Students draft MCSG bill in response to COVID-19 closures

Graphic+by+Katherine+Irving+%2722.

Graphic by Katherine Irving '22.

Margaret Moran, News Editor

Duane Nguyen ’21 and Student Services and Relations Committee member Shreya Nagdev ’22 are introducing a bill to use the remaining MCSG budget to provide a payment to Macalester students. 

If passed, the bill would re-allocate the remaining MCSG budget to Macalester students to alleviate any financial burden incurred as a result of campus closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill will be introduced to the Legislative Body (LB) on Tuesday, March 25, at an MCSG meeting taking place over Zoom Video Communications at its normal time of 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Nagdev said that while normally MCSG votes on bills a week after they are introduced, she will request that the LB vote on the bill on Tuesday given the urgent circumstances.

“I feel that this requires us to act immediately,” Nagdev said.

Each student would receive the same amount of money from MCSG and have the option to decline the amount to be put in a reserve fund. 

Students who are incurring significant financial losses as a result of the COVID-19 closures would be able to apply for more funding from the reserve fund. The compensation program would not be coordinated with Financial Aid.

“I realized that [coordinating with financial aid] would be the best way to go, but that would take a while, and unfortunately financial aid is swamped right now,” Nagdev said. “So many students just need some money right now”.

The amount to be paid out to students would range from $30-$100, based on how much MCSG can recover from student org budgets.

“We’ll have to talk to orgs and see if they’re willing to give us back their money because they won’t be using it, so that’s something that I’m working on,” Nagdev said. “But no matter what, if this bill were to pass, students would get money, even if orgs didn’t give us back anything.”

Nguyen and Nagdev were inspired by a letter drafted by political science professor Althea Sircar calling on the college to provide a one-off $1,000 stipend to students with the highest level of financial need, fully replace student work-study salaries and student relocation costs, among other things.

Over 800 students, staff, faculty and alumni have signed the letter to date. 

“We were like ‘I feel like there are more things that we can do like I don’t think Macalester is going to move things very fast, and students need money now,’” Nagdev said. “And… I realized that I could write something that could give students the money they need.” 

The bill would violate the MCSG Financial Code, which specifically prohibits the Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) from paying students. FAC Chair Ayushi Modi ’21 and FAC Chair-elect Hannah Gilbert ’21, however, say that the FAC may be open to making an exception to the Financial Code.

“The FAC isn’t inherently opposed to modifying the financial code in these unprecedented times,” Gilbert and Modi said in a statement to The Mac Weekly.  “Many students are experiencing true hardship, and working alongside college administration MCSG wants to provide support for those in need.”

The final decision, however, will be made by the full membership of the FAC.

“Before making any specific recommendations regarding the bill currently being written, we will need to discuss the proposal with the whole FAC,” the statement read. “Once our committee has met, we will share our recommendations with the Legislative Body at Tuesday night’s meeting.”

The FAC will meet next on Tuesday noon via video conferencing to confer before the full MCSG meeting that night.

Nagdev says that while her plan is unprecedented, it is one of the most important ways that student representatives can provide immediate relief.

“I want to help students get through this crazy time with as little worry as possible,” Nagdev said. “It’s our job as student representatives [and] as people who care to ensure that everyone will be okay.”

The Mac Weekly will continue reporting on this story as it develops.