After contentious elections, MSA must work to build UMN campus trust

The real fight starts now.

MSA candidates make their opening statements at the MSA Debate in Coffman Memorial Union Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017.

Meagan Lynch

MSA candidates make their opening statements at the MSA Debate in Coffman Memorial Union Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017.

Daily Editorial Board

The election is over, and the dust has settled. In the heavily contentious election, Trish Palermo and Erik Hillesheim ran a successful campaign to secure the Minnesota Student Association (MSA) presidency and vice presidency for next school year. They, along with a body of students passionate to make a difference, will be tasked with the duty to confront a variety of campus issues. The real fight starts now.

Toward the end of the campaign, a series of contentious allegations divided much of the student body. However, a note released Tuesday by Abeer Syedah, the incumbent MSA president, confirmed that one of the primary objectives moving forward will be to heal the division and mistrust among the student body that arose out of the latest election. By doing so, this will promote a better climate of cooperation and a movement toward progress.

In a race where many of the nominees had strong leadership at the University, one priority of the next administration ought to be breaking down sources of division. By learning from what has worked during the campaign trail, hearing the voices of candidates and learning what issues are important to their students, MSA can create a unified platform for the coming year.

While the various campaigns covered a breadth of issues in great depth, we encourage the future administration to act on data. Data collection is uniquely different than petitioning. Petitioning relies on individuals signing specific policy changes they believe are valuable. However, data on the prevalence of mental illness, commonly used resources on campus, etc. are far less accessible. By constructing this type of data acquisition platform, MSA can make evidence-based decisions and expand on campus resources that face clear deficits. A great example of this was the effort made last year to attain class evaluations online — something accessible to all students.

This year, the proposed tuition increase will also provide an opportunity for the MSA to become more vocal. At a time when college tuition and debt are at all-time highs, the role of student representation has become more defined. These issues also feed into the need to have student representation at Board of Regents meetings, which are a key deciding factor of University policy.

As the MSA’s current leadership transitions — ushering a new group of student-leaders — MSA has its work cut out for itself. Bringing the campus together by soothing the divisiveness formed from aggressive campaigning and then working together to reform important issues on campus — such as tuition hikes, student representation, resource accessibility and administrative transparency — are all part of building a stronger and more functional campus.