MCSG overseer: LB hears responses to Congress to Campus

MCSG overseer: LB hears responses to Congress to Campus

Maddie Heinz, Associate News Editor

On Tuesday, Oct. 4, Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) held their weekly meeting where they approved student organization fund requests and delivered updates on various Legislative Board (LB) committees. However, MCSG dedicated the majority of the meeting to a discussion regarding the upcoming Congress to Campus event and the student response to it.

The aforementioned event, which was first announced to the student body two weeks ago, has received mixed responses from students. Two former Congressmembers will be debating Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court case that overturned Roe v. Wade in June. 

MCSG invited two students organizing opposition to the event, Elise Sexton ’23 and Bea Green ’23, to speak at the meeting. Sexton and Green provided information on the event that most of the student body may not be aware of, notably that the event is scheduled to happen every year for the next five years. The money that is bringing Congress to Campus, a private program, to Macalester was donated by an alumnus this summer. Sexton and Green highlighted some of the problems they found with this decision-making process to MCSG members. 

“I am a community and global health concentrator,” Sexton said. “So the event raised a red flag for me … It looked like it was coming from the political science department without any input from the community and global health group on campus.” 

Sexton and Green also raised concerns that the event was planned with no consultation from students, as plans were finalized over the summer. Now, nothing about the event can be changed, including the topic. 

Sexton and Green asked LB members for their guidance and feedback in the days leading up to the Congress to Campus discussion. 

“We’re really hoping, not to spread anger and outrage on campus, but to really send a message about what we care about, which is that students were not heard, and that we feel the framing of this event on this particular topic is inappropriate,” Green said. “We just want to figure out the best way to achieve those goals. That’s why we’d love to hear from you, and if you’re interested, we’d love to have your support.”

There did not seem to be a clear path towards what the LB could do regarding student criticism of Congress to Campus, as Vice President Bobbie Pennington ’24, who invited Sexton and Green to speak, explained. 

“This is a controversial topic, but it’s also not exactly a unanimous thing,” Pennington said. “I don’t think that, in this room, we would get to a unanimous vote on this topic … I think we need to get really creative in how we engage with this.” 

MCSG members expressed different opinions on what support they as representatives should offer to students protesting Congress to Campus. Some didn’t feel like it was their place at all, but others disagreed.

“I feel like this is entirely our place to represent student interests,” Joel Sadofsky ’25, Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) chair, said. “There’s lots of historical precedent within MCSG for supporting student movements like this.”

MCSG is a representation of the student body. Unsurprisingly, there were members who supported Congress to Campus, those who didn’t and those who landed in the middle.  

“Personally, I think two white men should not be having this conversation, but in reality, they are the ones having this conversation,” Community Engagement Officer Jean Pateman ’25 said. “This event is going to reflect the actual political state of the U.S. and the way that Congress does actually work … MCSG should collectively come to a decision on whether or not we do support it, because I think the event could be beneficial to students.”

MCSG did not come to a collective decision. Dean of Students Kathryn Kay Coquemont, who sat in on the meeting, offered her advice for future student support. 

“I’d really encourage you to think about the fact that [Macalester is] a shared governance model,” Coquemont said. “What does shared governance look like? How should the student voice fit in? How do we create structures to always allow [student input]?”

Because discussion went long, MCSG decided to table the omnibus bill again, a collection of small changes to codes and bylaws that has been in the works since the start of the school year. 

MCSG also spent time discussing three student organizations’ additional allocation requests. Fresh Concepts Improv requested $4,504.86 for their annual fall break trip to Chicago. Mac Swing requested $6,656.32, also for a fall break trip to Chicago, and Macalester First Aid requested $5,424.80 in order to travel to Boston for an annual convention. The Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) has specific money dedicated to student organizations’ travel requests, which cannot be requested through regular budget allocations. All three allocations were approved by the FAC but had to be presented to MCSG because they exceed $4,000. The LB approved all three requests as well. 

Pateman then proposed the formation of a new ad hoc committee on community engagement, which passed unanimously. 

MCSG ended the meeting with various committee updates. The AAC launched an application for juniors and seniors to request up to $100 to pay for graduate school applications. The Student Services and Relations Committee (SSRC) is working on a proposal for increased menstrual product funding and distribution, and 12 new members were added to various campus committees, which are open to all students. 

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