MSA on student issues: Semester recap

Smoking ban?

Hot off the heels of Winona State UniversityâÄôs smoking ban, the University of Minnesota will soon be reaching a decision of its own regarding a potential campus-wide smoking ban. More than 260 schools nationwide now have entirely smoke-free campuses, according to a Jan. 4 list from the American NonsmokersâÄô Rights Foundation. More Minnesota schools have been following the trend. Winona State University put its own campus-wide smoking ban into effect last Monday. Both the Crookston and Duluth campuses also have smoking bans. The Minnesota Student Association voiced concerns over a University survey conducted last year that found strong student support in favor of a ban. The survey originated from a suggestion by the Student Health Advisory Committee in February that the University should look into exploring a smoke-free campus. A work group, which represented a range of campus offices and groups, was then created to look at the campus communityâÄôs attitudes about smoking. Findings from these surveys were released in early December, and are available on the University ProvostâÄôs website. MSA cited a low response as a flaw in the methodology in the survey âÄî only 33 percent of the 5,000 students and 46.2 percent of the 2,000 faculty and staff surveyed responded. The majority said they were in favor of a smoking ban. According to MSA President Mark Nagel , MSAâÄôs official stance on the ban remains undecided âÄî at least until the first general body meeting is held next week. âÄúIf it does come up, it will be hotly contested,âÄù Nagel said. MSA will vote on a resolution against the ban during the first forum of the semester . A final decision is expected to be made sometime in March, according to Assistant to the Provost Dr. Katherine Himes . âÄúStudent concern is on the top of the administrationâÄôs mind,âÄù Himes said. âÄúWeâÄôre really concerned, if we had a ban, how students who live in residence halls and smoke would be able to do so in a safe way.âÄù âÄúA lot of other colleges in the state are looking to us about this, so weâÄôre trying to be mindful of that,âÄù she added.

Legislature, legislature, legislature

While the smoking ban is one of campusâÄô most controversial issues, MSA Speaker of the Forum Mark Lewandowski said the biggest priority for MSA this semester is making sure everything the University asks for gets funded by the state Legislature. âÄúThe more money the âÄòUâÄô gets, the less of a burden itâÄôll be for students,âÄù Lewandowski said. The Board of Regents proposed a $141 million increase to the UniversityâÄôs 2010-11 biennial budget , as well as an additional $74.5 million for capital projects. MSA Legislative Chairwoman Alicia Smith said student support is critical to MSAâÄôs lobbying efforts this semester. âÄúThis won’t work unless we have students behind us,âÄù she said. MSAâÄôs Support the âÄòUâÄô Day, an annual event held at the state capitol to rally students for legislative support, is scheduled for Feb. 25. The event is already confirmed to have University President Bob Bruininks and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak as speakers, Nagel said. âÄúWe hope to get as many students as we can down there,âÄù he said.

Tuition cap

While Gov. Tim Pawlenty called for a University tuition increase cap in his annual State of the State address last Thursday, University administration remains opposed to this issue, which has been in the works since October when MSA passed a resolution in favor of a 5.5 percent tuition increase cap. The Student Senate then passed the same resolution in December. Despite the increase in proposed budget spending, Bruininks said in a written response to PawlentyâÄôs address, the University administration is expecting to face serious budget cuts. Bruininks warned that a state-mandated tuition cap would âÄúseverely compromiseâÄù the UniversityâÄôs ability to educate. MSA At-Large Representative Ryan Kennedy , who also sits on the Student Senate and co-authored the resolution, said he doesnâÄôt expect University administration to support the tuition caps any more than they did last semester. âÄúWeâÄôre in between a rock and a hard place right now,âÄù Kennedy said. âÄúWe want to keep costs low, but the University is going to have to do a lot.âÄù âÄúWe’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars that are going to be cut from the University,âÄù he said.