MSA decision fuels controversy

Tracy Ellingson

Minnesota Student Association President Helen Phin vowed to veto a heavily disputed resolution that passed on Tuesday at the organization’s Forum.
The resolution calls for MSA to sever all ties with the Student Legislative Coalition at the University of Minnesota unless the organization gives increased representation to the Twin Cities campus on its board of governors.
The coalition is a student lobbying body for the University’s Twin Cities and coordinate campuses. Currently, each campus has two votes on the board.
Resolution backers based their support on the fact that the Twin Cities campus gives a significantly greater amount of money to the organization than the smaller campuses.
The Twin Cities campus gives about $82,000 in student services fees to the organization, but students have the option of not contributing to the coalition by checking a box on their class registration forms. The other campuses provide between $4,000 and $7,000 per year.
“The fact that we are going to stoop down to the same level (of representation) as people on the other campuses, when we have more students, more power and more money going into SLC, completely makes me sick,” said Rep. Jennifer Halko, who rallied in support of the resolution.
But opponents of the resolution argued that it would be taken merely as a threat to the organization, which would likely remove Twin Cities campus representation from the coalition’s board. The board has formed a committee to restructure itself for next year.
Jen McLish, MSA legislative affairs chairwoman, said a threat would only work against the Twin Cities campus when the restructuring committee makes changes.
“If we do pass this resolution, then the restructuring is not going to happen the way that we want it to,” McLish said. “It’s like cutting off our nose to spite our face.”
But Sen. Kevin Nicholson said the Forum should not look at the resolution as a threat to the organization, especially because the campus provides so much money to the three-year-old coalition.
“(I think) that we stop looking at this as a threat and start to see it more as a start point to negotiations,” Nicholson said.
Jessie Roos, an intern with the coalition, said that because the coalition receives funding from the Student Services Fees Committee and is not directly connected to MSA, MSA really has no say in the matter.
“MSA does not have control of the funds. This is a fees committee thing,” Roos said. “MSA really can’t do anything about this. There is really no way to enforce this resolution.”
After debate, a vote by hands showed the resolution failed, but after a 17-16-1 roll call vote, the result flip-flopped. Phin said she would veto the resolution and will hand a memo out to the Forum sometime this week.