Elections offer way to become involved

Every year, students have a plethora of options for gaining a voice on campus.

by Jens Krogstad

All-campus election season is here and student leaders are encouraging people to get involved in student government.

Minnesota Student Association President Eric Dyer said anyone can hold a leadership position.

Though winning the MSA presidential election can cost more than $1,000, Dyer said positions such as at-large seats in the University Senate and MSA are more accessible.

“Any student from any college has a Ö good chance of winning,” he said. “All you have to do is fill out the forms and spread the word.”

Endorsements can make all the difference, especially if it is not for an MSA presidential bid, University DFL member Andy Pomroy said.

He said getting an endorsement from his group virtually guarantees a win if the position is an MSA at-large and University Senate seat.

“As far back as anyone can remember, we’ve never lost any of those,” he said.

Last year, he said, the U-DFL endorsed one University senator, approximately three College of Liberal Arts senators and six at-large MSA representatives.

Pomroy said the reason endorsements mean more in the nonpresidential elections is because students usually know less about those candidates.

Because it is a liberal campus, Pomroy said, when students see the word “Democrat” next to a candidate’s name, he said it increases the likelihood of that candidate winning.

But Dyer said he believes he won last year’s presidential election because he was not endorsed.

“To me, MSA is not a political organization,” he said. “The majority of students are not that political.”

Dyer said record participation in last year’s all-campus elections means most students can no longer just fill out a form and hope for the best.

When he and Josh Colburn were elected president and vice president for the 2002-03 school year, they won with approximately 670 votes.

For this school year, winning MSA at-large bids garnered approximately 600 votes, while the presidential winner won more than 1,000.

“It’s crazy that people have to work as hard as Josh and I did to win a regular election,” he said.

The reason student voting was so low in past years was that MSA was little more than a joke, Dyer said.

MSA Housing and Facilities Chairman Tom Zearley agreed and said student government was in bad shape three years ago.

“Josh and Eric have really turned MSA around,” said Zearley, who is running for MSA president.

“We are reaching out to more students and it’s to the point where administration thinks (the group) is credible now,” he said.

That perception seemed to be affirmed when University President Bob Bruininks agreed to speak to MSA Forum this week – an unprecedented move, MSA members said.

In his address to Forum members, Bruininks lauded them for their active citizenship and called this generation of student government leaders the best he can remember.