MSA speaker’s power trip bad for forum

It is time for Minnesota Student Association speaker Ben Bowman to grow up. While MSA has little real power within the University, Bowman had no excuse for the petty flaunting of his power by seeking the removal of five MSA members. While in some of the cases the removals were justified, Bowman’s inflexibility in dealing with individual cases demonstrates that he is not mature enough to responsibly handle his position.
Consider Dustin Berger, representative from the College of Human Ecology. Berger failed to attend all fall quarter meetings because, he claimed, he had been unaware that he had been reelected. Although human ecology students probably deserved not to be represented having elected someone who did not even bother to find out if he had won the election, someone so irresponsible could not be left in office. Bowman was absolutely right in this case.
But all removal reviews were not for such flagrant violations of MSA bylaws. Dana Cheam, a representative from the Asian American Student Cultural Center, had attended every meeting since his election. However, as he failed to sign in on an attendance sheet, a policy of which he had never been informed, he was also reviewed for removal from the forum at Bowman’s encouragement. While Cheam certainly should have been signing the forum time sheet, his error hardly demanded removal.
Bowman believed that Cheam’s review was justified, decreeing that he would “make no exceptions.” His devotion to MSA bylaws is laudable, but every rule was meant to have exceptions. Cheam’s real crime was inadvertently failing to add to the paperwork around the University. A reprimand for Cheam would have been a far more reasonable response; Bowman did not need to throw his weight around the forum.
MSA attendance policies require members to be present at all forum or committee meetings, being allowed to miss only one without repercussion. In principle, these policies are justified and should be reasonably enforced. MSA members should not be permitted to accept their salary, which is derived from student fees, without providing the services to which they have committed themselves and representing their constituencies responsibly.
Nevertheless, it is inappropriate for Bowman to enforce the attendance policy draconianly. Both in MSA and the real world, there are legitimate excuses for missing a meeting. If a representative is in the Boynton emergency room at meeting time, would Bowman push for his or her removal? MSA by-laws may appear to be cut and dry, but Bowman must understand that they are open to subtle interpretation and the allowance of exceptions.
Representatives who miss meetings without good reason should be removed from MSA. Representatives who miss meetings or an attendance sheet with good reason should not. MSA is partially an educational endeavor, training students in how to work within a government-like structure. In the real, non-training world, some mistakes are excused. Bowman must come to realize this, as his power trips only damage an already poor MSA reputation on campus.