Org budget appeals lead to 3 hour MCSG epic

Hannah Catlin

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The topic of this week’s MCSG meeting was student organization budget appeals. Nine groups — International Studies Club, Bad Comedy, Mac SUPER, Mactivists, Mac Slams, Afrika, BLAC, Physics & Astronomy Club and Outing Club — attended the meeting in hopes of acquiring more money for next year’s programming.

Before the appeals began in earnest, the Legislative Body (LB) voted to charter the Sunrise Order student organization and listened to a brief update from Student Organizations Committee (SOC) member Jason Kohn ’20 on his proposed amendment to the affirmative action statement. The LB will vote on his amendment at next week’s meeting.

Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) member Ryan Perez ’20 also updated the LB on the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) plan. The LB debated briefly over how EDI representatives will be chosen, should the sub-committee be voted into existence next week.

While some members support elections for these positions, others want to see MCSG leaders directly appoint representatives.

“I… disagree with having an election for these positions — diversity, inclusion, community engagement, sustainability — I believe in more centralized power for the president in appointing these positions,” SOC member Marco Hernandez ’19 said.

The LB also debated whether or not the EDI will overlap with the Diversity and Inclusion Officer position. The body did not reach a consensus.

Next, Fossil Free Mac (FFM) presented their proposal for a student referendum on fossil fuel divestment. Their hope is to gauge student interest in their ask — a moratorium on all of Macalester’s direct oil and gas private partnerships — in order to impress upon the board of trustees the importance of this issue.

FFM core member Colin Dobie ’19 read their proposed referendum question.

“Macalester directly invests $40 million in oil and gas infrastructure through private partnerships,” he began. “Fossil Free Mac has asked the board of trustees to make no further partnerships in the oil and gas industry and as the current partnerships end, to reinvest that money outside the fossil fuel industry. Do you support this proposal?”

The organization hopes the referendum will help convince the board of trustees to support their proposal as they debate it at their meeting in May.

“A central part of our campaign has been engaging the students; this will be taking that to a more official level,” FFM core member Sasha Lewis-Norelle ’21 said. “We want to be able to present the board of trustees with more of an official number of students who support this.

“The board has told us that concrete numbers of student support will help them in making this decision,” he continued. “Right now they are pretty much split even in terms of voting on divestment, and they try to make these decisions with consensus. We think we can push them a bit further showing there is a lot of student support for this.”

While many on the LB expressed general support for FFM, several board members raised concerns about the organization’s proposal to attach their full proposal, op-eds and other information about their campaign to the referendum. Some were concerned this could bias the results of the referendum and FAC member Kaarin Khandelwal ’20 proposed adding similar materials of the opposite viewpoint.

“I think the issue is that there’s not really comparable materials to what we’ve produced on the other side,” Dobie said. “There’s no group here at Macalester that’s actively proposing new fossil fuel investments… thankfully.”

“Our intention with adding these attachments was not to make a more convincing argument, rather we were thinking that it’s not fair to ask people to vote on a proposal without having the full version of that proposal,” Ana Gvozdić ’21 said. “I can understand why the op-ed is more controversial, and I think we could be flexible with that part — at least from my point of view.”

LB members still expressed reservations.

“If we get into the mind of a trustee — if they see anything that might bias the result that might actually hurt you, and I think the campus is going to vote overwhelmingly in your favor,” Perez said. “You might consider running an information campaign… leading up to the election and disseminate that information.”

With that FFM concluded their presentation. The LB will vote on adding the referendum to the ballot next week.

At this point in the meeting, student organization leaders waiting to defend their budget appeals lined the walls of Weyerhaeuser boardroom. Each group gave a short presentation on their request and then answered questions from the LB on the specifics of their ask.

The presenters generally spent their time clarifying vague budget items and specifying the events for which they’d requested money. Often, the Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) hadn’t approved requests simply because they hadn’t understood exactly why the organization needed the funds.

The appeal presentations lasted an hour and fifteen minutes until 9:00 p.m. — the usual end of MCSG meetings. In order to make time for the LB to thoroughly debate the fund allocations, the body voted unanimously to extend the length of the meeting.

For the most part, the ensuing debate went relatively smoothly.

International Studies Club, Mac SUPER, Mactivists, Mac Slams, Afrika and Outing Club saw their appeals at least partially funded by the LB. Bad Comedy, Physics & Astronomy Club and BLAC were the only organizations who received no additional funding.

FAC Chair Taneeya Rele ’19 and her fellow committee members often recommended that these organizations return to MCSG in the fall to request additional allocations for their projects, or that they work with relevant departments to find funding outside of the MCSG operational budget.

The meeting concluded at 10 p.m.