Editorial: In midst of budget shortfalls, MSA must rebound

Trust and financial resources go hand-in-hand in building a student coalition.

Daily Editorial Board

Every year, it seems, candidates in Minnesota Student Association (MSA) are embroiled in some debate over rule violations by the All-Campus Election Commission. Last year, for example, Abeer Syedah and Sam Marlow’s campaign violated rules about door-to-door campaigning, and were penalized with a fine. This year, allegations made by some were more severe — including those of bribery and illicit door-knocking, which have sidetracked the organization in recent months.

For MSA, creating a platform that supports students requires a strong foundation of trust and financial resources — both of which seem to have taken a dent this year.

Though they won the election, incoming MSA president Trish Palermo and vice-president Erik Hillesheim will likely face unique challenges in this coming school year as student-leaders — the first, overcoming what some perceive as diminished trust between student body and student government, instantiated by the divisiveness from the most recent election. The second: budget and funding shortfalls on campus, which could also tighten their capacity for advocacy.

Currently, lawmakers in the State Legislature are debating whether to make student service fees — that fund more than 130 student groups on campus —optional, which could increase the affordability of college. While University administrators and current MSA president, Abeer Syedah, have opposed the bill, if the legislation passes, it could complicate MSAs role in advocating for student involvement on campus. It seems necessary for MSA to fight hard against this legislation, and fold the issue back into the jurisdiction of student government. MSA, as a student-run body, should be the arbiter on student affairs.

Furthermore, the MSA has come up short on sufficient funds to support grants for students’ individual or community projects during spring semester. MSA grant slush funds were heavily depleted — event grants plummeting from the original $12,500 allotment to 51 cents, and the $10,000 allotment for mission driven grants to $5,130. It’s reassuring to see that student-led campus initiatives are being funded, but if student service fees regulations are indeed changed at the Capitol, MSA will be tasked with creating a platform that can better support student programs.

With the latest onslaught of budgetary challenges, outgoing and incoming MSA leadership must prioritize building trust with disaffected populations on campus, and mitigate students’ worries over the future of their groups’ financial viability.

Correction: A previous version of this editorial mischaracterized Syedah’s violation. She was fined for separate instances of rule-breaking