Students, MSA clash on Facebook

Some students disagree with how a suggestion page is managed by student government.

by Roy Aker

New Facebook and Twitter accounts hosted by the Minnesota Student Association for students to “fix” things on the University of Minnesota campus have caused controversy since their creation about a week ago.

Of the 10 ideas posted on the Facebook page WTF UMN on April 28 — the day it went live — four were suggestions by University students to carry concealed guns on campus. One of the suggestions was posted by a Daily volunteer.

MSA said they would re-post the most popular student ideas each week. Although the suggestion to allow “conceal and carry” on campus had some of the most “likes,” MSA did not share it, causing some students to express disappointment with how the accounts have been managed.

The next day, MSA President Taylor Williams, one of the group administrators, commented on a “conceal and carry” post through his personal Facebook account on a link to a YouTube video about how “conceal and carry” permit holders live in a “dream world.”

“Gun violence right now is an extremely sensitive topic and many people take it seriously,” Williams said. “It’s not something we originally intended our page to confront, as something that’s a very political issue,” he said.

The new “what to fix” campaign on Twitter and Facebook is managed by a few MSA members, Williams said, although he has personally been reposting and updating the Facebook account.

He said posts given priority are ones MSA “sees as accomplishable,” like additional campus connector stops and more water bottle refilling stations.

 “We want to know what students are concerned about, and I think this is a good way to do it,” he said.

Similar accounts have become increasingly popular among other Big Ten student governments, including Purdue University and the University of Iowa.

But some students expressed disappointment with how the accounts are managed.

Political science and English freshman Brittany Johnson said she’s in support of MSA’s decision to make the page but said “their execution and how they’re using the page is very questionable.

“I think as students we need to hold them accountable to their mission, which at this point seems to be wanting to hear what students have to say and then acting on those issues,” she said, “but what they’re actually doing is not that.”

Though she’s neutral on the issues, Johnson said she wants MSA to acknowledge that students want to talk about a “conceal and carry” law and the implementation of a smoke-free campus.

During the first few days the page was live, students posted about both issues.

Finance freshman Regan Luker said the “conceal and carry” issue has received tons of attention.

Williams said posts about “conceal and carry” and a smoke-free campus are issues students should bring to MSA general meetings for consideration of a resolution or position

He said members are still working out how they’re going to manage the page and repost things.

MSA University policy and student concerns director-elect Valkyrie Jensen said administrators share the posts “we think are the most doable and relevant to our goals.”

“We’ve had a number of phenomenal ideas we’ve never considered before brought to our attention,” she said.

On the accounts, many of the shared posts and tweets were from students who are also MSA members.

Williams said MSA members participated in the posting and liking of comments “to generate interest in the page.”

“As MSA representatives, we’re supposed to represent the student body,” he said. “I think it’s important as a two-way communication channel.”

Johnson disagrees.

She said “it’s a terrible call” for MSA members to use their personal Facebook accounts to post things.

Some of them also use the MSA “what to fix” campaign logo as their profile picture, which Luker said makes it look like they’re posting on behalf of MSA.

“Even if their voice in that moment isn’t representing MSA,” Luker said, “it looks like it is.”