Senior staff address strategic plan, staff compensation

Senior staff address strategic plan, staff compensation

Ellen Patrickson, Staff Writer

At the March 24 community conversation senior staff addressed topics ranging from the strategic planning process, changes to COVID-19 policies and staff compensation. The community conversation was held over Zoom and allowed President Suzanne Rivera, Provost Lisa Anderson-Levy, Dean of Students and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Kathryn Coquemont and other senior staff to answer a variety of questions submitted by community members. 

The Zoom meeting began with fifteen minutes of Rivera, Anderson-Levy and Coquemont announcing various recent changes and events on campus. These announcements ranged from the recent success of the Macalester men’s basketball team to Macalester Ethics Bowl winning the National Championship.

Following this, Coquemont began the Q&A using the questions that had been sent in by community members. The first two questions concerned senior staff’s views on gratitude and community, and how they imagine these concepts on campus. 

“I could imagine us threading the idea of gratitude throughout programming next year as we reassemble on campus to encourage and formalize gratitude practices … as part of our broader context of trying to foster wellness within our community,” Rivera said.  

A third question concerned the current strategic planning process and the feedback that has been collected as a part of this. The Strategic Planning Champions, a group of 23 Macalester community members, have met every other Friday afternoon for four hours for several months. Their final Friday meeting was on March 25, and their work will culminate in a two-day retreat in mid-April. These meetings and the retreat have been partially planned during class hours, preventing many student Champions from attending. 

“During the meetings we review and discuss all the input we’ve been getting from the various constituencies,” Rivera said. “Ahead of that retreat we plan to share an update with the whole community.” 

Many of the following questions regarded the COVID-19 policies on campus and any potential future changes. There was concern that if masks were to become optional, they would also become optional in spaces that all students are required to occupy, like classrooms. Director of COVID-19 Operations Paul Overvoorde reassured attendees that the risk of transmission within classrooms is relatively low. 

“So far in this pandemic, according to MDH and with our own data, there has not been an example of a transmission that has taken place in the classroom,” Overvoorde said. “So classrooms tend to be some of the places that are of lower risk on campus.” 

On March 29, Overvoorde sent an email to the entire Macalester community, confirming that starting April 4, masks would no longer be required in many indoor spaces on campus. This change in the COVID-19 policy included a list of places where masks would still be expected, among them classrooms. 

Other questions asked during the conversation focused on staff compensation, including one about future salary increases, especially with regards to recent high inflation, and another about staff’s ability to take parental leave. The chair of the Task Force on Budget (TFOB), Patricia Langer, responded to these questions. Langer shared that salary increases had been recommended and would be considered by TFOB for next year’s budget. The Benefits Advisory Committee discussed the issue of parental leave as a priority. 

The meeting ended with the news that commencement is planned to happen in-person in the middle of May and that senior staff are hoping that they will be able to offer a hybrid option for the next community conversation. A recording of last week’s community conversation is available online and linked in the March 25 Mac Daily

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