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The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

MCSG discusses academic curriculum changes

MCSG discusses academic curriculum changes

At their weekly meeting on Thursday, Feb. 8, Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) invited Executive Vice President and Provost Lisa Anderson-Levy and Dean of Faculty Tom Halverson to a Q&A session regarding their roles and the reworking of Macalester’s academic curriculum. 

The discussion began with Anderson-Levy briefly describing her role as executive vice president and provost, a position that she has held since 2021. With recent changes to the provost’s duties, both Student Affairs and Academic Affairs now report to the provost. She shared that she is currently working on creating a “more holistic experience” within social and academic life. 

Halverson then introduced himself. A professor in the Math, Statistics and Computer Science department for 30 years, Halverson served as chair of the department for six years. He has acted as dean of faculty for the last two years. As dean of faculty, Halverson explained his job as an “in-between role” that works with both administration and faculty. He also oversees hiring new tenure track faculty.

The main focus of the Q&A session was the reworking of the academic curriculum, which the Educational Policy and Governance Committee (EPAG) has been leading since summer of 2023. In a comment to The Mac Weekly after the meeting, Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) Chair Eliora Hansonbrook ’25 explained that the timeline for implementing these changes is not yet official. She added that EPAG hopes to propose new curriculum options this semester, which would be workshopped until one is solidified.

Student Organizations Committee (SOC) Chair Mikayla Giehler ’24 asked what outcomes and specific changes the senior leadership team hopes to see from their strategic planning.

Halverson explained that although the curriculum changes are still under development, the main focus is to make the curriculum more student-facing, especially regarding First-Year Courses, the first-year experience, orientation and general education (gen-ed) requirements.

“Gen-ed requirements, I’m sure they’re going to be changed — we get that there are too many,” Halverson said. “They’re kind of a checkbox. Now, we want [the requirements] to really help you design a curriculum that fits you.”

Anderson-Levy added that the changed curriculum will need to take into account how students change over the course of four years.

“There’s a developmental trajectory, from first to fourth [year]. It’s not just all lumped in together,” Anderson-Levy said. “How are you moving through the curriculum and advising in ways that are supportive?”

Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) Chair Joel Sadofsky ’25 then asked how Anderson-Levy and Halverson’s roles interact with EPAG.

Anderson-Levy explained that because the role of the provost changed before she began working at Macalester, she is not part of EPAG, but she does sit on the faculty personnel committee to manage faculty reviews and promotions.

Halverson said that he is a non-voting member of EPAG. He shared that he runs department chairs meetings and regularly meets with American Association of University Professors (AAUP) members.

Sophomore class representative Luke Evans ’26 brought up his concerns around the attempt to change the faculty handbook to include periodic background checks for all faculty and whether the decision was appropriate in the context of Macalester’s liability insurance.

“There was this requirement for all employees, not just faculty, to have background checks,” Anderson-Levy said. “But the handbook didn’t change. There was compliance. We needed it in order to have liability insurance on campus, which is really important, especially in places where there are congregate folks living on campus.”

Later in the meeting, Hansonbrook made a call-back to this question by asking Anderson Levy if she would make the decision to implement background checks again. Anderson-Levy explained that “given how frustrated faculty felt,” she would reconsider the process and communication.

Sophomore class representative Alec Chen ’26 asked how the updated curriculum will approach guidelines on grading among professors with different grading styles. He also asked how the curriculum will address general distribution requirements that put extra pressure on certain departments. 

Halverson said that faculty actively discuss methods of grading and course distribution throughout the semester. 

“The faculty are in constant conversation about grading, contracts for grades, ungrading. There have been conversations about whether the FYC should be exclusively pass/fail, for example,” Halverson said. “We’re sort of monitoring the pressures … and making sure that everyone who needs the class can get it.”

Anderson-Levy expressed a similar sentiment, emphasizing that the curriculum changes are still in motion.

“We’re not going to get to a place, nor should we get to a place, where we’re telling the faculty how to grade their courses,” she said.

Belonging and Accessibility Liaison Elizabeth Ekstrand ’25 then opened the floor for the provost and dean of faculty to ask MCSG members questions.

Halverson asked how to improve participation in end-of-course surveys, to which Sadofsky suggested mid-course evaluations, and MCSG President Mariah Loeffler-Kemp ’24 suggested handwritten surveys.

After the Q&A session, Giehler introduced the chartering of the Macalester National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) student organization, which the LB unanimously voted to charter.

Updates from the different committees and the Cabinet followed. Residential Life & Dining Liaison Philomena Shuffleton-Sobe ’26 said that during a meeting with Executive Director for Residential Life Kyle Flowers, she learned that a change had been made in the dining contract in which students will now be fined if they cancel their dining plan over summer break.

Athletics & Recreation Liaison Jordan Galloway ’26 added that the athletics department is planning on releasing updated merchandise when the new school mascot is announced.

The meeting concluded with all members participating in recording a video for the MCSG TikTok page that parodies the “Full House” intro, as part of an effort to expand MCSG’s social media presence.

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