accomplished this year.

Datta disagreed with the current execution of the LCB, but still voted for the bill to pass.

“I voted for the bill only because I wanted to get the money back into the operating fund for this year,” he said in an email. “With Jolena’s bill, I fear that the LCB lacks oversight (only presenting its funding to the LB ‘when they see fit’) and they will become another place on campus where orgs and individuals and departments will go for money. I think this is bad because orgs and individuals should actually come to MCSG for money, so everyone has an equal opportunity.”

In an interview, Datta elaborated on his perspective of recent budget meetings, and said that he believes the LCB has too much free reign, in the sense that the new bill doesn’t require the LCB to present the state of its funds to MCSG on a monthly basis, as Datta said would have been normal protocol.

“It became pretty clear that the current LCB thinks that what they should be able to do is give money to other organizations on campus—that could be other departments on campus—to help pay for their [other departments’] speakers, which I fundamentally think isn’t part of the LCB,” Datta said.

Datta also criticized the LCB’s choice to help fund Zerlina Maxwell’s SPEAK Series talk about gender-based violence as part of Women’s History Month. “If people want to bring big speakers to campus, they should just come to MCSG.”

Zabel, when emailed for comment on Datta’s remarks, emphasized what she views as a misunderstanding about the difference between collaboration and “simply being a funding resource.”

“We collaborated on bringing one speaker to campus this year, part of the SPEAK series, which we felt supported our mission of bringing big-name speakers to campus. We chose not to fund one speaker series at the end of the year due to short-timing and the disagreements about LCB in the LB,” Zabel wrote. “I, along with Suresh [Mudragada], Joan Maze, the current LCB, and other staff, believe the collaboration aspect of LCB is essential to its mission and its function as a programming entity.”

Maze spoke of the disagreements about the bill and LCB’s role as part of a larger misunderstanding.

“I think when people were discussing the issue, that was sort of where people were kind of miscommunicating. Because LCB wasn’t saying, ‘We just want the right to give money whenever we see fit.’ They were saying, ‘Whenever it is possible and necessary, and whenever it is still in line with our mission, we would like to be able to collaborate.’”

Maze gave the example of someday, possibly, using a large leftover sum of money to help bring in another major speaker as a reason for collaboration, as it was with Zerlina Maxwell this year. She also reiterated the mission of the LCB as being to bring in big speakers.

“Macalester usually wants people who are social advocates, who are prominent figures, and they usually come at a higher cost,” Maze said. “So I think the LCB wants some flexibility — if they see either a way to share costs, or lower costs by collaborating, they want to be able to have the freedom to do so.”

When asked for comment on Maze’s remarks, Datta said in an email, “I think it is a misrepresentation of the issue to say the LCB wanting to collaborate on projects like Maxwell is qualitatively different than giving them the discretion to hand money out. Their job is to bring big speakers, if collaboration is part of that, so be it.”

Datta wrote that other departments’ events, such as Maxwell’s talk, would have found funding from another place without the aid of the LCB. He also questioned the extent of the LCB’s power in giving that aid.

“The LCB is an unelected body, with far less oversight, now exercising discretion over issues it was never created to be involved with. Whether or not Joan thinks it will happen is irrelevant because it already has and the new bylaws make it even easier for it to happen again.”

Meanwhile, Zabel hopes to collaborate more with academic departments and the president’s office to eventually pay for an extremely high-profile speaker, such as Hillary Clinton.

“In the future, I would like there to be a longer planning time before speakers so that the future LCB has a wider range of speakers to select,” Vorhes-Gripp wrote. “In that way, speakers that may be bigger names would have more time to fit us into their schedule. Additionally, I hope that the future LCB is not afraid to experiment and try out different ways to bring speakers and host events, and to keep trying. The LCB has great potential, and I hope that the groundwork we’ve laid is built upon.”

“We have big plans, big dreams, and big goals and lots of good ideas,” Zabel said. “Every year we solicit student feedback [through polls and surveys], and there’s always so many suggestions. As long as students have good ideas and keep coming, I really hope LCB remains a strong presence on this campus.”

View Comments (5)
More to Discover

Comments (5)

All The Mac Weekly Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • D

    Diane ShortSep 12, 2019 at 2:47 am

    If you are going for best contents like me, simply pay a visit this web page every day since it offers feature contents, thanks

  • A

    Alexander MartinSep 10, 2019 at 8:07 pm

    Very instructive and superb anatomical structure of content material, now that’s user friendly (:.

  • S

    Sally HunterSep 7, 2019 at 6:43 am

    Hi, I do believe this is an excellent website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I’m going to revisit once again since I bookmarked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.