It’s time for change in MSA

Since I arrived on the University of Minnesota campus in fall 2013, the undergraduate student government has been dominated by a force of nature: Joelle Stangler, current president of the Minnesota Student Association.
 
 
I truly believe Joelle has accomplished more for students than any other single individual in institutional memory, and I thank her for her service and advocacy for students. However, in her personal drive to lead, I think she has changed MSA for the worse. 
 
 
The culture of MSA has been described as an “aristocracy.” While there are a variety of factors that lead to this depiction, I think chief among them is the nature of how leadership positions in MSA have been selected. 
 
 
Joelle has virtually single-handedly decided who shall fill every post, including student representatives to the Board of Regents and behind-the-scenes roles like communications director. She’s even influenced jobs that are supposed to be democratically elected, like speaker of the forum and committee directors. 
 
 
I should know — I benefited from this cronyism myself. After supporting Joelle in her first campaign for MSA president, she appointed me to fill the MSA representative spot on the University Student Legal Service Board of Directors.
 
 
My experience changed dramatically when I decided to challenge Joelle’s leadership in the MSA elections. From the moment I announced I was running for MSA vice president last spring, I was cut out of conversations and meetings. My ability to do good work for students as a part of MSA was significantly diminished. 
 
 
The more unfortunate truth is that after the polls closed and Joelle won reelection, the attitude of exclusion didn’t change and the campus remained divided.
 
 
Joelle has hand-picked her successor in current MSA Vice President Abeer Syedah — that much is clear. From starting the “Run Abeer Run” Facebook page to encouraging Abeer to postpone graduation and follow in her footsteps, to handing out T-shirts for Abeer at the entrance of the All Campus Elections Committee-sanctioned debate,
 
 
Joelle is using her star power, connections and formal position to influence an election in which she has no role.
 
 
I fear that without a change in leadership, there will be no change in culture. In this week’s election, students will decide if this unsustainable MSA atmosphere is perpetuated.
 
 
Cam Holl
MSA presidential candidate