Provost visits LB, discusses short-term changes and textbooks

Provost visits LB, discusses short-term changes and textbooks

Justine Ballard, Associate Features Editor

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) met in the Weyerhaeuser Boardroom. The Legislative Body (LB) spent a majority of the meeting hearing from Executive Vice President and Provost Lisa Anderson-Levy regarding a variety of topics, including the strategic plan, textbooks and observances of religious holidays on campus. 

After a brief introduction about her role at Macalester and what it means to be provost as well as the executive vice president, Anderson-Levy opened the floor to questions from the LB.

MCSG President Bobbie Pennington ’24 started by asking Anderson-Levy about how students could address short-term changes they would like to see at Macalester, given the current emphasis on long-term goals that exist in the strategic plan. 

Students are often concerned that when they raise an issue, the answer has something to do with being addressed in the strategic plan, but what can we do to address short-term issues?” Pennington asked.

In response, Anderson-Levy highlighted how long structural changes can take, especially from the viewpoint of students who are typically only at college for four years. 

“If you have a challenge that will involve significant structural change to make [solutions] happen, I think it’s important that all of you talk to your constituents and point that out,” Anderson-Levy said. “There are some short term things [and] the strategic plan makes it a little bit more challenging because it feels counterproductive.”

Speaker of the LB Austin Wu ’23 brought up the subject of textbooks, both in regards to affordability and the model in use and the administration’s future plans for procuring classroom materials.

“In 2021, Macalester decided not to enter a new textbook model with Barnes & Noble,” Wu said. “Has there been more time and space in your leadership to look at a similar model or other initiatives on textbook availability?”

Since Macalester moved away from Barnes & Noble, Anderson-Levy highlighted, questions have been within the administration regarding textbooks, and they are currently discussing procurement as well as the purpose of the bookstore itself.

“Some of the questions we’re asking: do we want to maintain a physical bookstore?” Anderson-Levy said. “Mostly, the bookstore’s business right now is in gear, not books or material … I’m not saying we’re doing this, but it’s an option on the table.”

On the heels of last week’s meeting about supporting Muslim students on campus, Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) Chair Joel Sadofsky ’25 broached the subject of scheduling around major religious holidays, particularly for Muslim and Jewish students. 

“What work is ongoing regarding improved scheduling and deadlines, events and field trips around important and religious cultural holidays?” Sadofsky asked. “It’s an issue that’s been repeatedly brought up, particularly surrounding Muslim and Jewish holidays throughout the year.”

Anderson-Levy explained that it isn’t possible for classes to be canceled in support of students observing major religious holidays because there would be accreditation issues. However, Anderson-Levy said that professors should still work to be flexible with dates when it comes to students observing holidays. 

“A sustainable way to deal with this is to encourage faculty to be flexible around religious holidays,” Anderson-Levy said. “That way, the folks who need the holidays on whatever days get up, and we don’t run the risk of getting into challenges for the creditors … That’s my answer to that … [It’s] not an administrative response.”

Anderson-Levy also answered a few more questions surrounding faculty retention and 1600Grand. 

Following the discussion, a new student organization, Hackalester, was chartered through a unanimous vote. Hackalester aims to bring together students who share a similar interest in computer science. 

Various announcements were also made to the LB about issues facing the student body, as well as MCSG itself. 

One such announcement was the cancellation of the February edition of the new series “Lunch with the Presidents” and the official confirmation that the event will begin with its March edition on March 9. 

Sophomore class representative Tristan Niedzielski ’25 brought the recent open letter to The New York Times regarding transphobia in that organization’s coverage to the attention of the LB. They requested that the LB discuss the letter at its next meeting given MCSG’s financial support of The New York Times through paying for a subscription on behalf of all students.

The end of the meeting focused on how MCSG can become a more enjoyable environment for members of the LB to serve in, building on the activity that was led the previous week by Vice President and Student Services and Relations Committee (SSRC) Chair Mathilda Barr ’25. The LB broke into small groups to discuss and then reconvened after some short conversation. 

Various ideas were raised, such as icebreakers at the start of LB meetings to get everyone to be more comfortable, filling space on on-campus committees, on-campus field trips to various partners and departments and more clarification on roles and responsibilities. This final suggestion led to Pennington proposing potentially adding one-on-one time with MCSG leadership through coffee or other ways of connecting.


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