MCSG Overzoomer: President Rivera speaks at Legislative Board meeting

MCSG Overzoomer: President Rivera speaks at Legislative Board meeting

Ella Pinkert, Staff Writer

The Legislative Body (LB) convened on Nov. 10 after a two-week recess for fall break and the election. President Suzanne Rivera attended the meeting and answered the representatives’ questions on topics including information about Module 5, effective ways to communicate with the administration and the outsized workloads students have been experiencing.

Rivera began by thanking the student body for its outstanding job managing the pandemic. She noted that the COVID-19 cases in the Macalester community have been split between off-campus students and employees, confirming that there has not yet been an outbreak in the residence halls, and commending students for their efforts.

“I think it’s a testament to how seriously all of the students in the dormitories are taking this, and really, how seriously all of our students are taking it,” Rivera said.

Rivera, prompted by Financial Affairs Committee member (FAC) Felicia Peterson ’22, spoke on the details of Module 5. She outlined the timeline for Module 5 information, reporting that more information regarding the summer module will come out later this week and registration will come in February or March. Faculty will offer both courses that are often difficult to get into and required for graduation as well as experimental classes.

“We’re going to try to prioritize approving classes for Module 5 that help people make progress toward a degree…But, we are going to have a variety of electives that are nice to have,” Rivera said. “We have a biology professor who says ‘why not do bird watching in June?'” 

MCSG President Fatiya Kedir ’21 asked about the module system, why Macalester decided to keep it and graduation plans. Rivera reported that December graduation will definitely be online, but May graduation plans are still up in the air.

Rivera covered some of the points about the module system in her Oct. 29 campus-wide email, specifically naming its flexibility and classroom space restraints. She also acknowledged student criticism, but added that not all students dislike it.

“There definitely was not a uniformity of student perspectives on this, so given everything on balance, it made the most sense for us to stick with the module system for spring, but admonish the faculty about the importance of flexibility,” Rivera said.

Student Organization Committee (SOC) member Ayana Smith-Kooiman ’22 followed with a question about holding faculty accountable for being flexible with the work loads they place on students and course structure in the module system. In reply, Rivera shared that she has been pushing for faculty to be creative with how they teach and what they teach, but she also is not in charge of how the faculty structure their courses. 

She continued that, in general, faculty who teach classes in a sequence feel pressured to deliver the course exactly as they would during a normal semester. Rivera expressed that she has made it clear that the heavy workload that comes with that should not be necessary.

“You have to deliver the minimum information, but do you have to have as many graded assignments? Do they have to be as long as they normally would be?” she said.

Rivera added that she would keep pushing faculty to be adaptable. She also strongly encouraged students to take advantage of the fall 2020 flexible grading policy, citing her own use of pass/fail grading in college as extremely helpful to her learning.

“I really think that that’s a wonderful way to take a little pressure off you,” Rivera said. “It doesn’t mean that you won’t work hard.”

FAC chair Hannah Gilbert ’21 wondered about the most effective ways for students to bring ideas and criticism to the administration. Rivera said that students should first speak to who is actually in charge of their issue, and then come to her if they are unhappy with the response.

“I’ve been served with a petition with 500 signatures on it before I was even asked my opinion about the question,” Rivera said. “We could have just resolved this in a simple conversation.”

“Especially at a time where students tell me how much pressure they’re under, it sort of breaks my heart if they spend an entire weekend mounting a campaign about a problem that is very easily solved,” she concluded.

Next, the LB covered the Educational Policy and Government Committee (EPAG) resolution that was first introduced at the last MCSG meeting. Authors took the last week to make adjustments after that initial discussion of the resolution.

The resolution recommends that EPAG reduce synchronous class time in future modules, clarify information about programs accessible to students, make the Module 5 schedule available as soon as possible and hold a town hall for Macalester community members to share their concerns. The LB voted on it, and the motion passed 20-0.

Next week, the LB will vote on a recommendation to eliminate the Spring 2021 activity fee.

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