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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Rivera says Mac will not end study away to Israel

Rivera says Mac will not end study away to Israel

In their meeting on Thursday, Nov. 30, Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) posed questions to President Suzanne Rivera and Vice President for Student Affairs Kathryn Kay Coquemont concerning Macalester-sponsored study away programs to Israel, the strategic plan and Macalester’s textbook billing contract with Barnes & Noble College before chartering an org and voting on a resolution. 

“Those of you who have emailed me know that I read my emails and I get back to you directly,” Rivera said in her introduction to the Legislative Body (LB). “I answer those — I don’t pawn those off on other people, and I’m usually pretty quick about it. So you don’t have to wait for a formal MCSG meeting to be able to express yourself to me or any member of my team.”

Cabinet Chair Willow Albano ’26 asked about Macalester’s response to student concerns about violence in Israel and Palestine: “Over the past month, there has been an abundance of student organizing in the forms of protests, a petition and an MCSG resolution,” Albano said. “How do you respond to students who feel like Macalester’s response to the escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine is insufficient?”

Rivera stated that the Senior Leadership Team has prioritized supporting students and community members most directly affected by this violence, and that students may not be aware of her efforts to protect students’ freedom of expression on campus.

Rivera also shared that she had read the petition by Mac for Palestine asking to end Macalester-approved study away programs at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Haifa. Explaining that the petition was sent to Dean of the Kofi Annan Institute of Global Citizenship (IGC) Hui Wilcox from IfNotNow’s email address, Rivera said that the sender did not respond to Wilcox’s request to meet with students. 

Rivera had a definitive answer for those questioning Macalester’s relationship to Israeli universities. 

“I will tell you right now that our answer is we are not pulling out of study away programs in Israel,” Rivera said.

In her explanation, Rivera asserted that cutting ties with Israeli universities dishonors Macalester’s core value of global citizenship. She cited existing Macalester-sponsored study abroad programs in other countries accused of human rights violations and that Macalester students who object to a specific country’s actions have the option to study elsewhere as reasons to continue partnering with Israeli universities.

“This is an institution that is really committed to global citizenship,” Rivera said. “That is about engagement, friendship and peacemaking. It is not about embargoes, boycotts and shutting people out. When the decisions of another country are disagreeable to us, that doesn’t mean that the citizens of that country support those decisions.”

Coquemont added on to Rivera’s comments, clarifying that there is a distinction  between Macalester deeming an area unsafe to study away in and cutting ties with specific universities.

Representatives had the option to ask follow-up questions. Belonging and Accessibility Liaison Rola Cao ’25 explained that the petition and Resolution 13 did not ask Macalester to prevent students from going to Israel, only to stop including Israeli universities as Macalester-approved programs, which would not prevent students from studying away there.

“The focus [of the petition and Resolution 13] was on the intellectual collaboration between Macalester and those two universities, which are pretty closely connected to a lot of politics in Israel,” Cao said.

Rivera reiterated her previous point, saying that she still believes that ending Macalester-approved study away programs to Israel would dishonor Macalester’s values of global citizenship.

Moving on to the new textbook policy, sophomore class representative Sean Maxfield ’26 read one of MCSG’s pre-prepared questions, asking Rivera and Coquemont why Macalester is switching to an automatic textbook billing model. 

The conversation around increasing access to course materials is not new at Macalester, Rivera said. She explained that the Financial Barriers working group, established in 2020, identified the expense of course materials as one of the greatest barriers to highest-need students, reporting that some students had to change classes or majors based on the affordability of course materials. 

“My philosophy and approach to thinking about equity is that if we’re taking care of the highest-need people, everybody else is doing pretty okay,” Rivera said.

Simultaneously, the textbook industry is experiencing a shift, with more colleges and universities being pushed towards automatic billing models, Rivera explained. She emphasized that this program provides the option for students to opt out, and that, for her, supporting highest-need students through this inclusive access contract is a step towards wealth redistribution.

Next, Student Organizations Committee (SOC) Chair Mikayla Giehler ’24 asked Rivera how she plans to continue fostering student involvement in Macalester’s strategic plan. 

By allocating a year for planning and seeking out involvement from students, staff and faculty, Rivera said she believes that Macalester has welcomed more voices into the planning process. She also mentioned that the Imagine, Macalester website remains updated and feedback is welcomed. 

After Rivera and Coquemont left, the LB proceeded to vote on chartering Human Rights at Mac. Chantal Pangula ’26, who spoke on behalf of the org, expressed hopes that the org will provide a space where all feel welcome to contribute their ideas and time towards advancing human rights, and the LB unanimously chartered the Human Rights at Mac.

Following, the LB continued discussing Resolution 14, which they tabled in last week’s meeting. Vice President Emma Kopplin ’24 began the conversation by commenting that the resolution did not have a specific ask or tangible change for the LB, which informed her vote to reject the amendment. 

Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) Chair Eliora Hansonbrook ’25, one of the resolution’s authors, added that she was abstaining. Among her reasons for abstaining, she explained that some aspects of Resolution 14 were incorporated into Resolution 13, including a statement condemning antisemitism and Islamophobia. 

The LB voted to reject the resolution, with 10 abstaining, 13 in opposition, and no votes of approval.

To conclude the meeting, MCSG President Mariah Loeffler-Kemp ’24 welcomed newly-elected senior representative Andrew Snider ’24.

 

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Cal Martinez, News Editor
Cal Martinez '26 (they/them) is one of the news editors and an English major from metro Detroit, Michigan. Their best friend in high school, who happened to be their English teacher, introduced them to journalism and annotating poetry with fancy highlighters, and their sleep schedule has never been the same since.

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