Budget Bonanza talk, visit from dean of the faculty

Budget Bonanza talk, visit from dean of the faculty

Justine Ballard, Associate Features Editor

On Tuesday, April 4, members of Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) filled the Weyerhaeuser Boardroom to discuss a range of topics. MCSG heard updates and announcements from various members, reviewed the Budget Bonanza process, heard appeals from two student organizations regarding their budgets for the 2023-24 school year and chartered two new organizations. They were then visited by a member of the administration to provide an introduction and answer any questions they might have. 

After a land acknowledgement, led by Speaker of the Legislative Body (LB) Austin Wu ’23, the meeting transitioned to cabinet and committee updates. Among the topics discussed, members announced the opening of the Graduate School Admissions Tests (GSAT) Subsidy Program, which covers graduate school entrance examination fees, the community recognition awards and subsequent awards ceremony, a brunch with the Student Services and Relations Committee (SSRC) on April 19 and the recent approval of Arabic House Iftar. 

Sophomore representative Tristan Niedzielski ’25 also updated the LB on work being done to increase media literacy at Macalester. Media literacy refers to the ability to read texts and analyze them critically thoroughly from a variety of angles. This conversation started with questions around MCSG’s institutional “New York Times” subscription. 

“We began conversations with a couple of folks in faculty and staff about implementing more media literacy and what that might look like at Mac,” Niedzielski said. 

After general announcements, the LB transitioned to discussing Budget Bonanza – the annual budgeting weekend held by the Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) to create budgets for student organizations for the next academic year. FAC Chair Heaji Kang ’23 presented the results of the weekend to the LB, running through a series of expenses and where each of those funds were going. 

FAC was charged with distributing $312,000 for next year to organizations. Off the top expenses of $160,370.70 were removed for organizations with the largest proposed budgets, as well as $18,000 set aside for Flexi funds for all organizations, regardless of their total budget amount. This left FAC with $133,629.30 to cover the $231,779.32 total that was requested by organizations. 

FAC performed a variety of cuts for various reasons, including requests that did not adhere to the FAC Financial Code. After the implementation of a 17% budget cut across the board, FAC allocated a total of $130,596.71 to various student orgs. This left $3,032.59 for appeals. 

After running through all this information, Kang introduced two groups appealing for increased funds. Representatives from the Vietnamese Cultural Organization (VCO) requested an increase of $420. This money would cover costs of food for their Trạng Nguyên – Rung Chuông Vàng event next year and photographing their senior event to celebrate the achievements of Vietnamese seniors before they graduate. 

The second group, Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), also sent representatives to the MCSG meeting, appealing for an increase of $1,125.28 in order to provide food at their meetings for attendees and guests they bring to campus. Both appeals will be voted on at next week’s MCSG meeting. 

The meeting focus then shifted to voting on chartering two new organizations on campus, both of which sent representatives to MCSG to present their new organization and answer any questions that might arise. 

The first was Game Developers at Mac (GDaM), a career-focused game development group working to support students who wish to pursue game design in the future. The organization will bring in speakers, help students to develop practical skills and build their general portfolio for the future. After a brief introduction, the LB voted unanimously to charter GDaM. 

Mac Street Journal was the second new organization to come before MCSG in hopes of being chartered. They are a political science and economics academic journal, publishing submissions from students, including capstone projects from Macalester seniors. The leaders discussed how they have labored to establish a solid review process, publication ethics in line with industry standards and an editorial board in order to be a proper academic publication. They hope to publish their first edition by the end of the semester. The LB voted unanimously to charter the Mac Street Journal.

Following, President Bobbie Pennington ’24 introduced a visitor: Dean of the Faculty Tom Halverson. Also a math, statistics and computer science (MSCS) professor, Halverson entered his current role last January when the dean of the faculty position was split off from the provost role. 

“One of my main jobs is, on the senior leadership team, to answer the question ‘what will the faculty think of this if we do it this way?’” Halverson said. “Big things I do: I oversee hiring, especially of the tenure and tenure track faculty. …I also oversee faculty arriving, getting acclimated and going through the tenure process.”

Halverson then opened the floor to questions from the LB. Pennington started by asking how the different faculty governing bodies and committees on campus all work together, particularly within a shared governance structure.

Halverson provided a general overview of the roles and responsibilities of Educational Policy and Governance Committee (EPAG), Faculty Personnel Committee (FPC), Strategic Planning and Analysis Committee (SPA) and the Faculty Advisory Committee, demonstrating how each committee has a specific task that works towards a larger goal. He also highlighted how important it is to have student voices on these committees. 

“It turns the focus where it should be back on the students because the students are sitting there,” Halverson said. “We get opinions, we have them go seek work, the more that we charge students with taking on initiatives, it seems the better it’s been.”

Building off of this, Vice President and SSRC Chair Mathilda Barr ’25 asked Halverson what he saw as the role of students within shared governance.

Halverson pointed again to the importance of having students in department meetings, as well as how working together as “campus citizens” and showing interest in collaboration are important.

“I would be at tables with alumni, faculty, staff, neighbors and students, and I would pretty regularly leave most impressed with the Macalester student at the table, with what they had to say,” Halverson said. “So I just think just being involved in the structure of everything we do is sort of crucial to me.”

Niedzielski asked Halverson about gender equity in faculty, particularly how female faculty tend to be at a lower level in terms of pay levels than their male counterparts.

Halverson highlighted how Macalester has more women on tenure-track right now but women tend to take non-tenure track positions more than men. Overall, there are also more female faculty than male faculty teaching at the college, according to Halverson.

“The real difference to me is who’s in the tenure track line versus the non-tenure track line is where we see it because … there are more women than men in the tenure track line,” Halverson said. “And [there are] considerably more women than men in the non-tenure track position.”

Finally, Pennington asked about the class registration process and shifting from a credit-based system to one based on class year cohorts.

According to Halverson’s response, faculty is less concerned with a shift since it would not affect them, but this is an issue that is being carefully considered. Despite credit-based being the industry standard, Halverson said that there is the chance for a change by next year or so, but EPAG, which has been sitting on this choice, wants to be cautious with their decision as it would be hard to reverse. 

“We’re being cautious, but I could see it happening as soon as next year, if we get there,” Halverson said. “We’re unsure whether we’re representing, whether we’re hearing from all the students or not, or if we’re hearing from a small set of students who care deeply one way or another. And I don’t know how to be sure of that.”

Additionally, questions were raised on how courses are decided as well as how to contact Halverson if anything should arise. 

After the conversation with Halverson, the LB heard a few brief announcements in the final minutes of their meeting, including the extension of Program Board applications and the announcement of a karaoke night happening on Friday, April 14, in the Loch.

Pennington then updated the results of the 2023-2024 MCSG Executive Board Elections. At the time, he was waiting for verification of the results.

In an email sent out to students on Tuesday, April 4, the results were announced of the Executive Board Elections for the 2023-23 school year. Mariah Loeffler-Kemp ’24 and Emma Kopplin ’24 have been elected as president and vice president, respectively. The Cabinet chair will be Willow Albano ’26, with Eliora Hansonbrook ’25 serving as FAC chair. 

Running on a split ticket, chairing the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) will be Niedzielski in the fall and Joel Sadofsky ’25 in the spring. Eric Yu ’24 will retain his position as Student Organization Committee (SOC) Chair and Iwani Siwawa ’24 will serve as Program Board Chair. The newly created role of Communications & Engagement Committee Chair will also be a split ticket, filled by Barr & LeSean Greer ’25. 

Filing for Cabinet positions and class representatives opened following the announcement of the incoming Executive Board. Ballots for this election will go out on April 14.