University student body presidents discuss goals and initiatives

Student government leaders talk about sexual misconduct prevention and the presidential search committee.

PSG President Alanna Pawlowski, MSA President Simran Mishra, COGS President Sean Chen

Courtney Deutz

PSG President Alanna Pawlowski, MSA President Simran Mishra, COGS President Sean Chen

by Michelle Griffith

The Minnesota Daily recently sat down with the University of Minnesota’s student government  presidents to discuss their current initiatives and goals for the school year. 

Simran MishraMinnesota Student Association

[Is MSA] continuing any initiatives that started last year? 

We’re strategizing around how to continue our momentum, so a lot of these things like [the campaign to rename Coffman Memorial Union] gained a lot of traction and we’re thinking of how do we build on that. … Same with our legislation for expanding medical amnesty — that’s something we will be pursuing with full force come time, and same with our lease legislation.

Will MSA play a role in finding a replacement for President Kaler?

We definitely want to play a role. We are looking to partner with our system campuses to bring together this collective voice of our [University of Minnesota] campus and really emphasize what students want in our new president. Because it’s not just someone [who’s] going to affect us for however many years they’re here, it’s someone who’s really going to be leaving a legacy that’ll affect students for generations to come.

Alanna PawlowskiProfessional Student Government 

Are there any initiatives that PSG was working on last year that you’re hoping to complete this year?

We are addressing students that aren’t represented by professional school councils. We’ve had new programs being reclassified by the University from graduate to professional. It leads to a situation where if those students aren’t under one of these main councils, they don’t have formal representation. … For the first time this year we created an at-large representative within the PSG congress, so people from an academic program that doesn’t have a council over it [can have representation]. … It’s over 20 academic programs that aren’t represented by a council. 

What are the new initiatives PSG is planning to do this year?

We’re really hoping to … increase the amount of support for professional students [by] having trainings and spaces for conversations about race, discrimination and bias. … We found that in talking with students, different professional schools will provide different levels of support around diversity and inclusion. … What we’re looking to do … is try for next year so all professional programs have something at their orientation that provides training on implicit bias and working in a diverse environment.

Is there anything that you guys will be working on as the session begins?

We’re also looking into how we could survey professional students to find where gaps are and then fill it in. There was a graduate and professional student-wide LGBTQ group that existed a couple years ago and I’ve talked to a couple of students who are interested in restarting that effort, and we’re dedicated to helping them do that. [Also] we’re going to be publicizing our monthly grant awards on our website … as part of an effort to be more transparent with finances and grants. 

Sean ChenCouncil of Graduate Students

Are there any initiatives that COGS is hoping to continue this year?

We’ve been working on how we can better prevent sexual misconduct. … Last year a major piece we did was a resolution … which called the University to release more information regarding sexual misconduct. What I really care about specifically is how we [address] sexual misconduct [with] faculty members and graduate students. … In graduate school, you work much closer with faculty members. … There’s often a power imbalance, so that causes a number of issues. … We want to be a part of the need-to-know basis, so at least we have a basic understanding of how prevalent these cases are. 

What are some of COGS goals this year?

The first one is the presidential search … I have nominated the COGS vice president to be on the presidential search committee. … We also want to look at the basic rights of student employees … and compare them to [other] peer institutions.