On Feb. 16, the Legislative Body (LB) met to mourn the recent loss of Tony Nguyen and introduce resolutions for Macalester’s divestment from Enbridge.
MCSG President Fatiya Kedir ’21 began the conversation about Nguyen’s passing by asking LB members to take care of themselves and acknowledging questions she had received about how Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) can support classmates who are grieving. She reported that Associate Dean of Students and MCSG faculty advisor Andrew Wells will lead a discussion about Student Affairs’ function next week.
“Through those conversations, as well as conversations with… [MCSG’s] mental health ad hoc [committee], I would love to figure out a way to understand what the role is of MCSG during moments like this,” Kedir said.
Student Organizations Committee (SOC) member Diana Paz Garcia ’21 suggested that members reflect on where they have been disappointed with Macalester’s reactions to student death in the past and think about how MCSG could fix those shortcomings, but recognized that it would be difficult.
“It’s complicated because grief is such a personal process,” Paz Garcia said.
Members highlighted how Macalester faculty could make a difference in the grieving process. They shared both negative and positive experiences, from professors failing to acknowledge grief to giving students more time to do their work.
“I went into my class… after the announcement and my professor said, ‘Well, we all got Dr. Rivera’s email. I didn’t know him, one of you messaged me saying that you knew him and it was really hard for you. Okay, let’s learn some quantum mechanics,’” MCSG Vice President Shreya Nagdev ’22 said, reflecting on her experience with one of her professors.
“It just reminds me that faculty have so much power over student experience,” said Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) member Lola Brown ’23.
Student Services and Relations Committee (SSRC) member Finn Odum ’21 proposed a grieving period, and SOC member Ayana Smith-Kooiman ’22 agreed.
“Is there a way we can push for a policy for a day break or a grieving period?” Odum said. “Because it really hurts to have to go back into a normal environment knowing that this happened and that so many people have been affected by what happened.”
Wells stepped in to explain that while, as part of Student Affairs, he is committed to working toward this goal, the faculty would be in control of this kind of policy. He said that EPAG might be the place to start this idea.
“I think it would be a push,” Wells said. “As you all have heard from members on this call, there are members of our faculty who do not share the same expectation of space for grievance.”
Kedir finished the conversation by noting the importance of what MCSG can and cannot control. She concluded that honoring students’ family members’ wishes is one of the most important actions MCSG could take, but there are still gaps in the school’s response that they can fill.
“I do think out of the things that we can control [are] conversations around mental health, conversations regarding creating structure, so we feel the sense of community care and love,” Kedir said.
Next, Sustainability Officer Kashvi Ajitsaria ’22 gave a presentation on Macalester’s investment in Enbridge. She discussed Sasha Lewis-Norelle’s ’21 and Emma Harrison’s ’21 new proposal to the board of trustees, which requests that the board take three actions.
“Firstly is to publicly denounce Line 3… Secondly is to divest from all liquid holding in Enbridge Energy,” Ajitsaria said. “And then, thirdly, is to foster transparent dialogue with the Mac community regarding the school’s investments.”
The writers of the proposal are also seeking community signatures on a petition to the board of trustees urging it to review the proposal immediately.
Ajitsaria introduced additional resolutions for MCSG to consider alongside its support of Lewis-Norelle and Harrison’s proposal, including requesting that the board divest from other fossil fuel companies and supporting the Sustainability Office as it transitions to focus more on environmental justice.
“It would be really valuable for MCSG as well to support this proposal to the board with a resolution of our own,” Ajitsaria said. “That would mean integrating some of the snippets from The Mac Weekly article, as well as their proposal, to draft how we can demonstrate students’ support for this proposal,” she continued.
Prior to next Tuesday, LB members will give their input on the resolutions introduced by Ajitsaria, which MCSG will vote on then. Also next week, the LB will speak with class representatives to discuss class nights and Wells will lead a discussion about Student Affairs.