MSA hopefuls debate strategies

The candidates discussed issues such as Coffman’s second floor.

Cali Owings

Minnesota Student Association presidential hopefuls have a common goal in mind: to make the student government more relevant.
Apropos, there was little student interest in their debate Wednesday night at Nicholson Hall, where fewer than 15 people were in attendance, most of whom were already involved in MSA or supporting a campaign.
With less than a week until the elections close April 6, candidates Wes Halseth, Lizzy Shay and Thomas Trehus are hitting the pavement.
All three had suggestions for how to improve MSAâÄôs outreach to students, emphasizing support of visible programs.
Halseth estimated that one in 50 students he meets is familiar with what MSA does.
He suggested programs like a seminar supported by MSA during Welcome Week to reach out to freshmen about involvement with the organization.
Likewise, his opponent Shay said MSA should start more initiatives that could develop into University-wide programs, like the MSA Express, which became the Gopher Chauffeur, now operated by Boynton Health Service. She suggested the transportation technology around campus be upgraded like other Big Ten schoolsâÄô to include GPS trackers so students could access bus locations via phone or online.
Trehus said MSA was not doing enough to reach out to a broad array of student groups.
He said it was important for groups like those that use Coffman UnionâÄôs second floor cultural centers to understand that MSA can fight for them.
Though MSA also has an office on the second floor, Trehus said he has been exploring the cultural centers for the first time in the last few weeks and wants to keep the communities there alive.
The cultural centers were also a priority for Shay. She said the plans to divide up the space would compromise many studentsâÄô core connection to the University of Minnesota.
âÄúThese are things that make college unique for students,âÄù she said.
Shay said her first priority for incoming President Eric Kaler would be the second floor space allocation. However, both of her opponents argued that it wouldnâÄôt be on his radar and would be better handled by the Office for Student Affairs.
The upcoming changes in University administration and uncertainty of how new administrators will respond to student government were also popular topics.
Trehus said his priority for the new president would be to make sure he is aware that students want more involvement in University decision making through shared governance.
Though he also advocated for more meetings with different levels of University administration, Halseth said he would focus on cutting nonacademic expenses and administrative overhead costs.
Like Halseth, the other candidates echoed concern with University financial decisions.
Shay said as students pay tuition, they are buying a product, but as the quality of education and services goes down because of budget cuts, âÄústudents are not receiving a lot of product.âÄù
As political director of MSAâÄôs lobbying organization, Trehus said student advocacy at the state Capitol was needed to garner state support for the University so students wouldnâÄôt have to make up the cost in tuition.
While Halseth argued that MSA should not solely focus on the Legislature, Trehus accused Halseth, who is secretary of a conservative student group, of supporting moves to cut University funding.
However, Halseth said the election shouldnâÄôt be about where the candidates stand politically.
âÄúWeâÄôre not some crazy, far-right Republican ticket,âÄù Halseth said of himself and his running mate Michelle Aumann, who said she identifies as a Democrat.
During the vice presidential candidates debate, Aumann said she and Halseth would work well together because âÄúhe has the ideasâÄù and she would support them by getting them to students. She said she was âÄúout thereâÄù in the sense that she was not afraid to start conversations with students about MSA.
Lauren Himle, TrehusâÄô running mate, said it was important for MSAâÄôs leaders to connect with students on their turf instead of waiting for them to come to forum or to the leadership reception.
Likewise, ShayâÄôs partner Colin Burke said he would draw upon relationships with different student communities on campus. He said he wanted to âÄúinspire leaders within MSA to use their connectionsâÄù to make better decisions for students.