It’s Not Just the Administration

It’s Not Just the Administration

Anonymous, Contributing Writer

Editor’s Note: Macalester’s current Director of Gallery and Curator is Heather A. Everhart. Everhart began working as the curator in the fall of 2022, and the Taravat exhibition was approved prior to Everhart’s hiring. 

I identify as a Muslim, which meant that I was one of the students affected by the controversy of the art exhibit. I had panic attacks and nightmares about the art, and I could not even tell my community back home about it for fear of hurting them too.

During conversations about the pieces, however, I kept getting struck by this one word, repeated over and over again. It was the word “administration.” 

And the use of that word is misguided.

For example, the entire exhibit was primarily the work of the Macalester art curator working in the art department. She spent a long time looking at the offending sculptures and artwork, without ever doing research on Islam or talking to the Muslim Student Association. In the large community town hall with Muslim students, said curator did not apologize at all for her role in bringing the harmful exhibit to campus.

Another conflict that arose during student action was how the Macalester Muslim community felt unsupported because of a lack of a Muslim chaplain. The position has remained unfilled for about a year and a half, and that is far too long. But this is the specific responsibility of the CRSL director, Kelly Stone. When I asked Stone about the position, she informed me that the Muslim chaplain had to also be the Associate Director of the CRSL, adding another layer of administrative qualifications to the position. Furthermore, the CRSL determined that the new Muslim chaplain needed to have a master’s degree in divinity to learn how to best support students, and there was a massive shortage of Muslims with that degree. 

These are just two examples of the different ways in which the Macalester Muslim community has been failed by different people in different departments. The word “administration” brings to mind the president and the provost, both of whom likely had little to no input in these departmental decisions. 

Muslim students have valid frustrations. After all, the administration did make the final decision to keep the art gallery open, a stance that I vehemently oppose. I do not intend to tone-police my fellow Muslims, but rather those who do not share that identity. 

This lack of specificity in the statements of the Macalester general public is hurting the ability of marginalized students to make progress on this campus. Muslim students are owed apologies from every individual actor in this disregard of our dignity. No longer should the people who did the grunt work of executing the gallery, the students who ridiculed hijabis, hide behind the word “administration.” 

I also acknowledge that more specificity in our critiques of these institutions means more difficult conversations about accountability. Kelly Stone, for example, has been a great mentor to me. But her lack of transparency about the search for a Muslim chaplain has hurt many people. In the two years I’ve been at Macalester, I have gone through many family deaths. The grieving process is hard and lonely without a Muslim chaplain to guide me.

When a community gets hurt, it is everyone who has played a part in the harm. Your favorite professor, your best friend or even you. Those who are not affected by the issue, in this case, non-Muslims, cannot and should not blame everything on the omnipresent “administration.” The word is a band-aid that obscures the transparency behind campus decision-making processes that marginalized students deserve. 

Administration also implies a shared authority, one which the entire Macalester community answers to. The word is a great equalizer, implying that everyone is affected by the art exhibit in the same way. But the matter of Taravat deals with the two specific types of hurt: anger at fetishization faced by Muslim students and anger at the oppressive regime that affects the Iranian community. These situations are both exacerbated by the administration, which is largely non-Muslim and non-Iranian, and also have nothing to do with the administration at all. With this in mind, why do so many non-Muslim students and faculty feel the need to input their opinion on how the administration handled this situation, in The Mac Weekly and the New York Times? One may want to defend the art display for the sake of artistic freedom, but why not leave that to Iranian-Americans or Iranian international students? These highly publicized critiques instead look like a well intentioned effort to speak on behalf of both the Muslim and Iranian community. 

Which, again, is permitted as long as we use the word “administration.”