MSA executive board flouts own rules

MSA went against their own rules and overturned a forum-approved bylaw.

The Minnesota Student Association’s executive board came under fire recently in regards to what some perceive as unconstitutional actions the board took.

At a secret Oct. 2 meeting, the MSA executive board overturned a bylaw previously approved by the MSA forum about attendance.

“We need to apologize to forum for acting unconstitutional and behind their backs,” Julia Krieger, diversity education fund grants chairwoman and executive board member, said.

The executive board held its secret meeting immediately after forum – which involves all MSA representatives – during which an attendance policy was approved. The approval of the attendance policy resulted in the removal of five forum members because they had missed several consecutive forum meetings.

“The executive board was misled, largely by the president, vice president and the speaker of the organization,” Nathan Olson, student representative to the Board of Regents and executive board member, said. “As a unit they single-handedly maneuvered the board into overturning a decision made by forum.”

Krieger and Olson were the only two dissenting opinions during the secret meeting about the suspension of the bylaw.

MSA President Emma Olson said the secret meeting of the executive board was held because of the ambiguity of the attendance policy.

“We didn’t know how to interpret it correctly enough and wanted to make sure it was fair to everyone,” she said.

Nathan Olson and Krieger said they went to the secret meeting under the impression the policy would only be discussed and that a vote to overturn it wouldn’t occur.

“Everything was masked to us; they called a secret meeting, an emergency meeting; they called the overturning of a bylaw a suspension of a bylaw,” Krieger said.

The power to suspend a bylaw is within the authority of the speaker of MSA, Mark Lewandowski. But during this meeting, Lewandowski gave up his responsibility, resulting in a vote by the executive board without notifying forum – which is unconstitutional, Krieger said.

“If the executive board is given full power to decide what the constitution means on the basis of how they feel about any given issue at any given time, then that kind of bias is bureaucratic,” she said.

The five forum members who were removed have been reinstated and currently have full voting rights.

The next step for MSA is to wipe its slate clean and approve an entirely new attendance policy for next semester, Krieger said.

“We wanted to make sure we were doing the best by all the students who participate in MSA,” Emma Olson said.

Nathan Olson said it’s unfortunate the MSA leaders are unwilling to admit they’ve made mistakes.

“I believe because of this, that the apology that they agreed to isn’t an apology really, but an apology that they got caught,” Krieger said.

“If we hadn’t brought this up, forum would not have been aware that this bylaw had been overturned,” she said.

Nathan Olson said his biggest regret is that a lot of MSA’s time has been wasted on this issue.

“Instead of advocating for students, we are having arguments and discussions about constitution interpretation and bylaw changes,” he said. “I hope in the spring semester we can put this behind us and move forward with innovative projects that will help better the name of MSA.”

At Tuesday’s forum, Emma Olson presented a newly drafted attendance policy that will be discussed next month.

“We really want to make amends for what we did,” she said.