Candidates want a grassroots MSA

Emily Babcock

Minnesota Student Association presidential candidate Nikki Kubista and her running mate Erin Ferguson believe the student group needs to get back to its roots — grassroots, that is.
Kubista, a College of Liberal Arts senior, and Ferguson, a junior in individualized studies, would like to introduce the philosophy of grassroots organizing into the student association.
“What we’re talking about in this campaign is about grassroots activism,” Ferguson said. “It is not just a buzzword, it is what we are about, and our history represents that.”
The candidates said they would like to change the organization both internally and externally, which they said entails a consistent game plan, communication and social change.
“We’re a different MSA,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said she believes in a constituency-based approach and in working for social change. She said a student government should mobilize students and work toward translating their concerns into enacting policy.
“We offer two comprehensive experiences in working with grassroots,” Kubista said.
Kubista, an Evans Scholar and member of the University-YW, was just elected to the MSA Forum at its last meeting. Her political background also includes an internship at the White House and the United States House of Representatives.
Ferguson has worked in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Programs Office in addition to being an activist for gay and lesbian issues. She has worked with Youth in AIDS, lobbied the state Legislature for civil rights and worked with the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
Besides reaching out and working with students, the pair suggested getting other organizations involved by inviting members of the University’s Board of Regents to forum meetings. To discourage a lack of respect and fighting that often occurs at forum meetings, Kubista said taping the forum and showing it at Coffman Union would make the members more accountable.
“MSA still has a lot to work on in terms of winning back the trust of students,” Kubista said.
Kubista wants to address the cost of attending the University. She said tuition must be tackled before issues like parking costs, housing and child care.
“The U is becoming, every year, a little less affordable and a little less accessible,” Kubista said. “The student government needs to do more than say that is a problem, they need to mobilize students.”
She wants to petition, utilize Web sites and align with national student organizations to approach the issue.
Her campaign collected more than 450 signatures on packages of Ramen noodles Wednesday to give to the Board of Regents. The packages read: “This is what we have to eat. Please keep our tuition low.”
“It’s really about looking at a problem and creating something different than has been done before,” Kubista said.
Ferguson said the issues concerning MSA are the same ones her and Kubista have been working on through their activism. And although members of the association’s forum have many skills, no one has the same skills in mobilizing people, she added.
“We have a really different way of doing things,” Ferguson said. “For MSA to be an organization that people will want to get involved in and have an investment in — that change needs to take place.”