MCSG discusses protest, student org chartering, and wellness day trade-offs

MCSG discusses protest, student org chartering, and wellness day trade-offs

Mandy Week, Staff Writer

At their Tuesday night meeting, the MCSG Legislative Body (LB) listened to and addressed concerns surrounding the administrative response to the challenges faced by international students and student political activism on campus, led by Rayan Abubaker Ahmed Hamid 22. They also discussed funding guidance and chartering for student orgs on campus, and further considered the proposal of integrating wellness days into the 2021-22 academic calendar. 

MCSG heard from Hamid, who shared her experiences as both a student activist and international student at Macalester, similar to the sentiments that she later reiterated at the meeting with senior staff on Wednesday morning. 

Hamid detailed her frustrations with the institution’s response to her situation. She cited her consistent efforts for administration to accommodate her healthcare needs, to which she received minimal help and a lack of communication from the institution. 

Hamid also described her experiences as a passionate student activist on campus. She explained that her posters around campus advocating for political causes continue to be taken down. Additionally, she said that the events that she organized to generate awareness have been shut down.

The LB met Hamid’s vulnerability with solidarity at the meeting and made plans to accompany her to the Wednesday coffee break with senior staff in solidarity. However, the LB said that their support for Hamid and other students with similar experiences must not end here. They expressed a need to continue the conversation on how MCSG and white students on campus can show up for BIPOC and international students. 

MCSG also reviewed outlined guidance based on the financial code for the Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) and the LB in evaluating student org funding requests. FAC Chair Rebecca Gentry 23 emphasized approaching these requests with open-mindedness and willingness to listen. 

“MCSG funds more than 80 student orgs, and the idea there is to help them carry out their missions, whatever those missions may be,” Gentry said.

Gentry additionally highlighted the importance of respecting student org requests pertaining to specific cultures, advising that the LB not offer alternative suggestions to culturally significant requests. 

“Unless you come from that culture, you don’t have an innate understanding of what’s better [or] what’s worse, and so we want to stay away from insinuating that because that is insensitive,” Gentry said. “Don’t put people in a position that makes them feel like they have to justify or explain or validate their culture, because these are things that nobody should ever have to justify and defend.”

Senior class representative Katie McCarthy 22 also stressed receptiveness in listening to and chartering student orgs. 

“We don’t want to question the reason why an org wants to exist, or how they want to operate. But we want to be there to encourage them and engage with them,” McCarthy said.

After, the LB unanimously approved providing additional funding for Ua Ke, Macalester’s Hmong student org. The funding will go towards their Hmong New Year event on Nov. 20 in the Kagin Ballroom. 

MCSG proceeded to approve their bylaws for the 2021-22 academic year. They then transitioned into sharing committee updates, in which the Student Services and Relations Committee (SSRC) announced their plan to hold an open forum on Nov. 17 at 5:00 p.m. in The Loch for students to bring questions and concerns. Additionally, the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) mentioned a form sent out to students via email about updates to the Textbook Reserve Program. 

Later, the LB approved chartering the Latinx Student Union (LSU) at Macalester, whose purpose is “to represent, integrate, and celebrate all people of the Latinx diaspora at Macalester and its surrounding areas … through dialogue and engagement with the community.” 

Their hope is for LSU to be a space for Latinx students to “explore and reclaim their identities, learn from each other, and foster a sense of belonging and community.”  

The LB then revisited their conversation surrounding scheduled wellness days. While many MCSG members would like to move forward with integrating wellness days, some were concerned about the trade-offs, especially in relation to the academic calendar. Adding wellness days would shorten breaks already built into the school year.

Some MCSG members also expressed worry about how wellness days could complicate leases for students living off campus, and potentially be disadvantageous for students’ education. 

“As we’re taking stuff out of classes with busy work, I know that at least in my classes, I’m at a severe disadvantage in the future because of content that is taken away,” MCSG President Shreya Nagdev 22 said.

However, while the LB is undecided on how to approach integrating wellness days into the academic calendar, members remain staunch advocates for student wellness in general.

“As we talk to more and more people, the problem becomes clear: we are not asking for wellness days, we are asking for wellness,” student representative on the Educational Policy and Governance Committee (EPAG) and AAC Chair Tom Liu 24 said.

Regardless of whether wellness days are included in the academic calendar, several MCSG members emphasize the need to have conversations on wellness. 

McCarthy explained the importance of communicating with both professors and fellow students in order to meet student needs and prioritize student wellbeing.

“I’m encouraging everyone, including myself, to talk with their classmates about wellness days,” McCarthy said. 

The LB proposed sending out a survey to the student body in order to determine whether students would be interested in having wellness days given the potential sacrifices. 

Community Engagement Officer Ayana Smith-Kooiman 22 also brought up the MCSG legislative updates newsletter, including one that will be sent out at the end of the semester detailing committee updates. In the spring, newsletters will be sent out twice monthly. The LB will be voting next week on a final version of the newsletter to be sent out to the student body.

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