MSA leaders share ideas at Michigan State

Chad Hamblin

University undergraduate leaders used Saturday’s Gophers game at Michigan State University as an opportunity to compare each school’s student governments.

Minnesota Student Association President Tom Zearley met with Michigan State student government chairman Andrew Schepers to see how they operate their student government.

“We got a lot of useful information out of it,” Zearley said.

Schepers said that while the University “spearheaded” the visit, it helped both student governments.

“I enjoyed it, and I thought it was a learning experience for everybody,” he said. “Sharing ideas is always a bonus for everybody in the long run.”

The biggest difference between the schools’ student governments is how student groups get money, Zearley said.

Michigan State’s student government divides money for groups. Groups can also petition for money if they are throwing a certain event, he said.

At the University, student group money is determined by a fees committee, not MSA.

“Students at the University (of Minnesota) have a lot more say in where their money is being spent,” Zearley said. “We do have it a little better off in that aspect.”

There were certain things at Michigan State University that Zearley said he would like to do with MSA. Specifically, they have a late night bus program that runs until 2 a.m., as well as a yearbook program.

Zearley found that both student governments lobby their respective state capitols, he said.

“Their state is decreasing funding and doesn’t appear to like them very much,” he said. “Kind of like us.”

Zearley and Schepers said they would like to keep communicating with each other’s student governments.

MSA executive board member Nathan Wanderman will visit the University of Wisconsin- Madison and meet with its student government next month. Wanderman said it is important for MSA to check out other student governments because sometimes the group can get too wrapped up in its own priorities.

“We don’t get exposed to ideas outside our own government culture,” he said. “We’re always looking for better ideas.”

Zearley visited Michigan State University with eight representatives from other student groups, including the Black Student Union and the Residence Hall Association.

Amelious Whyte, an official in the University of Minnesota Office of Student Affairs, chaperoned the trip and said it was a unique opportunity for different student group members to gather.

Some of Michigan State’s ideas might work well here, he said.

“Who’s to say we’re doing everything perfectly?” Whyte said. “I think it was important to give (the students) an opportunity to see that there’s a variety of ways to do things.”

The nine students who went on the trip will write reports on what they saw and make recommendations on what the University of Minnesota can do better, Whyte said. Students will be able to see the reports if they want, he said.

First-year student Paul Stark said it’s a good idea for MSA members to visit other schools.

“I guess if the other schools have good ideas, we could borrow those,” he said.

Erin Wilson, a Chicano studies junior, said MSA should build a presence on campus before reaching out to other student governments.

“I think maybe they should focus more on the students here,” she said. “I only really hear about MSA during their elections.”

Phil Thompson, a sophomore business student, said MSA leaders should focus on the desires of University of Minnesota students, but it’s also important to see how other student governments work.

“If nothing else, to see how they work and what we can improve upon,” he said.

Restarting a campus yearbook is a good idea, he said.

“I was surprised to see we didn’t have a yearbook when I came in as a freshman last year,” he said.