MSA candidates rev up for nearing presidential race

Three pairs of contenders are already working for the April election.

by Elizabeth Cook

Students interested in becoming student body president are beginning to announce their campaigns as elections near.

Official voting for Minnesota Student Association offices will take place April 16 to 18, but students running for president and vice president need at least 450 undergraduate student signature endorsements by March 23 to be considered for the ballots, said Ed Kim, the adviser for the All-Campus Election Commission.

Last year only two presidential candidates ran, but this year three pairs of students, the majority of whom are already MSA members, have announced their candidacy, although no one has formally filed.

Mike Griffin and Vince Patti

Mike Griffin, a political science junior, and Vince Patti, a food science junior, have a platform based on changing the party patrol system to make it less heavy-handed.

The patrols – when police officers comb the area looking for loud parties and underage drinkers – are wasting officers’ time when they could be patrolling the neighborhood, Griffin said.

The police are using “SWAT team tactics,” like sending in student spies to parties to report back to police, Patti said.

Both candidates are concerned with the recent rise in campus-area violence, and want police to focus on crime rather than loud parties.

The duo currently doesn’t have a campaign Web site, though their Facebook group has over 160 members. Griffin has a goal of getting 5,000 students to vote in this election so he can show police administration how many students are in support of his idea.

“I can say look, we need to work something out,” Griffin said.

When it comes to the MSA project “Lend a Hand, Hear the Band,” Griffin would like to keep the music, but combine it with Spring Jam and take away the volunteering aspect.

He said students already pay for MSA through student services fees, and that should be enough for them to go to the concert.

Emma Olson and Ross Skattum

Emma Olson, a business and political science sophomore, and Ross Skattum, an anthropology junior, are looking for votes based on a campaign of camaraderie among students and more visible teacher evaluations.

Olson said a strong relationship between MSA and student groups is important.

“We also think that student groups really bring forth the voice of the students,” she said. “Their concerns should be concerns that MSA deals with.”

In the past two weeks, Olson said they’ve already spoken with 16 groups, which they feel could improve voter turnout.

The pair would like to lower textbook costs for students by giving guidelines to professors for choosing books and eventually starting a loan system for introductory classes.

“It’s difficult to implement, but it’s something that we want to get started,” she said.

Olson is also looking for teacher evaluations to become more accessible to students.

Currently students have no way of finding past opinions on professors, Olson said. The goal is to have a link attached to classes when students register to see past teacher evaluations.

Skattum said he and Olson would like to keep the “Lend a Hand, Hear the Band” and MSA Express van projects, and if student service fees are cut for the group, the programs would still go on through stronger fundraising efforts.

“We’re not going to become stagnant just because we’re out money,” Olson said.

Nathan Olson and Adam Engelman

Nathan Olson, a Spanish and linguistics junior, and Adam Engelman, a political science junior, are focused on safety and school costs for students.

They’d like to keep the MSA Express van and “Night of Safety,” programs – services both candidates helped start.

The two also are concerned about the cost of textbooks, and plan to talk with professors and create an open discussion about what can be done.

“We don’t claim to be able to solve the problem,” Olson said. “But it needs to be discussed.”

Their agenda also includes creating a bigger sense of community with other student groups and local communities and expanding Beautiful U Day.

“We’d like to see more of a campus, University-wide cleanup,” Olson said.

Students can submit suggestions for the group’s platform on their Web site in a program called “U Decide.”

In the past year, MSA has started to give back to students, they both said, and they plan on keeping it that way.