MSA cabaret attempts to quell voter apathy

by Jacob Fine

Hoping to promote awareness and encourage voter turnout, members of the Minnesota Student Association sang, rapped and danced Tuesday as part of a cabaret performance.
“MSA got’s the ill communication, MSA got’s the ill communication … uh, uh, uh, uh,” rapped Sarah Afshar on the steps of Coffman Union Tuesday afternoon.
Rapping skills aside, Afshar, a junior in the Carlson School of Management, is a presidential candidate in MSA’s election.
“We gotta get it together and see what’s happenin’,” she continued, microphone in hand.
Matt Brauer, an at-large College of Liberal Arts senator for MSA and master of ceremonies for the event, kicked off the sing-a-long in a mini-skirt and combat boots with an entertaining rendition of Madonna’s “Express Yourself.”
“Put your vote to the test,” Brauer sang.
This committed, albeit noisy, group was trying to raise student awareness “with a little pizazz,” Brauer said. It is very important for students to vote, as that is the only way that the student association can find out what students really want, he added.
Philomena McCullough, the MSA representative for the American Indian Student Cultural Center, said more students voting would prevent a minority group from taking advantage of the traditionally low voter turnout, thereby taking control of MSA and disrupting everything the organization does.
Voter turnout has traditionally been extremely low in MSA elections, averaging about 4 percent of the 40,000-member undergraduate student body.
Sam Tuttle, Legislative Affairs Committee chairman and organizer of the self-described “publicity stunt,” said the problem seems to be an overall lack of awareness — if not outright apathy.
And her words seemed to ring true as students, many of whom were either bewildered or surprised by the performance, filed by or hung out in front of Coffman Union.
Peter Yanz, an undergraduate student in CLA, said that before the event he had no idea there were elections coming up. Now that he knows, he will be voting, he said.
However, other students had different reactions. Sally Cruz, Joe Faron and Blaine Schmidt, all juniors in CLA, claimed almost in unison that they were confused and that the event seemed stupid.
While Faron and Schmidt had no idea what the Minnesota Student Association was, Cruz didn’t believe it was a useful or productive organization.
“They try to do something,” Cruz said. However, they really have no pull with the faculty or administration, she added.
However, Tuttle, amongst others, said MSA is a very important and even influential organization, as it represents a unified and coherent voice on issues affecting students’ lives.
For this reason, the spunky group of students singing and dancing in front of Coffman Union believes it’s important for the greater undergraduate student body to vote in the elections and to be more involved in the issues affecting them as students at the University.
Apathetic or not, most of the students who attended or even passed by the sing-a-long agreed that it was at least entertaining.
The elections will be held today and Thursday. All undergraduate students can vote either online or at one of the designated polling stations.