MCSG drafts policy proposal for student death

MCSG drafts policy proposal for student death

Estelle Timar-Wilcox, News Editor

At Tuesday’s MCSG meeting, Macalester’s Legislative Body (LB) reviewed a draft of a student bereavement policy, which proposes a course of action for the college to take in the event of a student’s death. The LB also heard two budget appeals and several funding presentations from student organizations. 

MCSG’s Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) has spent the last few weeks drafting the student bereavement policy. The policy would make classes optional on the day of and the day after the death of a student. The policy also asks professors to offer a grace period on assignments and give their students information about the option of having classes graded under the “incomplete” designation. 

Student death and the college’s response to it have been regular topics of conversation this year, due to both the ongoing loss from COVID-19 and the passing of two Macalester students. The college’s response to both losses — particularly the hesitation to cancel classes after Kai Davis’ death in September — sparked frustration among students.

The authors of the bereavement policy draft note Macalester’s response to student death in the policy’s rationale. 

“Unfortunately, student death on Macalester’s campus is not a new occurrence, but rather an ongoing issue that lacks more specific direction for students to take,” the policy reads. “Given that Macalester has a small student population and a close-knit community, the effects of a student death are likely to be felt around campus.”

AAC Chair Kareem Greaney ’21 noted that Macalester does not have a specific policy addressing student death. He mentioned requesting a leave of absence as a path that students might choose to take in the event of grief or loss, but said that the AAC saw a need for a more specific policy in this case. 

“With higher education there’s a tendency to try to distinguish between someone’s outside life and school,” Greaney said. “This is trying to address student well-being in the realm of academics and ensure that there’s a policy and structure for students.” 

Members of the LB discussed the policy draft. MCSG President Fatiya Kedir asked why the proposed policy would make classes optional instead of cancelling classes, suggesting that students might feel pressured to go to class even if it was technically not required.

Greaney said that making class optional, in conjunction with pushing back due dates, would ideally alleviate the pressure of doing schoolwork while also giving students the chance to keep their daily routines if they want to. 

Greaney invited LB members to offer more feedback on the policy, acknowledging that student death is a difficult topic to approach. He hopes that the policy can help broach the topic of death and grieving at Macalester.

“Hopefully this would begin to create a norm for changing how we deal with this stuff in higher education,” Greaney said. “The very fact that [the policy] exists and that professors will have to address this policy — even that in itself may reduce pressure, because people will actually feel comfortable taking advantage of something that’s structured and actually written.

“Hopefully this is the beginning of changing how we address death,” Greaney continued. 

Once finished, the AAC plans to submit it to the Educational Policy and Government committee (EPAG) for consideration. EPAG can then decide whether to move forward with making this an official policy. 

In addition to the bereavement policy, the LB also heard budget appeals from two student orgs. The LB approved an additional $260 for Fresh Concepts towards tickets to an improv show, and $1,431.20 for the Muslim Student Association to host an Iftar dinner for Ramadan with food from Shish. 

Nine additional student orgs requesting more than $4,000 in funds for next year gave presentations detailing their requests. The LB did not vote on those proposals on Tuesday night; they will be included in the Financial Affairs Committee’s final budget request, which the LB will vote on next week. 

Associate news editor Ian Witry assisted in reporting this article.

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