Debate showcases MSA plans

MSA presidential candidates talked tuition and campus safety Tuesday evening.

Minnesota Student Association presidential candidate Abdisamed Awed, vice-presidential candidate Miguel Morales, presidential candidate Joelle Stangler and vice-presidential candidate John Reichl answer questions from the audience at the debate in Coffman Theater on Tuesday.  The MSA election will take place April 2nd-4th.

Holly Peterson

Minnesota Student Association presidential candidate Abdisamed Awed, vice-presidential candidate Miguel Morales, presidential candidate Joelle Stangler and vice-presidential candidate John Reichl answer questions from the audience at the debate in Coffman Theater on Tuesday. The MSA election will take place April 2nd-4th.

Taylor Nachtigal

About 50 students filled the first few rows of Coffman Union’s theater Tuesday evening, roughly split in support for the two teams vying to lead the Minnesota Student Association next year.

Presidential candidates Joelle Stangler and Abdisamed Awed and their vice presidential candidates debated their plans to further engage students with MSA and address college affordability and campus safety.

Awed and his vice presidential candidate, Miguel Morales, both first-year students at the University of Minnesota, hope to boost MSA’s effectiveness by engaging more people, instead of waiting for students to come to MSA.

“I was expecting these chairs to be full — not the case,” Awed said, looking out at the debate’s sparse audience.

If elected, he wants to boost awareness by using MSA ambassadors to reach out to different groups. Matt Paulbeck, a University student and friend of Amed’s, said the Amed-Morales campaign would bring a fresh perspective to student government.

Stangler and vice presidential candidate John Reichl also hope to reach out to more students. Both are current MSA leaders and highlighted the association’s polling initiatives, which allowed them to bring student concerns — with concrete data to back them — to key University decision makers.

Several MSA members attended Tuesday’s debate in strong support of the Stangler-Reichl campaign.

On the issue of rising tuition costs, Awed and Morales said they hope to better advocate for student concerns at the state Capitol by creating stronger relationships with other student lobbying organizations, like the Minnesota State College Student Association, that are working toward similar goals.

Awed highlighted his experience working with the Legislature for Normandale Community College before he transferred to the University.

Stangler and Reichl proposed the development of a new tuition philosophy that would emphasize long-term solutions for lowering costs.

They also want to address the cost of higher education for out-of-state students and graduate students, on top of last spring’s tuition freeze for resident undergraduates. 

The pair also touted their past leadership experience, citing their work with the Board of Regents. Reichl said he and Stangler are well-versed in “engaging in collaborative discussion at a senior University level.”

Both the Awed and Stangler campaigns also plan to address campus safety issues, but in different ways.

Stangler and Reichl said they have a relationship with the Aurora Center that they hope to continue developing. They also want to work with other organizations with area expertise to improve sexual assault awareness on campus.

For her plan to tackle general campus safety issues, Stangler said the next step is reaching out to neighborhoods.

If elected, Stangler said she will work with campus-area landlords and neighborhood groups to get the student voice represented and make safety a priority.

Awed and Morales plan to address safety through general community outreach and by working with the current MSA safety committee, while strengthening community ties and connecting students. Awed proposed creating a community garden to connect students, which he said would work similarly to the shared piano in Coffman.

Elections for MSA president and vice president, as well as other campus leadership spots, will be open April 2-4.