MSA president, vice president candidates look to leave their mark

Undergraduate students are running for MSA president and vice president, each uniquely advocating for the student body.

Niamh Coomey

Editor’s note: The print version of this story was published prior to Janet Nguyen dropping out of the race. This current version reflects the updated information.

Voting begins this week for the next Minnesota Student Association president and vice president. From affordability to diversity, the 2019-20 MSA president and vice president candidates have a diverse range of goals and visions for the future of the University of Minnesota.

President candidate Mina Kian and vice president candidate Jael Kerandi

Current MSA Vice President Mina Kian is running for the presidency alongside current MSA Ranking Representative to the Board of Regents Jael Kerandi.

Kerandi said one of the pair’s biggest goals is creating long-lasting change at the University with an emphasis on improving affordability. 

“Bottom line is I want to make this University a better place, not only for myself and my peers now, but for the Gophers that are going to come in ten years and in fifteen years,” Kerandi said.

Another priority is increasing the resources available to sexual assault survivors. Kian previously served as co-director of an MSA task force to combat sexual assault. 

Kian and Kerandi both expressed their desire to create a more diverse student body at the University and to provide mental health resources for diverse students.

“I’m really passionate about our recruitment and retention of a diverse student body. … Not only getting these students here, but how do we have a campus that allows them to feel welcome and comfortable?” Kerandi said. 

Sustainability is another issue the pair is focusing on. Kian said they hope to push for more sustainable models in dining halls. 

Kian emphasized her and Kerandi’s experience with governance and advocacy at MSA as well as their hope to maintain a close relationship between MSA and incoming President-Designate Joan Gabel.

“I know that me and Jael are the best-equipped individuals and the most passionate individuals to take up the responsibility of governing the Minnesota Student Association in the upcoming year,” Kian said.

President candidate Osirus Washington

Third-year student Osirus Washington, current MSA at-large representative, is running for president. His former running mate, Janet Nguyen, dropped out of the race late Sunday night after Washington’s social media posts resurfaced, causing controversy.

Washington’s Facebook posts read, “Do you get bad karma for having an abortion?” Several MSA members and others responded to the post with concern.

Janet Nguyen released a statement late Sunday evening saying she will pull out of the All Campus Elections due to the posts. The statement said she withdrew to dissociate herself from Washington’s comments.

The Minnesota Daily was unable to reach Washington for comment.

In an interview prior to Sunday’s incident, Washington emphasized the importance of improving diversity and representation in the University’s student government.

“Equity is including all voices, every background, every student, and that’s what we want to do,” he said.

Washington said he hopes to focus on tackling food and housing insecurity on campus. His goal is to work with groups in the communities surrounding the University to implement more opportunities for students to access fresh food. 

Washington said he also hopes to continue MSA’s It Ends Here campaign and further education about sexual violence.

Washington said he hopes to do more outreach and make student government more engaging for students, while making MSA more internally inclusive.

“It’s important to bring in new faces and new voices to our undergraduate student government,” he said. 

President candidate Spencer Kleinschmidt and vice president candidate August Schutz

Third-year student Spencer Kleinschmidt is running for president alongside third-year August Schutz. The pair is not currently involved with MSA.

Kleinschmidt said he hopes to to introduce a new grocery store to Dinkytown or Stadium Village to make affordable food options more accessible for students. He also said he hopes to bring more nutritious and fresh food options to first-year students by revamping some of the dining halls.

Kleinschmidt emphasized the power of the student body in helping to implement some of these changes.

“If you get the students behind it, there’s not a lot you can’t do at a University,” he said.

He hopes to implement town hall-style opportunities for collecting and listening to student input. Kleinschmidt said he also wants to work on ways to make campus feel safer, such as working with University police to get timely warnings about crimes on campus out faster.

Kleinschmidt said it’s important to believe sexual assault survivors and provide them with the resources they need. He said he wants to make mental health resources more accessible.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated characteristics of MSA’s voting forum. Washington is not the only black, male voting member of the forum.