Two women will lead student gov’t for 2nd time ever

Since GAPSA split from MSA in 1990, five women have led the group.

Bryce Haugen

Next school year, for the second time ever, two women will lead University student government.

In last month’s All-Campus Elections, undergraduate students chose Emily Serafy Cox, the current Minnesota Student Association Legislative Affairs Committee chairwoman, as next year’s MSA president. Six days later, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly unanimously promoted Executive Vice President Karen Buhr to the presidency.

Since GAPSA split from MSA in 1990, five women have led the group. During that same time, MSA has had four female presidents. But two women have simultaneously led student government only once before – in the 1991-92 school year.

University urban studies sophomore Nora Bacher, an officer with the Women’s Student Activist Collective, said she hopes female leadership leads to a better understanding of the issues women face on campus.

“It’s a good sign,” she said. “I think it shows that people are aware those women are capable of taking on strong leadership roles.”

Serafy Cox

A dance and women’s studies junior, Serafy Cox said she will work hard to deliver on a campaign promise to transform MSA into a group that more intensely lobbies University administration and the State Legislature.

“We want to make tuition issues the number one priority for student government,” she said.

MSA will expand advocacy efforts to create a constant presence at the Capitol, she said.

“If (students) can’t have an effect on our tuition, who can?” she said.

MSA will also pressure the Minneapolis City Council to change an ordinance that makes it illegal for unrelated adults to share a bedroom, Serafy Cox said.

Many University students fill bedrooms beyond capacity to pay their “enormously” high rent, she said. When the city inspected homes near the University following a deadly 2003 house fire, she said, some students were evicted.

“They were picked on,” said Serafy Cox, who also said the ordinance was selectively enforced.

This is a personal issue for her, she said. When inspectors came to her house, she said, they hid the beds.

Next year’s MSA will also work to reform University Dining Services and “begin the conversation” on a U Pass that would be issued to every fees-paying student, Serafy Cox said.

Serafy Cox is driven by a precise vision and has a proven track record, said MSA Forum member Max Page, who is also University-DFL president.

“I think she sees those positions as a chance to really help students connect their lives Ö with student government and state government,” Page said.

But MSA Forum member Rick Orr said he’s concerned the Forum will become more politically divided under Serafy Cox’s progressive leadership. Because most MSA issues are nonpartisan, the president needs to unite the Forum, he said.

“If she can’t do that as president, we are definitely going to have problems,” Orr said.

Serafy Cox said that she would reach out to all Forum members while strongly pushing a progressive agenda.

“I’m not scared of disagreement,” she said. “I’m not scared of discussion.”

President Karen Buhr

Buhr, a College of Natural Resources master’s student, said her main goal as president will be to get more graduate and professional students engaged in their government.

“So many people don’t get involved and don’t care, and that’s what I think needs to change,” Buhr said.

She said she also wants to bridge the divide between the GAPSA executive board and the group’s 10 member councils.

Though all the University’s almost 17,000 graduate and professional students are GAPSA members, most are oblivious to student government, Buhr said. She said that because the students are swamped with responsibilities, she would create flexible ways for them to get involved.

“We can’t do anything unless people get involved and let us know what should get done,” she said.

Buhr said some major issues GAPSA will face next year include expansion to the University’s Duluth campus and the plan for the University’s future, which calls for annually considering closing low-enrollment graduate and professional programs.

The group will also discuss mandatory student fees for the on-campus stadium, which GAPSA opposes, Buhr said.

Buhr is friendly, intelligent, and will make a good leader, said sociology graduate student Chris Pappas, GAPSA’s at-large director.

“Karen is extraordinarily motivated and dedicated to doing this kind of work,” he said.