MSA makes case for student input

The group hopes to increase students’ say in decisions regarding U monetary policies.

Luke Feuerherm

Tension has developed between the Minnesota Student Association and University of Minnesota administrators over the level of student input in administrative decisions, particularly those that affect monetary policy. In a formal presentation to University officials Friday, MSA officials said they would be willing to turn to the Legislature to create a statute mandating student input if an agreement cannot be worked out internally. MSAâÄôs new initiative is known as shared governance and is based on a legislative policy that has been in effect at the University of Wisconsin since the 1970s. If successful, it would assure students positions on some non-standing University committees. âÄúWe would prefer not to have a state statute,âÄù said Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart. âÄúThe balance with the Legislature is very delicate. We are trying to keep this a University issue.âÄù Rinehart did not comment on whether the administration supports the proposal. University of Wisconsin students established shared governance in the 1970s. Madison currently has about 150 student representatives on administrative committees, said Melissa Hanley, shared governance committee chair for Associated Students of Madison. These students sit on committees that distribute $1.8 million in student segregated fees a year. They also helped to appoint WisconsinâÄôs new chancellor. At the University, there are already student representatives on standing committees like the Stadium Advisory Committee and the Student Health Advisory Committee, but MSA President Paul Strain said the current policy only allows students to react to administrative decisions, and that MSA would like to see more student input in the decision-making process. âÄúA student needs to be involved,âÄù Strain said. âÄúIt isnâÄôt a matter of âÄòshould.âÄô âÄù MSA wants to prevent administrative committees from overlooking student opinion by ensuring students have a voice in University decisions âÄúthat affect the student body,âÄù said Ryan Kennedy, legislative advocate coordinator for MSA. âÄúOur main objective is to get something in writing. Right now thereâÄôs nothing that guarantees student involvement,âÄù said Paul Buchel, chairman of the legislative affairs committee for MSA. âÄúFriday was a big building block in getting the U of M students a bigger role in decision making.âÄù Going into the meeting, administration felt the students had enough policy input through the Student Senate, Rinehart said. Both groups hope this tension can be resolved without legislative mediation. MSA modeled its resolution after WisconsinâÄôs. However, MSA tried to pass similar resolutions in the past, most recently in 2005, with no success. âÄúWe are really proud of shared governance,âÄù Hanley said. âÄúIt is viewed as a great accomplishment and a responsibility we have to uphold for all Wisconsin students.âÄù If a mandate comes from the Legislature, it would end the University of MinnesotaâÄôs autonomy from the state. The only direct involvement the Legislature currently has with University policies is the power to appoint members to the Board of Regents. This would mean an increase in the level of government involvement at the University. âÄúWe would like to avoid the Legislature,âÄù Rinehart said. After FridayâÄôs meeting, MSA began working to draft a resolution with the goal of seeing policy change before the end of the year. This timeline was solidified after the positive feedback received at the meeting. âÄúWe donâÄôt want to be in a situation where we get a lot of students dissatisfied with administration,âÄù Rinehart said.