Those of you who have decided to make the poor choice of paying attention to campus politics over the last few years may recognize my name and have a vague idea of what I think or what I stand for. The rest of you who are smart enough to not pay attention to the minutia that is campus politics yet are not smart enough to avoid the Daily opinions section are probably unfamiliar with my conservative tendencies and distrust with most things government.
I ran for Minnesota Student Association president a few years back on a platform that would have drastically reduced the role MSA plays on campus. I was brutally rebuffed by those who chose to vote in the election, finishing with fewer than 300 votes. I took this as further evidence that MSA was and those who pay attention to MSA are out of touch with the goings-on of the everyday college student, as the winning ticket ran on a “redefine gender” platform.
It may come as a surprise that I am now the speaker of MSA forum, a position which requires that I run meetings and make sure rules are followed. Have I gone soft in my old age of 22? Has my conservative streak run aground? Is the “Reagan!” bumper sticker on my car just a relic of past ideas? No.
I still think that, as a system of student government, MSA has less control over policy changes than, say, the Student Senate. Position statements and resolutions can be taken or dismissed by University administration; there is little institutional memory from year to year as administrations change, and if those reasons were not enough, they let me run part of the show. If you are looking to get involved with actual student government, run for Student Senate, the little-known body that can directly affect University policy.
So what utility does MSA provide if not governance? Quite simply, MSA is turning into a service organization. The focus of the efforts of the current administration is on providing student services and community action. The Lend a Hand, Hear the Band concert, the upcoming blood drive, the MSA Express and many other services are all examples of how MSA has reinvented itself as a service organization and moved away from being only a government model.
This service model has the potential to bring the kind of change that MSA has needed for some time. By bringing in Guster to play at Northrop, the Lend a Hand, Hear the Band concert has immense potential to help ease tensions between permanent residents and student residents in surrounding neighborhoods as well as help introduce those living in the residence halls into the respective neighborhoods.
Again, this has the potential to be a successful event, making MSA relevant to the student body at large. If, in the end, students do not want to go to the free Guster concert, the argument could be made that efforts and resources should be spent elsewhere, and I will not be convinced of the effectiveness of student government.
If you feel the need to speak up on this or any other issue that MSA is dealing with, feel free to stop by our office in Coffman, room 235, visit our Web sites, www.msa.umn.edu and www.lendahandheartheband.org) or come to our next meeting.
Tom Meyer is a University student and MSA speaker. Please send comments to [email protected]