LB discusses upcoming events, reviews structural changes

LB discusses upcoming events, reviews structural changes

Lexington Smith, Contributing Writer

On Tuesday, Feb. 14, Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) met in the Harmon Room of the DeWitt Wallace Library to discuss cabinet updates, MCSG structural changes and topics for the upcoming Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, Feb. 24. 

Following the land acknowledgment, the meeting progressed to committee updates. Speaker of the Legislative Body (LB) Austin Wu ’23 began with a conversation about textbook availability on campus. Wu and Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) Chair Joel Sadofsky ’25 met with two Macalester librarians to discuss a panel on open educational resources, focusing on topics like freely accessible textbooks. 

Vice President (VP) and Student Services and Relations Committee (SSRC) Chair Mathilda Barr ’25 touched on last week’s topic of food access and inclusion in general. Barr particularly underscored the upcoming month of Ramadan. Ideas of a swipe-out food drive were briefly discussed.

President Bobbie Pennington ’24 introduced the Student Liaison to the Board of Trustees, Rebecca Gentry ’23. At each Board of Trustees meeting, Gentry is allotted five minutes to speak at the meeting giving insight into student life, feedback and input on what students want to change. Gentry’s agenda for the upcoming meeting consisted of a conversation regarding responses to the current exhibit in the Law Warschaw Gallery, as well as how to handle similar events in the future. 

“[I want to discuss] this idea of balancing academic and artistic expression with protecting members of our community and our students from the harm that that expression can cause,” Gentry said. “I basically want the board to take away from this that they should be supportive of Macalester students from the Macalester community.” 

Gentry also stated that it is important to acknowledge varying perspectives when discussing this issue, saying, “I also think it’s important to note that the students are not necessarily unified around one perspective on this.”

The conversation opened to the LB, giving each representative the option to mention something the Board of Trustees should be aware of. LB members contributed topics discussing inclusive housing, dining options, food support outside of the academic calendar and COVID-19 housing. 

Pennington then proposed bringing concerns expressed by international students to the Board of Trustees. 

“[Regarding] the international student experience at Macalester, there’s still a lot of conversations and spaces that I’m in about how we can do better,” Pennington said. “A lot of it comes down to funding and that’s why I suggest it goes to the board. Because that’s the kind of thing where the board really has the power.” 

Following Pennington’s statement, the usage of on-campus prayer space was brought up, leading to further discussion about the composition of space at Macalester. The LB agreed that the lack of a student union allocating recreational space leads to a fractured community. 

“And most Macalester students [feel] like there’s no Macalester identity,” junior representative Eric Yu ’24 said. “If you’re off campus, you just go to classes without doing anything on campus. [When] you don’t feel like you’re a part of the campus, you’re not gonna have that Macalester identity.” 

Discussion topics for the Board of Trustees meeting were followed by general announcements. An alumni lunch is being held on March 3 at Cafe Mac from 12:30-1:30 p.m., and the entire LB has been invited to discuss the current student experience at Macalester. A series of president’s lunches are taking place, allowing students to speak with President Suzanne Rivera. The final announcement discussed was the open spots for at-large members and the rolling application status.   

Following announcements, Barr went over exercises done during the MCSG retreat last weekend. Barr presented the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) chart utilized to build better organizations. Barr included the SWOT analysis in a shared document of everything discussed during the retreat. Low attendance was a primary concern, which led to a conversation regarding how the LB can make MCSG a priority

In thinking about possible solutions to the attendance issue, Barr gave each LB member an index card and asked them to answer two prompts that were aimed at brainstorming strategies to invite people into this space and have students prioritize it: how to make this a comfortable space for ideas and involvement, and how to hold people accountable for MCSG event attendance.

Pennington showed a slideshow with an overview of potential changes to the structure of MCSG that are geared towards increasing LB engagement. He began by discussing the voting process for the updated structure, then moved on to the specifics of each change. 

The changed draft had a similar layout with president, vice president and specialized committee positions. Proposed first was the addition of new liaisons: institutional equity, international students, sustainability, athletics, health and wellness, disability, residential life and dining.

The following change was the splitting of VP and SSRC chair, making the VP the LB’s main point of contact and in charge of day-to-day runnings. The creation of a new committee focusing on communications and engagement was discussed and thus far undisputed. Lastly, the LB heard the proposal of having four appointed class leads to facilitate conversation, hold the year responsible and plan outside meetings. 

The meeting concluded with one last announcement about last week’s conversation around Muslim students and marginalized groups. Pennington announced that Sadofsky and Ghaicha Aboubacar Ahe ’24 are currently working with Reverend Kelly Stone and Executive Vice President and Provost Lisa Anderson-Levy on ways to provide support and should have an update next week.