Student Government Changes Underway

MSA Official

MSA Official

David Blondin

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During the month of February, the Minnesota Student Association (MSA) became an officially recognized student government, or an RSG (an official acting body of student government). “We are not only taking on more responsibilities in the institution but we are also being granted more rights.” Said MSA president Joelle Stangler. The new recognition will probably not change MSA’s day-to-day operations, but it will solidify the relationship between the administration and the student government.

Two changes that could stir up some ethical controversy are the guaranteed consultation of the student government on policy changes and their guaranteed seat at the table for new hires. From a neutral perspective many would wonder what fellow twenty something year olds have to say with authority regarding new hires of faculty or administration. In the past MSA has had to advocate for its opinion to be heard and for a position to be on those committees, according to Stangler. The idea of someone from a student government giving consent about new faculty at a university is not unheard of. With a student body as large and diverse as UMN it is hard for any representative to accurately reflect the thoughts of the collective student body. These hiring committees would not hire a candidate, they would narrow down the field. This is an internal safeguard Stangler talked about which could help ensure that the most qualified candidate gets the job instead of the most politically correct candidate.

Another change is the official polls run by MSA will now have to go through the administration’s PR Senior Consultant Officer, Matt Samara. This is done to prevent redundancy in the polls. Stangler said sometimes MSA would do polls on things that the administration already had. The purpose is definitely “more of a checkpoint than an oversight.” The administration does not have the power to approve or veto the polls that are conducted. The government will be given the tools from the administration to be effective, while also maintaining its own autonomy to address students’ needs.

Stangler was unsure about how the funding for MSA will change from being a student organization to a recognized student government. This spring the University is doing an overhaul on how the student service fee committees will work in the future. Stangler said that there is representation from many parts of the administration that are advocating for the change. Since these changes have not yet been decided, MSA will be receiving its funding this year like every other student group.

The administration’s Danita Brown Young, the Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, invited MSA to make the switch. The student government had to be invited and the invitation by Danita Brown Young has set a new precedent for student government on campus. Although it seems as if the student government has more official power, it appears to be more about responsibility and accessibility. For those readers who are afraid about the change there is no need to fret; the administration can take away the official status of the student government at any time for any reason.

With recent MSA resolutions regarding 9/11 remembrance, divestment from companies that are complicit with violations of human rights, and condemnation of anti-Semitic actions that could occur on campus, MSA has had its hands full with controversial resolutions. President Kaler had to step in both times, condemning the actions the student government was taking. This tension between the student government and the administration leaves us to ponder who really is in charge and what the purpose of MSA truly is.