MSA to represent small groups

Small student groups can now vote on MSA initiatives.

by mackenzie collins

While University of Minnesota groups that encourage people watching, performing, gaming and chess playing may not seem to have much in common, they have banded together to help their groups stay afloat. The groupsâÄô impact surfaced last week when the Minnesota Student Association passed an amendment changing the minimum amount of student members in order to have a student representative participate at forum from 30 to 15. Campus People Watchers President David Shaffer organized a meeting of 10 University student groups that have 30 or fewer members to discuss and address their issues and frustrations, the most notable being funding to recruit new members and to stay alive from year to year. Representation on MSA includes, among other things, being able to vote on initiatives and have a voice in how MSA awards their grants. MSA legislative committee chairman Paul Buchel, who helped pass the amendment, said he became interested in the issue when he found out that officers in the University Transfer Students group were paying for snacks at meetings, which are an attraction for college students. âÄúIt kind of starts this vicious cycle of unless the president and vice president will foot the bill, the attraction to the student group might be negatively affected,âÄù Buchel said. While a plethora of grants are available for University groups available through Student Unions and Activities for events, the website states that funding is not intended for start-up or general operating costs. Schaffer said that student groups must pay a $25 registration fee each year, plus an additional $30 for a table at the SUA fairs, where he said the group recruits about 80 percent of its members. âÄúI care a lot about keeping my organization going, and I want to leave a legacy,âÄù Shaffer said. âÄúTo keep my group alive for a year we need $55 at the bare minimum, and thatâÄôs if IâÄôm going to use the same poster board from last year and not hand out a single sucker, no flyers, no nothing,âÄù Schaffer said. PeopleâÄôs Fire Coalition President Brian Strock said he was concerned that because a majority of financial support through SUA goes toward national and legacy organizations on campus, the University could be missing out on new special interest groups for students to enjoy themselves. âÄúOur groups are a really cool way for people to socialize and meet new people,âÄù Strock said. While a majority of the larger groups are for professional or cultural reasons, Shaffer said that he and the 10 other small groups bring something important to the table for the University. âÄúPerhaps our groups could get knocked for not being very furious, but those are the services we seek to offer, and we feel that weâÄôre serious enough in the classrooms,âÄù Shaffer said. For next year, Buchel said he would like to see MSA sponsor grants for small groups of about $100 on top of the grants MSA already awards, which are all event driven. âÄúRepresentation is one really good step, but there are probably a few other steps MSA can do to embrace newer and smaller groups to help level the playing field with larger groups,âÄù Buchel said.