MSA to form lobbying coalition for U system

Bruininks also spoke at MSA forum about his after-term plans.

Cali Owings

 Student lobbyists unveiled plans to create a unified legislative group for the University of Minnesota during forum Tuesday.
The Minnesota Student Association currently sponsors the Legislative Certificate Program, the Twin Cities student lobbying arm at the state Capitol, which trains students to advocate on behalf of University interests. It might be replaced with the Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition, which includes equal input from coordinate campuses. All plans will be subject to forum approval via a bylaw change.
The main idea behind the program change is to unify the University system behind one platform and one message, LCP Political Director Chris Tastad said.
This is similar to the way all schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system are represented at the Capitol.
The proposed committee would have two representatives from each campus that meet to approve shared goals for the legislative session and develop a platform that would be brought back to their student government for approval.
Members of forum questioned the logistics of reaching a consensus between all the student associations, but Tastad said the platform would be broad, and separate campuses could still address campus-specific issues.
For example, Twin Cities students might be familiar with the UniversityâÄôs capital request, which includes projects for other campuses, but a student at Duluth might offer a better testimony on a specific project, like the proposed American Indian Learning Resource Center.
But for students who arenâÄôt located as conveniently close to the Capitol, equal input on the issues will probably not mean equal time, Tastad said.
He said the subjects will be âÄúpassed to the people on the ground,âÄù and most of the time those students will be from the Twin Cities.
But Rochester, which recently formed its student government and does not have a program like the LCP, could see a significant increase in its legislative representation.
Under the new plans, Support the U Day (or the Rally to Restore Affordability, as it was called this year) will be a legislative coalition program.
âÄúIs this the beginning of the end of the Legislative Affairs Committee?âÄù asked MSA Rep. John Worden.
The Legislative Affairs Committee is usually responsible for hosting the annual rally at the Capitol. Tastad said the committee will still play a large role in the event, but Worden questioned who would provide the funding for the rally. Traditionally, coordinate campuses have paid their own way, and the schools have split the cost of food for the event.
Though legislative leaders from different campuses reached a consensus for the outline of the new coalition, plans are still unofficial until student government associations approve the formation of the coalition.
Presidential visit
University President Bob Bruininks visited forum Tuesday to share his plans for after his term this summer.
He said he plans to take time off to travel, read and write but would return to teach in the Hubert H. Humphrey School for Public Affairs.
He also alluded to the amount of freedom he would have to express his opinion regarding University issues as a private citizen.
When students asked which issues he thought were most important for incoming President Eric Kaler, Bruininks said he would âÄúquietly urgeâÄù Kaler to keep the University focused on public issues and problem-solving.
âÄúWe canâÄôt head for the high grass when society hands us an issue,âÄù he said.