by Sean Madigan

The Minnesota Student Association’s biweekly forum erupted in fiery debate Tuesday when speaker Ben Bowman stated that attendance for the association’s retreat this weekend would be mandatory.
Although he eventually withdrew his demand for mandatory attendance at the eight-hour retreat on Saturday, Bowman also recommended to the Executive Committee that 10 forum members be removed for attendance issues — an action that sparked animosity among association factions.
The 10 members will be granted removal hearings before the judicial committee at the association’s next forum meeting in two weeks. The judicial committee votes on whether to remove or pardon each person.
Unexcused absences by any member from any two forums or committee meetings are grounds for removal from the association, according to its constitutional bylaws. The speaker can grant excuses, but Bowman said during his campaign and again on Tuesday that he will make exceptions for no one. Bowman sees attendance at the retreat as no different.
“What type of MSA do we want?” Bowman asked. “Do we want a new MSA? We need 100 percent participation, 100 percent of the time. We all made the active decision to be here.”
Several members moved to contest Bowman’s decision to make attendance at the weekend retreat mandatory, citing prior religious and personal obligations.
Britta Ylikopsa said many people have to work on the weekends and Bowman’s two-week notice of the event was not sufficient. Meeting on a Saturday would infringe on some people’s religious obligation, she added.
Ylikopsa is one of the 10 members slated for a removal hearing. Although she maintains that she spoke at every meeting, she said that attending the retreat would cause her to miss a reunion with a friend she has not seen since she was six years old.
University Young Women representative Robyn Dettling, who is also one of the 10 members slated for removal, said she has not been to a meeting all year.
“I’ve talked to (MSA President Nikki Kubista) about it; she knew,” Dettling said. “If they decide to remove me then that’s fine with me.”
Bowman said he wants the representatives to be active and act in the best interest of their constituents.
“The people you represent deserve your vote on every issue at every meeting,” Bowman said. “The people that they represent have a right to have a voice in this room,” he added.
Bowman expects the dedication to attendance in forum meetings to carry over to the weekend retreat and said the heated debate over the issue is an example of MSA’s petty politicking.
“This is a defining issue for us,” Bowman said.
When Bowman withdrew his weekend retreat attendance policy, he apologized to new forum members for the ugly display of political infighting.
“I think a lot of people at this meeting are more concerned with small technicalities,” said new MSA member Mary Ptacin. “This is the time for voting on issues and getting things done.”