Forum members debate MSA monetary awards

by Brett Knapp

Outgoing Minnesota Student Association President Matt Musel and Vice President Rebecca Mathern spent part of their last Forum defending an award policy they implemented at the beginning of this school year.
The pair responded to attempts by Forum members to eliminate the money handed out as part of the Spirit of MSA award. An amendment to omit a $100 stipend from the award policy failed after a sometimes heated debate.
Musel and Mathern implemented the awards in fall quarter to reward students who exhibit leadership and activism abilities during MSA-related work. It isn’t necessary to be an MSA member to receive the award. Ten students received the award at Tuesday’s Forum.
As many as 10 students who don’t get a stipend can receive the award each quarter.
“We have reduced the number of people receiving stipends” during the past few years, Musel said. “The awards are designed to decrease pressure to create new stipended positions.”
But several MSA members said student leaders should be satisfied with a word of praise and that the monetary awards are a way for Musel and Mathern to gain favor among student representatives. “It’s corruption, that’s all it is,” said Forum member Bill Gilles. “We didn’t earn this money. It was given to us by the students, and we turn around and give it to ourselves.”
After the awards were handed out, Forum member Tom Gromacki said it was amazing that student leaders saw fit to so casually give $1,000 of the student body’s money to themselves. The money comes from the MSA budget, which is funded by student services fees.
Gromacki declined his $100 when he received the award at the end of fall quarter. No winners refused their awards Tuesday, but not all recipients were present.
Despite the objections to the monetary award, the amendment failed to pass.
Forum member Jigar Madia said the amendment was a poor idea. “It’s sad to see such an innocuous award viewed in such a cynical manner.”
After the meeting, MSA Student Life Committee Chairman Steven Ngo presented Musel and Mathern with sweat shirts and thanked the pair for their dedication to students.