Home Faculty meeting Admin follow up on student protest in community conversation

Admin follow up on student protest in community conversation

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On December 2, President Suzanne Rivera and senior staff held a community conversation in Zoom webinar format. This conversation, open to all students, faculty and staff, was intended to continue the discussion from the November 3 sit-in.

Rivera, after citing the increased risk of COVID-19 as the reason for moving the event to Zoom, opened the discussion by acknowledging that the November 3 coffee break did not go the way senior executives had it. foreseen. She described the steps the college has taken since that day, including implementing a wellness day on November 12, a new support page on the Macalester website and a community-wide strategic planning session on November 19.

Rivera said that one of the most important actions taken in the wake of the sit-in was the appearance of Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) President Shreya Nagdev `22 at a faculty meeting on the 9th. November. During this meeting, which was not mandatory for faculty members to attend, Nagdev spoke about the issues students face and the kind of support they need from faculty.

“In many ways, the professors were more confused about what even happened during the sit-in, so they didn’t know what was supposed to happen,” Nagdev wrote in an email to Mac Weekly. “I hope what I told them helps them frame their classes and the way they treat students in subsequent semesters.”

Nagdev pointed out that the issues raised both during the sit-in and the faculty meeting were more the product of Macalester’s culture than the fault of individual faculty members. She indicated that following this meeting, the Faculty Advisory Board plans to meet with the MCSG Academic Affairs Committee once a month and will also attend one MCSG meeting per semester.

The remainder of the community conversation was spent answering questions from Macalester students, faculty and staff. Questions were both pre-submitted and asked in real time. Some of the most discussed topics were wellness days, strategic planning, communication between administration and students, and general student support.

In response to a question asking if the college plans to implement Spring Wellness Days, Marshal Lisa Anderson-Levy said there are currently no plans to do so, as well days -being is not an appropriate solution to student exhaustion. She explained that more systemic, long-term changes in campus culture are needed in order to alleviate the stress that students are feeling.

The inclusiveness of the College’s strategic planning process was also questioned. Senior executives assured audience members that strategic planning opportunities will be open to all members of the Macalester community, including alumni and parents. With the named Strategic Planning Champions, any member of the Macalester community is encouraged to share their ideas through a survey. In addition, senior managers noted that the draft goals and objectives will be shared with the entire community.

There was also a question regarding how often sessions like this would take place. Anderson-Levy raised the possibility of holding office hours next semester as an additional opportunity for students to communicate with senior management. Rivera said she was open to suggestions on how to continue these conversations; an ad in the Mac Daily said that another community conversation would take place on February 3, with location and format to be determined. Campus Life Associate Dean Andrew Wells also encouraged students to apply to join advisory committees as another opportunity to regularly discuss issues facing Macalester students.

Another key theme of the discussion was possible avenues for student support. A member of the audience asked if there are plans to hire more staff for the Department of Multicultural Life (DML) and International Student Programs (ISP) to better support international students and BIPOC. Rivera said the school is in the process of filling a vacant position at DML and Anderson-Levy said she has been in contact with the FAI regarding staffing needs.

In response to a question about specific changes to help stress levels, Anderson-Levy pointed out that stress is a community challenge, and students aren’t the only ones feeling it.

One of the last questions posed during the discussion was about extending power sharing to students, both in the context of the desire for wellness days and the desire to have their voices heard. Rivera explained that students are more than encouraged to take days off for themselves if they feel the need to, and staff are encouraged to do the same using their sick days.

Wells also spoke about the fact that students can participate in shared governance, such as the MCSG, as a way to have their voices heard. The Dean of Multicultural Living, Marjorie Trueblood, pointed out that solving the problems facing community members in Macalester will require the work of many people. She concluded the conversation by talking about the amount of “untapped power” held by members of the Macalester community.

Trueblood noted that the administration shares the same goals as the students and that the whole community needs to work together to create change.

“We share the same ‘why’, our ‘how’ might be different,†Trueblood said.