MCSG Overseer: FFM’s referendum on divestment gets go-ahead

Margaret Moran

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This week’s MCSG meeting began with a vote on Fossil Free Mac’s proposed student referendum. The referendum will add a question to the ballot for MCSG’s student representative election next week and students will be able to vote for or against divesting Macalester from direct private partnerships with oil and gas companies.

The referendum was passed almost unanimously, with only one dissenter.

The vote was followed by a discussion led by Campus Operations Director Andy Williams. He oversees the general day-to-day operations of the Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center (CC).

According to Williams, making the CC a more welcoming space will be a major focus of his office in the coming year.

“The facility is coming up on being around for 20 years,” he said. “Obviously student needs have changed during that time, some demographics have changed during that time, and I want to take some time to try and be intentional about how we are making sure that this is a space that works for all students across Macalester campus.”

Williams responded directly to complaints he’s heard about the CC in the past.

“I’ve heard some anecdotal things about it not feeling welcoming and inclusive, and I’ve heard it’s been called an airport, and [that] it has kind of a corporate feel,” Williams continued, “There are some things that we can’t do without 30 million dollars, but I feel like there are some things that we can do in the short term to make that space feel better for everyone so I wanted to take some time to talk to you to get feedback.”

The Legislative Body (LB) added some feedback of their own.

“Something that I’ve heard a lot this year is that cultural orgs would like to have some sort of intentional space that they could use in the campus center,” Diversity and Inclusion Officer Stacy Gerondelis ’19 said. “That might be a longer-term project, but just something that I have heard this year.”

Vice President, Student Services and Relations Committee (SSRC) Chair and President-elect Blair Cha ’20 noted a concern about the location of the Title IX Bias & Harassment Coordinator Timothy Dunn in the northeast corner of the second floor of the CC.

“Some concerns that I’ve heard in the past are related to moving the Title IX office,” Cha said.

“Right now, people [going to the Title IX office] have to walk through the whole crowd on the second floor in order to get to the office, and they have to pass all of the residence hall directors’ offices in order to get there. It can feel kind of like a trigger or unsafe for some people who have to do that.”

To discuss these and other concerns, Williams will be hosting three focus groups on campus next week for students, faculty and staff to voice their opinions on ways to improve the CC.

The LB then turned to a presentation by AAC member Ryan Perez ’20. Perez presented on amendments to the MCSG Constitution and the bylaws meant to reflect the LB’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.

While Perez initially pushed for the introduction of a formal subcommittee on the SSRC geared towards equity, diversity and inclusion, concerns about potential communication challenges led the LB to support a compromise plan with at-large members dedicated to those issues.

At-large members will be responsible for participating in the SSRC meetings, directing community outreach with student organizations and academic departments, as well as program support — specifically for existing SSRC initiatives like Open Pantry.

Perez also noted that at-large members will actively seek input from the Macalester community through a semesterly forum, during which the SSRC At-Large and LB members will present ongoing SSRC initiatives around equity, diversity and inclusion.

“Adding at-large members to the SSRC will allow for a significant expansion of programs like Open Pantry, and the fact that those members are chosen via an application process rather than an election will diversify the thinking of MCSG,” Perez wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “It’s especially valuable that these members are explicitly dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion, as it creates that much-needed space in our student government.”

The LB voted and passed this amendment to the bylaws, and it will go into effect for the 2019-2020 academic year.