Why is our student voice so off key?

Boy, my brain hurts today. I’m just not sure which ticket to vote for in the Minnesota Student Association elections.
Let’s see. Should I vote for the people who want to fight for “progressive justice?” Progressive justice sounds nice. I’m not sure what it is, but it sounds nice. The Corey Donovan-Kiaora Bohlool campaign is also promoting a diverse University community and a belief in students. Sounds swell to me.
Then we have this “12 months of action” pledge from Jigar Madia and Bridgette Murphy. (As opposed to 12 months of inaction.) They want to “implement a 15-minute, across-the-board waiting policy,” put students on tenure review committees and on semester conversion committees. Hmm, that makes sense, too.
Ah, but how can I resist the temptation to support the “revolutionary” ticket of Derek Shemon and Jason Strid? I know they’re revolutionary because their campaign slogan is “We are the Revolution.” They want to change the way MSA runs by dealing directly with Mark Yudof, the president-elect. Nice approach — go straight to the source.
Decisions, decisions. And it’s such an important decision, too. I mean, a lot is riding on this. Such as, um …
What exactly does MSA do again?
I know that a pro-life Republican member of the association freaked out about having a portrait of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger hanging in the library. He introduced a resolution that would have condemned the portrait and told the University to remove it. The resolution failed, but what’s the difference since University officials said the picture wasn’t coming down no matter what MSA said. (The nerve!)
Last year, after acrimonious debate, MSA passed a resolution recognizing a 1984 grape boycott by the United Farm Workers of America. The repercussions of that resolution were felt nationwide, let me tell you. (Poor MSA, it’ll never live down that darn grape incident.)
The group passed a resolution to say the Pledge of Allegiance before each forum, then repealed it two weeks later. My head is still spinning.
Now, this is not to say MSA is completely useless. (Emphasis on completely.) You know the Course Guide that explains what to expect from a class, like how much reading is required and the exam formats? That was started by MSA several years ago. I love that guide: “3,000 pages of reading per week? No, thank you.”
Students who ride the route 13-R bus that runs on weekends can thank MSA. It had been cut, but our student leaders fought for its reinstatement.
Additionally, the group should get some credit for the hard work it’s done trying to make professor evaluations public. A bill that would have done just that was effectively killed in the state’s House of Representatives recently, but MSA members said they’ll pursue it again next year.
Overall, though, it’s hard not to roll your eyes when you hear candidates making pie-in-the-sky pledges.
Take Madia and Murphy. Somehow, they got a reputation as the duo that has realistic, attainable goals. Excuse me?
Implementing (I hate that word) a 15-minute wait for all University services is not exactly something MSA has a lot of control over. Are they going to give up the approximately $200,000 they get in student service fees every year to help add more staff to the University? Are they going to buy more computers for the current staff? I don’t get it.
Under the “What we’ll make them fix” section of their campaign pamphlet, they say they’ll guarantee students access to professor evaluations. (Donovan and Bohlool also have this goal.) Well, that’s nice, and I wish them luck. But student leaders have been working on this for years and have gotten nowhere. It would be great if our next MSA president had more success, but I think a guarantee is a tiny bit unrealistic.
I don’t really know what to make of this Donovan-Bohlool team. They support stabilized tuition — OK, let’s stop right there. Tuition is definitely one place MSA absolutely can’t make a difference. Students don’t want a tuition increase — big surprise. Please find me an instance of MSA having success in freezing tuition.
Donovan and Bohlool also want to make sure students are Coffman’s “No. 1 priority.” But aside from that, they “do not have a jam-packed agenda set in stone.” Instead, they prefer to wait and see what issues students raise. Should we call that lack of leadership or pragmatic politics?
Now, what’s up with this revolutionary team? All I’ve heard about Shemon and Strid is that they don’t have any experience in MSA (they call this a plus, and who am I to argue?), they will give up their stipends, saving MSA several thousand dollars, and they want to deal directly with University administrators. But do administrators want to deal directly with them?
I’m sure MSA people have their knickers in a big knot right now and plan on writing letters to the editor saying, “But we do a lot! We try really hard! Boo-hoo, boo-hoo!”
Actually, I’m sure most MSA people do try hard and probably have accomplished more than I give them credit for here. It’s just that they spend too much time on frivolous or unrealistic goals. Of course, it’s a Catch-22. Who’s going to vote for candidates that admit there’s not a lot they can do so they don’t plan to do much? I suppose one of the points of MSA (besides rÇsumÇ padding) is practicing to be effective leaders and board members. And as a friend of mine who staunchly supports MSA recently said, “Wouldn’t you rather have them practice where it doesn’t mean a damn thing?”
Sure, I guess. Just don’t expect too many people to get excited about it.
Kris Henry’s column appears in the Daily every Thursday. She welcomes e-mail comments, even from MSA members, at [email protected]
Letters to the editor may be sent [email protected]