After elections, Minnesota Student Association looks to ease tensions

MSA president Abeer Syedah and this year's presidential candidates say the drama-filled elections were distracting from regular work.

Minnesota Student Association president and vice-president candidates make their opening statements at the MSA Debate in Coffman Memorial Union Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017.

Meagan Lynch, Daily File Photo

Minnesota Student Association president and vice-president candidates make their opening statements at the MSA Debate in Coffman Memorial Union Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017.

Natalie Rademacher

Following elections, the Minnesota Student Association is working to ease tensions from the election.

While elections are distracting every year, candidates said this year, allegations — such as bribery and illicit door-knocking raised among the four tickets —has sidetracked the organization from its normal work.

To help ease tensions and help the candidates move on, MSA president Abeer Syedah said she has held one-on-one meetings with several candidates and members concerned about the drama.

“[The election] made it look like my team was dysfunctional,” she said.

Tensions among candidates were made public during the election when MSA vice president Sam Marlow and ranking at-large representative Maggie Donnelly, in a statement shared in a public Facebook post, accused president-elect Trish Palermo of multiple campaigning violations and called for the All-Campus Election Commission to investigate.

Palermo denied the accusations. The statement was later deleted.

The ACEC received 10 complaints, three of which have been resolved, said Tommy Keller, co-chair and organizational liaison. He declined to comment on the nature of any of the complaints.

The drama discouraged candidates from spending time working together. Some asked for MSA meeting excusals, delaying some of their projects, Syedah said.

Syedah said she understands the stress of campaigning during election season but that it does not excuse the lack of progress.

Nick Alm, who ran for MSA president, said though the election took away energy from other duties within MSA, candidates have discussed how to refocus on student advocacy and their jobs within MSA during the meetings held by Syedah.

In addition to releasing a statement on Facebook assuring students and MSA members that the student government was moving on, Syedah took a moment at the beginning of the last MSA forum to address the election.

“Every moment we spend not being able to work together is a moment we are cheating the student body,” Syedah said at the time.

During the election, some students took to social media to voice their discontent with the tensions within the student government.

“I thought last year’s MSA elections were stressful BOY was I wrong,” tweeted Tipheret Pena.

Raisa Elhadi, a global studies senior and MSA Student Group Representative said she felt annoyed that internal politics were taking away from student advocacy.

“The only people that really care about all of this are the people involved.”

Syedah’s statement, posted to the MSA Facebook page, emphasized that restorative work is underway to reestablish the strength of MSA and acknowledged that some students feel “betrayed, cynical or let down” by student government.

“We lost a lot of the trust that we had built in MSA,” Syedah said.

MSA president-elect Trish Palermo said she plans to avoid rehashing any drama as she plans for next year.

“The tensions that arose affected everyone,” Palermo said. “At the end of the day, we want what is best for the University.”

Clarification: A previous version of this article did not list both authors of the letter.