MSA head says group has new attitude

Tracy Ellingson

Minnesota Student Association President Helen Phin dubs this year’s Minnesota Student Association “a brand-new MSA.”
Phin said that because this year’s leaders did not participate in the often-stormy MSA Forums of two years ago, they enter the association with an attitude that will benefit University students. Phin, a College of Liberal Arts junior who is beginning her third year in MSA, hopes the new attitude will translate into an improved University for students.
Many current MSA representatives “are new in terms that they didn’t witness the fights and petty things that went on two years ago,” Phin said. This year’s leaders “believe that MSA works for students and gets a lot done, makes things better for students.”
This year, making things better for students means dealing with a range of issues including the selection of a new University president, registering students to vote in November elections and tackling student life issues. Other issues include bussing between the St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses, controlling tuition hikes and promoting quality education.
MSA Vice-President Eric Hanson said he and Phin spent time this summer independently working on current student concerns such as the faculty tenure issue. But now, with the school year getting under way, the pair has begun to focus on the goals and direction MSA will take for the upcoming year.
One of Hanson’s main concerns is that the University atmosphere is too much “like a 9-5 job.” He said that other Big Ten schools such as the University of Wisconsin, Madison and Michigan State have much better campus atmospheres that make students want to fight for the rights of their schools.
“It’s tough to get that love” for the University, Hanson said, “but that feeling goes a long way.”
Hanson suggested that the University start a coalition of students to promote school pride or charge less for student game tickets to improve the University’s atmosphere.
Hanson said the University’s administration gives its student representative body a great deal more influence in its policy making than other schools do.
Hanson said the administration feels pressure to stay connected to its student body because it has been blasted by the media and does not have a good working relationship with the state.
However, “MSA doesn’t necessarily change policy as much as it keeps things from changing,” Hanson said.
Both Hanson and Phin agree that many of the projects or issues that MSA instigates are not credited to MSA.
That fact doesn’t seem to bother Phin. “We recognize that it’s not MSA as an institution doing these things for students,” Phin said, “but it’s students doing these things for students.”
MSA student representatives work on projects and discuss issues in committee meetings and bi-weekly Forums.
This year’s first Forum meeting will be held October 8 .
“We’re hoping to approach the different groups that haven’t had attendance in the past,” said Phin, “to let them know that they do have representation on the Forum.”
But Phin said she realizes student participation is a two-way street.
“It goes both ways in terms of people representing themselves on MSA and MSA representing these people,” she said. “We feel that it’s important for not only (these groups) to be sending their reps to MSA Forums, (but) we also make a concerted effort to go out to these groups and attend their meetings and see what’s going on with them.”