The Legislative Body (LB) suspended its regular weekly meeting agenda in light of an anonymous Instagram post making damaging allegations against LB representatives running for president and vice president. In the fallout, the start of the elections was postponed from Monday, Feb. 17 to Tuesday, Feb. 18. On Monday, Joe Bentley ’21, who was running for MCSG President, dropped out of the race.
The LB held a discussion on mental health instead of its regular meeting.
“I think it’s important that we feel safe in this space first… before proceeding with other materials on our agenda, and also, I wanted to offer support and empathy for members of our group who have been going through a tough time this week,” MCSG President Blair Cha ’20 said.
Cha drafted the plan for the discussion with help from Dean of Multicultural Life Marjorie Trueblood before the LB meeting. The talking points included a mandate not to talk about the election and the allegations.
“I feel like as MCSG we’ve never really discussed [mental health]… I hope that this could be the meeting where we actually talk about where we’re at as a campus,” Cha said.
LB members and five student guests discussed campus mental health resources, response to mental health crises and MCSG’s role in building a culture of respectful leadership. Members noted a wide variety of resources, such as Residence Hall Directors, drop-in counseling and the Press 2 phone counseling program.
Student Services and Relations Committee (SSRC) member Shreya Nagdev ’22 pointed out a lack of representation of minority students in these resources.
“The lack of LGBTQ+ and people of color counselors on our staff is abhorrent,” Nagdev said.
The discussion then moved to how the community can better support student mental health. Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) member Karinna Gerhardt ’20 noted how professors can play an important role in handling mental health issues.
Several members suggested requiring mental health training for student leaders on campus, including heads of student organizations and members of MCSG.
The group then addressed how to build a culture of leadership and respect. Cha restated the importance of grounding conversations in fact.
“It’s about not saying things about a person without facts, not basing things on assumptions or rumours,” Cha said. “I think that’s something that everyone knows but apparently not.”
Several members alluded to the Instagram post and subsequent events throughout the meeting, despite the initial point on the agenda clarifying that this meeting was not a place to discuss it. SSRC member Rebecca Gentry ’23 raised her frustrations towards the end of the meeting.
“I am grateful that we’re having this conversation… but I was disappointed that we are not talking about certain things,” Gentry said. “I was really looking forward to our MCSG meeting because I was hoping to get some clarity on some things, and now I’m wondering if I’ll ever have the space to do that.”
Other members and guests echoed Gentry’s frustrations, stating that they wanted a space to discuss the Instagram post and accusations against the presidential and vice presidential candidates. Karinna Gerhardt ’20 made a case for delaying conversations in light of the lack of knowledge around the actual facts of the issues.
“We have no information, there is no way for us to get information, and so I worry that this is not a space to ethically, morally process the event that I know has happened,” Gerhardt said. “I think that there should be more conversations person to person, small group… because I worry about protecting everyone’s feelings here.”
After these brief references to the Instagram post, Cha acknowledged that the meeting agenda was difficult to set, but said she believed the discussion on mental health was productive and valuable.
Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) member Hannah Gilbert ’21 encouraged the LB to not be self-congratulatory.
“I think we need to be very careful of patting ourselves on the back for doing very little,” Gilbert said. “There’s a lot of words and not a lot of action.”
The LB then voted 18-1 with three abstentions to cancel next week’s meeting so that members can attend Minnesota precinct caucuses.