MCSG Votes on Budget, Discusses Support for Undergraduate Students During COVID

Graphic+by+Katherine+Irving+%2722.

Graphic by Katherine Irving ’22.

Thomas Sasdi, Staff Writer

The Legislative Body (LB) met via Zoom on Tuesday, the fourth virtual meeting since Macalester’s transition to remote learning. The meeting started with a land acknowledgment, adapted to reflect that members were all in different locations, and therefore on land originally belonging to different people, before discussing next year’s budget.

The Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) recommended an operating budget of  $159,263.41 along with a capital budget of $17,333.01. However, due to budget cuts, the final budget stands at $138,015. For capital amounts, the FAC expects $18,000 in incoming revenue and a rollover of $47,000. $17,000 would be allocated to student organizations with $48,000 for additional allocation. The operating budget is the source for most allocations to student organizations. The capital budget acts as emergency money reserved for larger, more expensive, and longer-lasting expenses. The total allocation for the student organization operation was $110,882. Any additional allocation for the operating budget will come from a rollover from the current year. As the FAC estimates 1,800 students will attend Macalester in the fall, the estimated incoming Student Activity Fee will be $274,000.

Despite many student organizations donating their unused money from this year’s budget to the Office of Financial Aid’s emergency relief program, the FAC is still expecting a rollover amount similar to last year’s $30,000. This is due to the Program Board (PB) having a large sum of money that, due to a change in the Financial Code, will rollover. As of Tuesday’s meeting, 21 organizations have donated a total of $26,129 to the emergency fund excluding PB donations. The LB voted in a unanimous vote with zero abstentions in favor of the FAC recommendations.

The large budget cuts, especially to student organizations, are due to the expected lower student population next year. Although, according to FAC chair Ayushi Modi ’21, “Orgs are always welcome to come back for additional allocation, which I hope is going to be a substantial amount this year because of [the] money that’s going to be rolled over into the operating fund, according to the percentages in the financial code.”

The majority of the meeting was concerned with updates from a meeting of the Minnesota Association of Private College Students (MAPCS), attended by Jason Kohn ’20 and Rebecca Gentry ’23, and a discussion of what other schools in Minnesota are doing following campus closures due to COVID-19. Firstly, Kohn introduced a resolution for MCSG to support undergraduate students in coordination with peer institutions in response to COVID-19. Kohn was forwarded an email by another MAPCS member from student governments asking student governments from colleges and universities across the country to sign onto two letters with several requests. The first was addressed to graduate schools and future employers urging them to consider the effects of COVID-19 when evaluating spring 2020 applicants. The other was addressed to state medical licensing boards asking for a suspension on interstate regulations for counseling services, allowing mental health professionals to practice in multiple states. As of Tuesday’s meeting, student government representatives from more than 115 other schools had signed on to these two letters.

“I think that it would be a very meaningful thing because of all of the other initiatives that we have supported so far around COVID-19 and all of the disruptions that have been ongoing,” Kohn said.

The LB voted to support the resolution in another unanimous vote.

Gentry went on to describe how the other colleges from the MAPCS meeting are handling the COVID-19 crisis. Some institutions, such as St. Olaf College, are offering to pack up student’s belongings left in dorm rooms and ship them to students back home. Meanwhile, Carleton College has instituted a mandatory pass/fail. Many institutions, including Macalester, have established video-conferences with mental health counselors in order for students to continue to receive mental health support. At the moment, most schools intend to hold a delayed in-person commencement ceremony and begin the fall semester in-person. In a message to the Mac Daily from Commencement Co-Chairs Kate Frampton and Andy Williams on Wednesday, it was stated that an online commencement ceremony will be held with the hopes of holding an in-person ceremony at a later date. On Thursday, outgoing President Brian Rosenberg indicated a strong preference for holding two full, in-person semesters during the 2020-2021 school year in an email to students, staff and faculty.