Musel, Mathern pensive over term

by Brett Knapp

After a year of serving as president of the Minnesota Student Association, Matt Musel found himself locked out of the group’s office Wednesday morning.
Musel and former Vice President Rebecca Mathern turned in their keys the day before, after their last Forum as the leaders of MSA. One day after stepping down from the most visible position in student government, however, Musel’s thoughts on the past year were locked away as tightly as his old office.
The usually talkative Musel declined to speak about the successes and failures of MSA under his leadership.
But Mathern was a little more open about how she felt the year went, as well as the effectiveness of her partner. Mathern said the fact that there were at least 75 students present at the Forum on Tuesday, as compared to about 20 at last year’s final meeting, is a testament to Musel’s skill.
“The only reason we had as many people involved as we did is Matt Musel,” Mathern said. “He has an amazing ability to empower students and empower administrators, and he did that successfully throughout the year.”
The Musel-and-Mathern-led student government entered the fray on such issues as tuition, student-professor evaluations and the implementation of new fees for next year. “Tuition is huge because it’s going through the roof right now,” Mathern said.
Although the group did not accomplish all it set out to do in these areas, Mathern said, the opportunity is still there for next year’s leaders. “I think this year has been a tremendous turning point for MSA,” she said. “We turned around a lot of negative attitudes in MSA and were able to get more, and new, students involved.”
Forums under Musel and Mathern were not always the most congenial of gatherings, however. The pair’s generally liberal views brought them into conflict with more conservative Forum members on such issues as the California grape boycott, the repeal of the Pledge of Allegiance at meetings and the use of Student Services Fees money to reward student leaders.
But the twosome’s views on such matters were a positive thing for students, said Karin Alexander, the administrative officer for MSA. “They are both very passionate and strong leaders,” Alexander said. “Becca was a wonderful role model for women and worked very diligently on women’s issues.”
Mathern was a key organizer of this year’s Women’s Week, which promoted the women’s movement with activities and events, including a “Take Back The Night” march and rally.
Musel and Mathern worked closely with Vice President for the Office of Student Development and Athletics McKinley Boston when the University was discussing changes in the financial aid policy and the renovation of Coffman Memorial Union.
Boston said the pair’s efforts on behalf of students when dealing with administrators were phenomenal. “I can say with tremendous pride that both Becca and Matt demonstrated responsibility beyond the call of duty,” he said. “In fact, if anything, I criticized them for being too involved.”
New MSA President Helen Phin and Vice President Eric Hanson will be challenged to lead the group as ably as their predecessors, Alexander said. “It will be very difficult to follow in their footsteps.”
That is the only issue Musel would discuss. The best piece of advice he has for next year’s officers and representatives is a simple one. “Don’t listen to what others tell you, you can’t do,” he said.