Presidential debates heat up for MSA

by Rebecca Czaplewski

Coffman Union turned into a hot bed of political discussion Monday, as the Fireplace Lounge hosted the Minnesota Student Association presidential debate.
As onlookers strolled by the lounge, four out of the five pairs of candidates fielded questions from members of the All-Campus Elections Commission and students.
Students will decide who will take MSA’s reins in the All-Campus Elections, which are Wednesday and Thursday. Any undergraduate can vote online or at 10 polling stations around campus.
The power MSA holds — or doesn’t hold — was a major point of debate among the candidates. Although many candidates agreed the student organization has limited clout with University administrators, most presented solutions.
Presidential candidate Ben Bowman said he and running mate Matt Clark will do more than pass resolutions — they’ll try to take important issues to University administration to ensure they get dealt with.
“If that many people support a resolution or idea, it will get implemented,” Bowman said.
Brett Rowlett and Irene Kao also took issue with MSA’s influence at the University and its power to get things done.
The pair, who share Bowman and Clark’s wish to reinstate the 10th Avenue Bridge Circulator bus route, said they plan to network with other organizations to realize their goals.
“We need to work with other organizations to accomplish things,” said Kao, the vice presidential candidate. “The administration has to listen to us.”
The future of MSA itself was another widely debated topic. Campaigning with the goal to dissolve the student organization altogether, Jared Christiansen and Matt Hass said the organization will stay the same — ineffective and financially irresponsible — if he and Hass are not elected.
“(MSA) will continue to strive for the student apathy they’ve always strived for,” Christiansen said, to the cheers of some students in the crowd.
Keeping with their platform calling for the review of the MSA constitution, presidential candidate Sarah Afshar said she and running mate Mike Franklin envision the organization as one that is fiscally responsible and represents all University students.
“It’ll be an organization that will listen to students across the board,” Afshar said.
Although all five official pairs of candidates were notified of the debate by the All-Campus Elections Commission, candidates George Morris and Kelly Hite were not present Monday afternoon.
Laura Beauchane, member of the commission and a moderator for the debate, said she was somewhat disappointed by the lack of interest in the event. Many chairs set up in preparation for the event remained empty as about 30 people observed the debate.
“It’s a sign of student apathy,” Beauchane said.
Although a small amount of students turned out for the debate, those who did were serious about the candidates and their agendas.
Kieng Vang, a sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts, sat on a nearby couch to study and observe the debate. She said she plans on voting in the elections, and wanted to watch the event to get a better understanding of the agendas.
“I kind of understand where the candidates stand,” Vang said. “But all the candidates talk — they just need to do something.”