Outgoing MSA officers

Emily Babcock

As the presidential candidates for the Minnesota Student Association scrawled their names in chalk around campus Friday and passed out fliers with their campaign promises, current president Jigar Madia reflected on the promises he made.
One year ago, Madia and his running mate Bridgette Murphy titled their campaign platform “Twelve Months of Action,” in which they pledged to accomplish one goal each month. About half of their original goals were accomplished, but several more are still in progress.
“There are some things that seem so tangible when you run for office,” Madia said. “But no matter how hard you want something done, you just don’t have the power to get it done.”
Madia must give up his position as president of the student body on May 14. Elections for the next president are April 29-30.
The association discovered it did not have the power to organize a system at local businesses to accept the U Card as a debit card, or reunite student seating at hockey games for at least five years.
“It wasn’t a lack of dedication or hard work,” Madia said. “MSA just didn’t have the power to do it.”
Murphy said she knew several of the items on the original agenda couldn’t get done. This included a desire to limit waiting times at University offices to 15 minutes.
“It is a really good idea,” Murphy said. “It’s just impossible. There are just so many students.”
Even though the waiting policy idea was abandoned, a new committee was formed in MSA to survey students about facilities, such as the libraries, computer labs and Boynton Health Service. The committee will make recommendations based on the surveys to those facilities before the end of spring quarter.
A committee was formed to address the issue of transportation, but it dissipated midway through the year. Madia said he will make sure it is reinstated before his term is over.
Throughout his term, Madia faced a student organization that was plagued with much tension both on his own executive committee and among forum members.
Murphy said she remembers one representative quitting because all the political battles were causing a lack of productivity.
“This administration didn’t always see eye to eye with forum,” Madia said. “But we always stood our ground, and we always fought for what we believed to be right.”
Madia faced criticism several times throughout the year by forum members, but his heaviest adversaries appeared after he allotted money in the fall for homecoming. The move went against the association’s bylaws.
MSA forum members discussed a possible impeachment of Madia following the episode, saying his actions were unethical.
Some cultural centers were concerned because their voices weren’t always heard by the president, said Jill Sanders, a representative from the Asian-American Student Cultural Center, but the larger problem existed within forum.
“There was a lack of respect for others’ opinion in forum,” Sanders said. “That is where the real conflict lies.”
The forum also voted to remove Jessie Roos in February from her position of chairwoman of the Academic Affairs committee after she filed a lawsuit with four other students against the Board of Regents. The lawsuit claims mandatory student service fees are a constitutional violation. Madia vetoed the resolution, and Roos remained as chairwoman.
Despite the conflicts, MSA administrators were still able to accomplish some of their original goals. Both Madia and Murphy worked 30 to 40 hours a week, addressing both original issues as well as issues they added later in the year.
One of the biggest successes of the year ended a 30-year MSA battle to allow student access to teacher evaluations. In February, the University Senate passed a policy, based upon MSA recommendations, that will eventually allow students access to professor evaluations, at the professor’s discretion.
“There will still be a lot of barriers,” said Roos. “But with time, it should be successful.”
Another success was the founding of U-Corps, a volunteer network that connects MSA to other student organizations and sponsors community events, such as a blood drive.
Madia defines the role of the association as the chief advocate group for students, and in order to improve accessibility to the organization, Madia and Murphy arranged an event once a week where students could meet the MSA representatives. Each Tuesday members would go to Big 10 Restaurant and Bar to offer students a chance to voice their concerns.
The organization lowered its costs by eliminating six paid positions as well as the travel budget, and decreased the salaries of both Madia and Murphy by 50 percent.
“Serving the students has been the greatest honor of my life,” Madia said. “I am really going to miss it.”

Editor’s Note: A four-part series, beginning Tuesday, will detail this year’s tickets for the MSA presidency and vice presidency.