Martin Andrade, who ran for Minnesota Student Association president last spring promising to abolish the group if he won, was elected speaker of the Forum on Tuesday. The event left many Forum members gasping and laughing in disbelief.
“As most of you know, I have been MSA’s harshest critic in recent years,” Andrade said in an address to Forum members before the vote. “I am different.”
In their sparsely attended second meeting of the year, the MSA Forum also chose four new at-large representatives and addressed the possibility of an on-campus, Gophers-only stadium, in addition to electing Andrade as speaker.
The speaker of the Forum is in charge of running meetings and ensuring they are conducted in a civil and respectful manner.
In his plea for Forum members to give him their votes, Andrade said as speaker he would not be allowed to take the floor and express his opinion. Applause immediately followed.
Andrade said he envisions the Forum as a place to exchange ideas and will value an open dialogue including diametric viewpoints.
The forum also selected four at-large representatives: Ryan Johnson, Seyon Nyanwleh, Aaron Hartung and Andrea Wienrich. Vice President Jeff Nath estimated three more additional seats will open in time for the next meeting.
Facilities and housing Chairman Tom Zearley gave an update on the late-night busing project. He said he hopes to have the pilot program running by the end of September or early October. He will meet with University officials Friday to finalize the plans.
Vice President for University Relations Sandra Gardebring addressed the MSA Forum about the ongoing football stadium issue for approximately 30 minutes.
Gardebring called stadium donor T. Denny Sanford’s conditions on the $35 million gift “unacceptable” to the University. They include Sanford not paying until 18 months after the stadium is constructed and a promise to not seek public funding, she said.
“We would never go into a major construction project with a piece of the revenue stream not secured,” she said. “It’s never the case that we put all our money out there on a wish and a promise.”
She said at this point it is not clear whether the University and Sanford will be able to come to an agreement.
She also said she believes the Sanford negotiations have been hurt by the fact Sanford is probably not experienced in dealing with gifts of this magnitude.
“He is a well-motivated man, but this is just a new ballgame for him,” she said. “He really believes that by giving this money that he has a right to significant control over this project.”
In addition to updating the student government leaders on the negotiations with Sanford, Gardebring told them the University will approach MSA President Eric Dyer in the next few weeks to explore student funding for the stadium.
“We would like to work with you for a role in students funding it,” she said.
When Memorial Stadium was built in the 1920s, it was partially funded by a surcharge on students’ tuition.
Forum is the legislative branch of MSA. Approximately 25 members attended the meeting. Last year there were approximately 70 members in Forum. It includes the elected positions of the MSA executive board, residence hall representative and 20 at-large members.