Student gov’t groups gain new role

Groups like MSA, PSG and COGS are now considered legislative bodies on campus.

Raj Chaduvula

Until now, University of Minnesota student government groups held no more official power on campus than other student organizations.
In the past, the Minnesota Student Association, the Professional Student Government and the Council of Graduate Students advocated student issues to the University to spur policy change. 
Now, administrators and student leaders sit at the same table. 
The three government groups recently became official legislative bodies with the authority to join administrators in policy discussions on student issues.
“The designation requires the University to consult with the student governments” said Nicholas Goldsmith, president of the Council of Graduate Students. 
In January, the Office of Student Affairs offered to designate the three groups as “Recognized Student Governance Association[s].” 
The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly dissolution in May 2015 allowed administrators to rethink the position and function of student governments, said Sara Carvell, OSA associate director.
“We asked the presidents of MSA, PSG and COGS what the characteristics of a student government are and what it means to be a recognized governance student organization,” Carvell said. 
The new designation also formalizes the responsibilities and rights of the three groups, said Kyle Kroll, president of PSG. 
MSA, the undergraduate student government, was the first to adopt the new title after a Feb. 1 vote.
Joelle Stangler, MSA president, said the designation — which she said marks the first formal partnership between the University and its student governments — guarantees student leaders’ access to University offices. 
“This will set us up for success and a good long-term plan, which will give a clear idea of what types of decision making student government is involved in,” she said. 
COGS is expected to approve the new title this Thursday, but some of its members have voiced concern with a few aspects of the agreement, said Goldsmith.
Kroll said despite initial consultation with student groups last summer, most of the agreement’s details were planned without their help. 
“By the time it reached us, it wasn’t up for revision,” he said.
Some members, he said, have pointed out that the agreement doesn’t clearly lay out consequences for student governments that fail to adhere to the document’s terms — but does not cover corrective action in the case that the University should misstep on its side of the deal.
Goldsmith said some members found that language to be one-sided, but he said he hopes it’s a work in progress.
“The RSGA designation is currently a test drive,” he said. 
Still, the designation as a whole is a step in the right direction, Kroll said.
The designation’s rollout will be reviewed this summer by the executive boards of each student government, who will provide feedback to OSA, Goldsmith said.