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

Staff editorial: The Mac Weekly responds to MCSG’s budgeting

Editor’s note: This is an opinion piece composed by The Mac Weekly editors.

On Tuesday, The Mac Weekly spent 25 minutes pleading with MCSG to approve our budget for next year. The Weekly’s efforts to produce a weekly newspaper, and thus stay true to our name, were nearly derailed by MCSG’s bureaucracy.

MCSG initially refused to provide the Weekly with the funds necessary to print on a regular basis due to supposed misuse of Checkbook, MCSG’s online accounting system. MCSG granted us $11,267.39 through the appeals process, thanks to the heroic efforts of several legislative body (LB) members who appreciate our place on campus. Many orgs accused of the same Checkbook misuse were not so lucky.

Bad Comedy, Bodacious, Scotch Tape — some of the most active orgs on campus with established, high-functioning leadership — have struggled to use Checkbook correctly. In fact, MCSG approved only 66 percent of the total budgets requested this year, before the 20-percent cut that was applied to all org budgets. While these cuts occurred for a variety of reasons and were not all Checkbook related, it proves that MCSG is more invested in withholding money than distributing the student activity fee that we all pay.

MCSG is trying to push a system that almost half of the orgs on campus either don’t use or can’t use. And MCSG reacts to this problem by holding budgets hostage. These are the kind of tricks Congress pulls; MCSG should not emulate our dysfunctional national government.

This year, The Mac Weekly was audited and met with our FAC liaison as part of the usual budgeting process. Throughout these meetings, we constantly asked for confirmation that we were following the right procedures, even inquiring specifically about our Checkbook use. At no point did any MCSG representative point out a problem.

During the 25-minute discussion Tuesday night, representatives argued that The Mac Weekly should not receive “special treatment,” as no other orgs were allowed to appeal a Checkbook-related budget cut. Similarly, members of the LB claimed that The Mac Weekly is a “model org” that should be held to a higher standard because of its size and legacy, and that we could easily apply for the remaining $9,000 of yearly printing costs that had been cut from our original budget request by requesting additional allocations next fall.

What became clear during the appeals process was MCSG’s prioritization of strict adherence to the rules over flexibility and the needs of the student body. The Mac Weekly has been a school institution for 102 years, and threatening our weekly model over a one-semester Checkbook backlog is irresponsible of MCSG. The LB put The Mac Weekly through a punitive process that emphasized MCSG’s rigidity and detachment. Many members of the LB were ready to send the College’s only student newspaper into an uncertain future to prove a point about the importance of using Checkbook flawlessly.

MCSG’s primary responsibility is to divide the student activity fee amongst Macalester’s dozens of orgs. Student government should want to give funding to these passionately run orgs, not hold funds hostage over petty grievances. We were shocked that such a substantive percentage of the LB considered depriving the campus community of its only weekly campus news source. We were shocked that more of them did not ask themselves: Is the sanctity of MCSG budgeting procedures more important than the sum of student orgs? Cutting the Weekly is good for no one: not for us, not for students, not for admissions and not for student government. We’re disappointed that MCSG let us approach that precipice.

The budgeting process’ punitive nature makes MCSG supremely inaccessible. Navigating the system of student government requires a knowledge of bureaucracy and obscure terminology that should be simply unnecessary in a community as small and intimate as ours. MCSG reflects many of the flaws of real government, ones that we should strive to avoid in a community of only a few thousand people. It would be entirely possible for MCSG to follow the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law; we just need our representatives to commit to that change, for the benefit of all student orgs.

The current budgeting process contributes to conceptions of our student government as neither transparent nor attentive to the needs of students. It just gives MCSG more power to withhold funds and waste more organizations’ time in meetings. Let’s make this process smoother. Let’s acknowledge the services Mac’s orgs provide for the school, and not play with them. MCSG’s petty bureaucracy is not more important than the sum total of Mac’s many orgs.

Thankfully, some members of the LB championed The Mac Weekly and our importance to the community. Without them, the Weekly would look quite different in the 2016-17 school year. We urge readers to attend an MCSG meeting and observe the extent of the hierarchy and jargon for themselves. Encourage your friends and representatives to live up to their promises of transparency and accessibility by simplifying the budgeting bureaucracy.

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