MCSG Overseer: MSCG navigates winter housing

MCSG Overseer: MSCG navigates winter housing

Anthony Reynolds, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, Oct. 25, the Legislative Body (LB) met and talked about winter housing, possibilities for Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) events and campus consent around photography and videography. 

MCSG President Bobbie Pennington ’24 opened the meeting by discussing winter housing when the campus closes after the fall semester and when it opens again with J-term housing two weeks later.

“This has been a problem for a long time,” Pennington said. “It comes up every year, generally from international students but also from other students who are unable to go home or who don’t want to go home for whatever reason. The school for the last couple of years has accommodated these requests for winter housing.” 

During the past few years, COVID-19 restrictions prevented students from traveling home during the break. Macalester instead rented out a wing of a hotel for students to live in for two weeks. 

“They’re not planning to do that this year because we are back to a sort of more normal year,” Pennington said. “The question still stands: what is going to happen to those who cannot or don’t want to go home?” 

The LB also discussed a lack of student awareness and engagement with MCSG.

“There are people on this campus that still don’t know what MCSG stands for; I said that in fall retreat and I’m saying that again — that can’t be the case,” Pennington said. “We’re working on ways to increase engagement online through social media.” 

Pennington also wants to involve more students in MCSG events this year, along with a long-term plan to increase awareness and engagement for years to come.

The LB then split into two groups, one of which discussed the winter housing problem, and the other explored possible MCSG sponsored events to increase engagement and awareness. 

The group focusing on winter housing began by talking about Residential Life’s goals at the beginning of the year. 

“They are attempting to provide ‘universal housing’ and then proceeded to not provide housing over winter break,” junior class representative Emma Kopplin ’24 said. “My perception is that they like the idea of [universal housing] and the ability to put that on their website, but I think we need to hold them to that.”

The LB members also discussed challenges surrounding winter housing, including how long housing is needed and the high cost of flights. 

“That’s a uniquely shitty period [of time] because rent doesn’t work in two-week periods and hotels are fucking expensive,” senior class representative Austin Wu ’23 said. 

The LB also expressed frustration over a lack of information, worsening the problem. They explained how a proposed solution involving student mutual aid in regard to housing would require much more time than they have to solve this problem. 

MCSG also expressed how the slow release of information from the college has harmed the development of effective solutions. One example was a proposed solution involving student mutual aid, but had to be abandoned due to a lack of time to implement the solution.

There have been programs in the past to specifically help international students, but they are no longer used. 

“Something else that has been helpful — though they stopped due to COVID — was the ISP host family program,” Diversity and Inclusion Officer Ghaicha Aboubacar Ahe ’24 said. “I think that’s something that we should push for.”

The group went on to discuss what colleges similar to Macalester do for their students over winter break. For example, Carleton College houses some students on campus for 10 dollars a night over winter break. 

The other group exploring possible MCSG events began by talking about events that used to happen.

They first talked about ‘Kagins,’ which were school dances that were traditionally held in the Kagin Ballroom that went on until 2 a.m. but now end at 11 p.m. They considered having MCSG throw a Kagin, as they can be a safe space on campus for people to have fun and enjoy themselves on a weekend rather than going off campus.

The group expressed hope to plan more opportunities for different classes to interact with each other to cultivate a greater sense of campus community. 

The meeting transitioned to a presentation and discussion led by the Assistant Vice President for Communications and Marketing, Julie Hurbanis, about campus photography and videography. Specifically, she talked about some changes that have been made to the way students give consent to have their photos taken.

The college used to have first-years sign a photo release form during orientation which applied throughout their time at Macalester. With this, students could opt in or out of consenting to having their photos taken, but it was up to them to do so. Furthermore, it was hard for photographers and videographers to know who they could and couldn’t photograph. 

Now, the college has switched to a system where they ask for verbal consent for photographs in smaller individual situations where that’s possible. However at larger events where verbal consent is harder to get, there is now signage so students are aware they could be in photographs. Another change is that photographers and videographers hand out stickers or buttons at these events that indicate which individuals do not want to be photographed to a photographer or videographer.

Pennington proposed some kind of event where students express what events they look forward to and are important so that the photographs Macalester is putting out publicly are representative of what student life is like at Macalester, a sentiment Hurbanis shared.

Prior to fall break, at the LB’s Oct. 18 meeting, they discussed a new student organization and changes to its bylaws. 

The meeting opened with the introduction of a new proposed student organization, the Tap Club. They have already been meeting unofficially but want to become an official student organization.

They want to hold one performance each semester, and anyone can join. No experience or tap shoes are necessary. 

The LB unanimously approved the charter for the organization. 

The meeting then welcomed a brief invitation to go to  anti-semitism training sessions on Oct. 25. 

“We would love for you all as leaders on campus to come and learn with us,” Gabe Karsh ’25 said.

Tor Olsson ’25 then brought up a letter they wrote that could be sent to the Board of Trustees about transparency and accountability. 

“I want to ensure that there is transparency and accountability and ideally that students and staff, anyone, can attend these meetings,” Olsson said.

The meeting then moved on to discussing changes to the MCSG bylaws, most of which  surrounding the language in the bylaws. Other changes suggested increasing the amount of money allocated for forums. The LB unanimously approved the changes.

The meeting ended with updates from different committee chairs. The Financial Affairs Committee approved requests for money for travel. The Academic Affairs Committee discussed a long-term textbook subsidy program. The Student Services and Relations Committee talked about different possible student services like increased Narcan availability, test strips, heating pads for periods and identity-specific gym times. 

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