After receiving criticism in the spring, the Minnesota Student Association will reintroduce its program to address University of Minnesota students’ concerns over social media.
Later this semester, MSA plans to relaunch its “What to Fix UMN” program, where students post changes they would like see at the University on Facebook and Twitter. “WTF UMN” debuted last semester but wasn’t as successful as MSA members had anticipated. It lapsed into inactivity when the school year ended.
Now, members are improving how they communicate with students and defining members’ responsibilities so the program runs more efficiently, said MSA President Mike Schmit.
“We want students to know where their concern is in the process, who’s talking about it and when they can expect to see a result,” said Joelle Stangler, MSA’s ranking representative to the Board of Regents.
In the first attempt to launch the program, MSA didn’t prepare adequately before the program went live and members weren’t able to keep up with responding to students, Schmit said.
“There was a lot more activity than we anticipated,” Stangler said. “It turned out to be more complicated than we expected and got out of our control quickly.”
Stangler said MSA members will be more transparent with students if they can’t solve their problem. This was a major criticism of “WTF UMN” when it first launched in April, when students claimed their posts were being “ignored.”
“We didn’t have a system in place to handle the wide variety of things coming in to us,” Schmit said.
History and communications junior Alex Westad said MSA members overlooked posts last spring, specifically ones suggesting the University adopt a policy allowing students to carry concealed guns on campus.
“It seemed like MSA dismissed posts that had to do with controversial topics,” he said. “They just let those posts go by the wayside.”
Westad said despite MSA’s promise to repost the most popular student ideas each week, the group didn’t acknowledge conceal-and-carry posts with a high number of “likes” and “favorites.”
Schmit said “WTF UMN” exists to fix “less controversial” problems around campus.
“We can’t reasonably do anything about issues like gun control without limiting ourselves in other areas that we find are important to more people,” Schmit said.
He said addressing controversial issues like gun control would limit the time MSA has to meet other students’ needs.
“We need to allocate our resources in the best way,” he said.
Chemistry and chemical engineering senior Jared Cohen, who suggested concealed carry on campus via “WTF UMN,” said MSA was only responding to “low-key” concerns already on its agenda.
“Even if they had told me it was a big issue that they couldn’t do anything about, I would’ve liked to have heard back from them,” he said. “Just something to acknowledge that they considered my post.”
With the relaunch, Schmit said MSA will be more diligent in responding to all posts, even if they’re about something that the group will not address.
“I’d like to respond to everything,” he said. “If it’s something we can’t work on or are uncomfortable with, then we should respond and explain why.”
With the new system, Stangler said MSA members will be assigned to process specific posts depending on the issue.
“We’re looking to gain more consistency in who handles certain posts and who follows up with them,” she said.
Chemistry and chemical engineering sophomore Jeremy Miller said the new program will be a “tremendous improvement” from the way “WTF UMN” was run previously.
Students want to know they’re not communicating with a “blank wall” when they post their concerns, Miller said.
“I think it’s a spectacular way to get students’ voices heard,” he said. “But communication needs to come from both ends.”