MSA elections faceundergrads’ apathy

by Bryce Haugen

As the Minnesota Student Association presidential election approaches, many students said they know very little about the organization and even less about the upcoming vote.

“Didn’t they have an election lately or something?” said Ryan Mulvihill, a College of Liberal Arts first-year student.

Mulvihill said he has no plans to vote Wednesday or Thursday, when undergraduate students will choose next year’s MSA leaders.

“No. Not unless I get a free button, or T-shirt, or soda pop,” he said.

Many students expressed similar sentiments.

Last year, only 4,420 of the University’s more than 27,000 undergraduates voted in the MSA presidential race. That was 1,300 more students than in 2003.

Most students don’t realize the benefits MSA provides, said former MSA President Josh Colburn, a University law student. He said increasing voter turnout rates are a credit to the MSA leadership’s attempts to increase awareness.

“As MSA keeps building on itself, students will participate more and more,” Colburn said. “Apathy is on the decline.”

Current MSA President Tom Zearley said that when MSA provides tangible benefits, such as the renters’ survey and tenant workshops, students notice.

“The more students see we are involved and what we say does have an effect, students will definitely have more respect for MSA,” he said.

But architecture sophomore Liz Delorme said MSA does very little for her.

“I don’t even know if they actually have an impact or not,” she said. “We don’t see the benefits of it.”

If she does vote, Delorme said, she will vote for Katy Tagudin, because she knows her.

Delorme is one of 554 members of the Rubens-Katy online group.

Sometimes, Delorme said, MSA-related messages she receives on the online social network are disappointing.

“I get excited about facebook messages, and then I see it’s (about) MSA. And it’s like, oh damn,” she said.

While some MSA officials said they believe more students will eventually take interest in MSA, Forum member Brian Edstrom, a former MSA presidential candidate, said it’s a lost cause. Most students are too busy with their own friends, studies and lives to pay much attention to student government, he said.

“I don’t see that many more people being interested than already are,” Edstrom said.

Fifth-year art sophomore Emily Schmitz said she knows “absolutely nothing” about MSA and doesn’t intend to learn.

“I know it’s important, but if I were dividing up my time, (MSA’s) not my top priority,” she said. “Or a priority at all.”