MSA Presidential Candidates Spar in Debate

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Photographer

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Madison Dibble

Abeer Syedah and Cameron Holl laid out their plans for the University of Minnesota if they are elected as student body president of the Minnesota Student Association (MSA), in a presidential debate Thursday night held by the All Campus Election Committee (ACEC).

The two candidates were assisted by their Vice Presidential running mates. Syedah, who is the current Vice President of MSA alongside Joelle Stangler, is running with Sam Marlow. Holl is running with Nidhi Khurana.

The focus of both candidates was mental health. Both touched on improved accessibility to counselors and removing the stigma around mental health.

“The top priority on the campus needs to be mental health,” stated Syedah.

Beyond mental health, both groups were strongly in support of the university’s affirmative consent policies and working to make the campus more inclusive, but the implementationof these plans was where the two groups differed in opinion.

Following a question regarding concerns from students that the MSA had become an “aristocracy”, Syedah and Marlow pointed out their work to make a more diverse student government.

“One-third of our interns are from underrepresented groups on campus.”

Holl disagreed, stating, “This is a concern I have myself.”

Holl pointed out that the majority of the freshman interns were hired by Sam or Abeer and they were all sporting their campaign’s tee shirts. Holl believes that this selection is creating an elite group.

Khurana agreed, stating, “The lack of diversity of thought is dangerous if we want to be representative of the student body.”

The debate followed this same line regarding protests on campus.

“I believe that disruption is a necessary thing that people do when they feel like their voices aren’t being heard. That said, don’t put people in danger,” stated Syedah.

“Freedom of speech is key. So is freedom of assembly. College campuses are a place where ideas come to be challenged. That is something that our college should be taking as seriously as we take student protest.”

Both of these arguments fall back on how the MSA should deal with their constituents that they disagree with and how accusations of aristocracy came to be. The MSA’s blunders of the past year which resulted in President Kaler’s intervention may have been altered with a different body of people acting as representatives.

“MSA acts more like a student group than a professional student government,” stated Holl.

Khurana also pointed out that she is the only person involved in the debate who is not a member of MSA establishment, stating, “I am the only outsider in this race.”

The two candidates are divided on the very role of the MSA. Holl believes that the MSA should “use its capital on issues impacting the everyday lives of students.”

Syedah and Marlow want a more distinct position in the university. “I want to be sitting next to the Board of Regents,” stated Marlow.

While the audience in the debate hall was certainly there to support Syedah and Marlow, the results of the election are not set in stone. University of Minnesota students can cast their votes for president along with MSA at-large representatives and college senators on April 6 through April 8 at vote.umn.edu.