MCSG Overzoomer: Legislative Body discusses student engagement, challenges

MCSG Overzoomer: Legislative Body discusses student engagement, challenges

Anna Diagne Sene, Contributing Writer

On Tuesday, Nov. 17th, MCSG’s legislative body (LB) met over Zoom to discuss issues ranging from supporting international students to building trust with the student body. The meeting kicked off with a land acknowledgement.

Dexter Deng ’20 spoke on behalf of international students and Chinese internationals in particular, sharing his personal experience with heavily restricted travel. Deng said that China’s new policy stating that each airline is only allowed one flight into the country each week has made travel difficult and expensive.

“Plane tickets [have] skyrocketed to a point where it’s very unaffordable and a lot of them get cancelled very unexpectedly,” Deng said. 

Furthermore, Deng added that for international students, “taking a leave of absence means they won’t have legal status” in the United States. 

In light of this reality, he suggested that the college should be more flexible.

“They are missing the whole point,” Deng said. “There could be a more rigorous process deciding whether the student needs accommodation. One thing that the college could do is open some storage spaces for international students.”

First year representative Bobbie Pennington ’24, who is also an international student, echoed some of Deng’s grievances. 

“As of today, I feel that Macalester has failed us international students a lot,” Pennington said. “There needs to be a lot more cooperation between the school and international students in times like these.”

Vice President Shreya Nagdev ’22 promised to get in touch with Deng again about what can be done to help moving forward.

Deng closed by voicing what he called the “unfairness of the module system.” 

“Failing people without providing additional accommodation at this time is just extremely crushing to people,” Deng said.

Deng added that he had the impression that his professors put a lot of pressure on students to meet strict deadlines, but believes that the school cannot expect the students to perform the same way they are used to in general, especially when “some students have 3 a.m. classes.”

The LB then discussed the spring activity fee, continuing a discussion from last week’s meeting. Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) chair Hannah Gilbert ’20 motioned to recommend to the board of trustees that students should not be charged for the spring activity fee next semester. The motion passed unanimously with 19 votes in favour and zero against.

After this vote, Chief of Staff Daryll Seneque ‘23 proposed that each class representative bring in one student from their class during each meeting so the students’ ideas get voiced more. Nagdev suggested yearly listening sessions, as “speaking in meetings can be intimidating.”  

Student Organization Committee (SOC) chair Briah Cooley ’21 was skeptical that students would take advantage of that opportunity. 

“From a senior student point of view, the students are disenchanted with the school,” Cooley said. “[I am] not sure whether they want to come to MCSG to voice those frustrations.” 

The discussion revolved around how MCSG can regain the trust of the student body and bring in issues students hope MCSG can address. Nagdev gave the example of Pennington, who actively went to his classmates at the beginning of the school year to look for solutions to dining issues with Cafe Mac.

“We need to be more proactive — getting us to [students] instead of them getting to us,” Nagdev suggested.

SOC member Ayana Smith-Kooiman ’22  mentioned that other groups of students are already working to solve problems on campus and pitched the idea of bringing them together.

“There are already so many student organizations already on this campus trying to do so many things,” Smith-Kooiman said. “Why not build a coalition with them and bring them into MCSG? We need to be more visible. Right now we are a body that talks a lot but there is not that much action.”

The last topics on the agenda revolved around getting MCSG into the national coalition of student leaders — a collaboration of student government leaders from across the country born during the spring 2020 semester that advocates for undergraduate needs during the COVID-19 pandemic — and making professors more attentive to students’ complaints given that they cannot be held accountable for the decisions they make in their classes by anyone but faculty. 

The LB wrapped up the evening with announcements, committee updates and an open-floor discussion during which Nagdev asked for volunteers who would want to plan a Thanksgiving for students who can’t go home. 

For the upcoming LB meetings, MCSG President Fatiya Kedir ‘21 will not be attending and Nagdev will take charge until Kedir returns.

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