Latecomers say they want a revolution

by Tracy Ellingson

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-day series highlighting the candidates for the presidency of the Minnesota Student Association. Elections for all MSA positions will take place April 23-24.

Sophomores Derek Shemon and Jason Strid, are saying they not only want a revolution in the University’s student government, they are telling students, “We are the revolution.”
Shemon and Strid entered the race for MSA president and vice president after a discussion about the French Revolution in which the two decided the University’s organization needed a radical change.
“We’re not going about beheading our leadership; that would be a little extreme,” said presidential candidate Shemon. “(Our candidacy) formed out of an idea that we want to change something drastically. We want to change it now and we want to change it not with force, but with new options.”
Neither Shemon nor Strid, both of whom live in Bailey Hall, have any current connection with MSA and both have said they see the organization as far too political and not helpful enough to the average student. Most MSA members, Shemon said, join the organization and end up representing only a particular campus group or political faction rather than the entire student body.
“It seems like the people … once they got into MSA, they were the MSA members and that was pretty much an organization run by them,” Strid said.
Shemon added, “We’re not running the U.S. Congress here, we’re running students’ choices and students’ views, and someone that wants to voice everybody’s views is the kind of leadership that I feel the University needs.”
The pair said they refused to seek any of the four major endorsements, which were given out two weeks ago, to emphasize the point that they only want individual support, not organizational backings.
“I don’t want to carry your banner. I don’t want your endorsement,” Shemon said about student organizations. “All I want is your support as students so that you can voice to me what your concerns are for this University.”
In addition to partisan politics in the MSA, Shemon said that the organization is ineffective for the students.
“Too many times you pick up a paper and you see that MSA passes a resolution,” Shemon said. “Well, that’s all MSA has done is they’ve passed a resolution, whereas they’ve not actively changed.”
If elected, Shemon said, he would make student concerns heard and therefore, make student government more effective by making a concerted effort to talk with new President-elect Mark Yudof and school and state policy makers.
During the first MSA debate on April 9, Shemon said he wouldn’t mind smoking a cigar with Yudof to help loosen up their relationship.
“I think productive leadership is one that’s actually going to shake the person’s hand and speak with them,” Shemon said Tuesday. “That’s where the leadership has been lacking, not enough conference, not enough ability to get out there and take on the hierarchy of power.”
But some students have expressed concerns to Shemon and Strid that without prior experience with MSA, they will not have a shot at the top executive spots and having conversations with Yudof. But the pair say that rather than working their way through the organization by starting a lower position, the most productive way to start the revolution on which they’ve based their campaign is by starting out at the top.
Strid said: “I saw that if we try for a high ranking … that would probably be the place that something would happen.”
Shemon is a major in applied economics in the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences. He came to the University from his hometown of Montevideo, Minn.
Strid, a chemical engineering and chemistry major in the Institute of Technology, said he has lived all over the western United States, most recently in Denver, Colo.
And so far the two have few complaints about the campaign process. Although campaign posters with the pair’s names have begun to pop up around campus, Strid said he and Shemon spend much of their campaign time just talking with their friends, students in their classes and just students in general.
“We’re pretty much a two-man show,” Strid said.
Shemon admitted they have a much smaller campaign operation than their opponents, but that can be positive.
“We’re the underdog. We’re definitely the longshot too, but the longshots win.”