New student group hopes to create community change

The Roosevelt Institute gives students an opportunity to draft policies on University and area issues.

Liz Anderson

A small group of passionate University of Minnesota students is teaming up to spur change on and off campus.

The students are part of the new University chapter of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, a national organization with more than 100 chapters that aims to give students the opportunity to address issues affecting their school and local community by drafting new policies for area leaders. 

Hamza Mussé, president of the University’s Roosevelt Institute chapter, said he started the group this fall to give students an impactful outlet to voice their opinions on area issues.

“The model [is a] collaboration between people of our age and the way we see a lot of the issues the world faces today,” Mussé said, “and how we can create change as opposed to offering ideas.”

At the group’s first official meeting earlier this month, members suggested a range of issues they want to reform this school year.

The group hasn’t yet pinned down the specific issues it wants to pursue, Mussé said, but some ideas in the works include affordable housing, education reform and access to education for first-generation students.

The institute is also interested in advocating for car-sharing services in the Twin Cities, like HourCar,  to use the shoulder of interstates and highways during rush hour to give them the same status as public buses, he said. 

Geography junior Maria Lee, who attended the meeting, said she’s looking to build an understanding of how the University could support local businesses through thoughtful product purchasing.

“I’m really fascinated [in] how … does the University empower the community with their buying power?” Lee said.

The University of Michigan’s Roosevelt Institute chapter is working on a similar project.

Julius Goldberg-Lewis, regional coordinator of the University of Michigan’s Roosevelt Institute chapter, said his group is working with the university’s purchasing policy department on an effort to stimulate the local economy that would require the school to buy at least half of its goods from within the state, specifically the Detroit area.

Mussé said he wants the University of Minnesota chapter to start smaller.

The group still needs to determine what issues are important to students, he said, and it will focus the rest of the fall semester on outlining which policies to invest in.

Mussé said he also wants to collaborate with the Minnesota Student Association about campus issues.

While both groups address student issues, the Roosevelt Institute gives more freedom to students who want to pursue changing policies outside the University, said Mussé, who is also an at-large representative for MSA.

MSA President Joelle Stangler said the group allows students to reach out to the broader University community.

“I think the interesting thing about Roosevelt Institute is that they want to advocate on behalf of all young people’s voices,” she said.