Student gov’t officials discuss goals, plans for upcoming year

JP Leider

For some years, the University’s student government has been engaged in a war with apathy.

All-campus elections, in which undergraduates select student leaders for the upcoming year, historically draw less than 20 percent of eligible voters.

And many students are unaware of the existence of the undergraduate student government – the Minnesota Student Association. During last year’s campaign, candidates said they regularly had to explain MSA and its value to students.

If student government leaders have their way, this year will be different. MSA President Max Page and his graduate counterpart, Dmitry Zhdanov, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, have been vocal about communicating with their constituents – both setting agendas that seek to increase name recognition of the organizations.

While Page said he will spend most of his time trying to get out the vote this fall and lobbying for students at the Capitol, come spring, he’ll work on his two proposed major service-related undertakings for MSA: “PediCab,” a curb-to-curb bicycle rickshaw service and a community service concert.

The community service concert would allow students to put in a designated amount of community service in exchange for entry to the concert. It could – contingent on the endeavor’s success – inject thousands of community service hours into the University and surrounding area.

“The idea is to slowly integrate this as part of the culture of campus,” he said. “We want to get students to think it is something you do at the University.”

Page proposed that the University or neighborhood associations would be able to vouch for students’ service.

To provide these services, MSA cut budgets, which Page said was not difficult.

“We’ve really cut the fat out of the MSA budget, and there was a lot – we have a very meaty student government now,” he said.

MSA Vice President Monica Heth said she wants the association to focus on major student issues, which she hopes will involve more MSA Forum members.

“That’s really going to be something that you see changing, which I hope will mean we can get more people involved with actual projects,” she said.

MSA is looking to be more of a presence on campus, she said.

“That’s the overarching theme; we’d like to see MSA be more relevant.”

Maggie Towle, director of the Twin Cities Student Unions activities office, is the new adviser for both organizations.

After the previous student government adviser took maternity leave last spring and the office underwent some rearrangement, Towle said she decided to take over.

She doesn’t have anything in particular she wants to see student government accomplish, Towle said.

“I personally see myself as just supporting their efforts, and I really feel positive about the leadership of both MSA and GAPSA,” she said.

GAPSA and the stadium
Tonight’s GAPSA meeting, the first of the academic year, marks a year since representatives took a stand against a student fee for an on-campus football stadium.

Suzanne Sobotka, GAPSA’s executive vice president, said GAPSA’s opinion on the fee issue has changed, and executives are pleased with the final fee, which was reduced from $100 to $25 yearly.

“Now we just want to work with the stadium advisory committee to make sure graduate and professional students can benefit from the fee that they pay,” Sobotka said.

University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said the administration never opposed GAPSA’s resolution making the fee optional.

“We talked with a lot of students, we heard their concerns, and the president was absolutely committed to get the fee as low as possible; I think we delivered,” he said

Graduate and professional students will start paying a fee in 2009, when the stadium is scheduled to open, Pfutzenreuter said.