LB tackles unlearning white supremacy, RA campaign, MCSG compensation

LB tackles unlearning white supremacy, RA campaign, MCSG compensation

Kamini Ramakrishna and Mandy Week

At their Tuesday night meeting, Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) discussed the proposition of adding wellness days into the 2021-22 academic calendar and their role as the Legislative Body (LB) in supporting Macalester RAs’ campaign for a livable wage. They also considered how MCSG can integrate an education series on unlearning white supremacy to address issues of discrimination within the Macalester community, and compensation for MCSG representatives.

The meeting opened with a land acknowledgement given by MCSG Vice President Jordanella Maluka Chagiye Mpoyo ʼ23. 

Led by Mpoyo, the LB then nominated members for speaker of the house. The role of speaker of the house is to be present at Executive Board meetings, run the agenda, count votes, manage the speaker list and maintain order in the room. MCSG President Shreya Nagdev ʼ22 emphasized that officers are not eligible for this position, only representatives, and that she will send out a voting form for MCSG members. Voting will take place next week.

Moving on to the LB agenda items, sophomore class representative Anna Diagne Sène ʼ24 proposed re-integrating designated wellness days into the academic calendar. Wellness days were a component of last school year’s module system, in which students had two days per semester off of classes. To account for the missed school days, Macalester shortened spring break. 

Sène argued that the semester system is long enough for students to have wellness days again. Financial Affairs Committee Chair Rebecca Gentry ʼ23 commented that the earliest possible time to re-integrate wellness days would be the spring semester or the next academic year. Representative Kody Harrington ʼ23 added that Macalester ought to be able to add wellness days to the academic calendar with the same urgency that it had during the previous school year. 

Multiple representatives emphasized the importance of adding additional days of rest in order to promote student wellness without reallocating days from spring break.

The second LB agenda item was the RA campaign for a livable wage. Recently, RAs began circulating a petition for members of the Macalester community to stand behind the school’s RAs in their cause for improved compensation. Katie Funk ʼ22, a second-year RA, explained to the LB how Macalester RAs are required to be on the school’s meal plan, but unlike some other schools, Macalester requires them to pay the board fee themselves. 

While Macalester claims that the position of an RA is the highest paying job available to students, Funk argued that it is not nearly enough for the amount of work that they do. 

“We have no spending money, but we’re spending all of our time working for Macalester,” Funk said.

“We’re working 24/7 for a bed, for a room to sleep in at night. That is all we get paid for,” sophomore class representative Bobbie Pennington ʼ24, who is also an RA, added.

The LB voted unanimously to sign the petition on behalf of MCSG. Junior class representative Jonah Wexler ʼ23* and Pennington offered suggestions to show further support as an organization. Wexler proposed utilizing MCSG social media to promote the petition and raise awareness, and Pennington presented the option of releasing a written resolution of support to the student body. 

Community Engagement Officer Ayana Smith-Kooiman ʼ22 suggested that calculations of how much the RAs are underpaid be included in RA demands as a way to break the technical details down for the student body and garner more support.

The LB next addressed the MCSG letter against transphobia and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric sent out to Macalester students on Tuesday. In a discussion led by Smith-Kooiman, the LB reflected on the impact of the letter within the Macalester community.

“A student did come up to me today and say ‘thank you for putting out the letter,’ so it did make a difference for some people,” Smith-Kooiman said. 

Over the past week, MCSG members had signed the message committing to working with on-campus resources to stand with the LGBTQ+ community and provide additional resources for students, and Smith-Kooiman suggested expanding this across campus.  She described how she has been noticing different conversations happening on campus regarding the BIPOC experiences at Macalester, as well as the prevalence of white supremacy.

“One thing that I’m trying to hold in different spaces is the idea of unlearning white supremacy culture and how it shows up in organizations and organizing,” Smith-Kooiman said. 

She added that she felt these manifestations of everyday racism must be unpacked, including in MCSG. Smith-Kooiman also suggested that a document be created and shared with MCSG members to identify areas in which they see white supremacy on campus among Macalester students and staff.

Compensation for the LB, Executive Board, and Program Board (PB) was the next item in the agenda. Several representatives expressed their frustrations at how they feel that the school profits off of students’ unpaid work, listing MCSG as an example. 

“Having MCSG as an unpaid position definitely favors people who are in more wealthy positions and more financially stable positions,” Pennington said.

The LB unanimously voted in favor of creating an ad hoc committee to address compensating MCSG members. 

During the open floor portion of the meeting, Diversity and Inclusion Officer Roon Mahboub ʼ22 reminded the LB of an ad hoc committee created to promote ways to combat discrimination within the Macalester community and share them with students. 

Members then discussed increasing involvement among the student body, and Gentry added that there are multiple open positions on various campus committees now accepting applications. Smith-Kooiman added a reminder that ad hocs are open to individuals outside of MCSG.

*Jonah Wexler is an opinion editor for The Mac Weekly.

*Ayana Smith-Kooiman is a web editor for The Mac Weekly.