Political groups press on after election

After a busy midterm election, some political student groups are preparing for next semester.

by Morgan Wolfe

After participating in a flurry of activity revolving around Election Day, several political student groups at the University of Minnesota are regrouping and shifting focus.

Some, like the University’s chapter of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, have taken up new initiatives, like bike safety. Others, like Students for a Conservative Voice, have started efforts to bring high-profile speakers to campus next semester.

MPIRG members say they spent many hours and dollars encouraging students to vote this year. Now, the group wants to encourage students to bike safely during the winter.

The group has a handful of events lined up to raise awareness on issues relating to the environment, democracy and corporate accountability before winter break begins — including topics like healthy eating and staying safe on a bicycle.

To help students learn to bike safely, MPIRG’s environmental task force partnered with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition for its “Winter Biking and Maintenance Workshop,” said MPIRG member Bailey Shatz-Akin.

The environmental task force is interested in working on different projects that will make biking more accessible for students, she said.

During election season, MPIRG used more than $125,000, part of the student services fees the group receives, to hire staff members who helped organize the group’s “Get Out the Youth Vote” campaign. These staff members will help on other MPIRG campaigns throughout the year, Shatz-Akin said.

Other groups also used student services fees to further their goals during elections but have since switched focus.

Although SCV used the election season to recruit conservative guest speakers and host events with other political student organizations, SCV President Allison Maass said the group now spends its time and money preparing the Minnesota Republic, a monthly conservative magazine.

Now that elections are over, Maass said, the group is working to get Ron Paul, a former Texas Congressman, on campus to speak to students next semester.

Paul was a two-time presidential candidate and veteran, and he served several terms in Congress.

“He’s a big name that people could come see,” Maass said. “It’s a pretty big event and a thing to do.”

Although the Student Services Fees Committee granted funding to MPIRG and SCV for its endeavors, other politically active groups don’t get those resources.

Partisan organizations like the College Republicans and College Democrats don’t receive student services fees.

College Republicans Vice Chair Ron Feingold said the group doesn’t have a huge budget. It only receives funding grants from the Minnesota Student Association, Feingold said.

“We don’t get a lot of money from [MSA],” he said.

The group used the majority of its funding for activities and events leading up to Election Day, Feingold said, adding that the group wanted to inform students by having Republican candidates speak at their weekly meetings.

For example, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Mike McFadden attended a weekly meeting and presented for students.

Now, Feingold said he and the other College Republicans officers are busy brainstorming events for next semester. So is MPIRG.

The group is trying to engage more students by encouraging them to work on the issues they care about, Shatz-Akin said.

“It’s really important to us that the student voice is heard,” she said.