At their Tuesday night meeting, the Legislative Body (LB) met with President Suzanne Rivera and Vice President and Provost Lisa Anderson-Levy to continue the discussion of changing campus culture following the Nov. 3 student sit-in. Representatives brought forward student concerns surrounding faculty’s awareness and response to student protests.
Sophomore representative Bobbie Pennington ’24 asked Rivera and Anderson-Levy about their long-term plans for solutions to the problems of racism, mental health and hardships faced by international students at Macalester.
Rivera stressed the engagement and transparency that senior staff have been building. Rivera mentioned Friday’s Imagine, Macalester event as an opportunity for students, faculty and alumni to work side by side to address challenges and gather feedback from the student body as the college undertakes a new strategic planning process.
“There’s a lot that needs to change on this campus, but we have to bring everyone into this conversation,” Rivera said. “We need to roll up our sleeves and work together to change the things we don’t like.”
Rivera mentioned that her team was developing a list of actions in response to a gathering of international students on Nov. 15. Rivera hoped to provide clearer explanations for international students surrounding the U.S. healthcare system, loans as a part of financial aid and the emergency fund.
Rivera also brought up student concerns over mental health and long wait times for counseling services through the Hamre Center, suggesting that this was something the college was hoping to improve upon.
Community Engagement Officer Ayana Smith-Kooiman ’22 voiced concerns about student and faculty discussion surrounding charged topics such as racism and sexism, noting the importance of discussing this in a way that doesn’t place pressure on certain groups of students to lead the conversation. MCSG Vice President and Student Services and Relations Committee (SSRC) Chair Jordanella Mpoyo ‘23 similarly criticized professors’ responses to the protests.
Anderson-Levy emphasized that she is working with departments to identify challenges and help them navigate better communication with their students. She mentioned that faculty are truly concerned with the wellbeing of their students and some departments have been sending out surveys and outreach efforts.
“All faculty have access to professional development that is offered through the Serie Center … The goal is to get faculty thinking about these issues and listening to your experiences,” Anderson-Levy said.
“I have tools like talking to departments and chairs, encouraging people to think about the cultures in their departments … [but] that’s not going to catch the people that decide they don’t want to participate,” Anderson-Levy said, “My role isn’t to say ‘you must do whatever.’ The tenure structure does not allow that. We are working with folks and some changes are just going to be harder than others.”
Anderson-Levy also mentioned grievances surrounding a lack of action on Title IX cases.
“Students will file a Title IX and nothing happens,” Anderson-Levy said. “Title IX is a law, so the bar for Title IX is very high. I’m more focused on changing the culture.”
Toward the end of the conversation, Student Body President Shreya Nagdev ‘22 asked if there had been any significant changes put in motion among staff since the sit-in two weeks prior.
“Culture change is a marathon, not a sprint” Rivera responded.
After the conversation with the President and Provost, MCSG voted unanimously to charter Un-Pac, a student political organization, and approved new funding for the Outing Club and Mac First Aid. The group also discussed the possibility of creating a Student Health Ad-Hoc Committee. Some representatives suggested that this proposal may be redundant to SSRC work, and the legislative body tabled the committee proposal.
Smith-Kooiman brought up the slow action of bureaucracy within student government and proposed a 30-minute time slot dedicated to planning action at each meeting. SSRC member Anna Diagne Sène ’24 voiced concerns about representative fatigue at the end of long meetings and suggested shorter meeting times and more communication by email. Nagdev suggested just avoiding “nebulous conversation” and focusing on more conscious action, instead of the 30 minutes of time.