Coalition could connect University campuses

The legislative coalition would give each campus an equal voice.

by Sally Hunter

University of Minnesota students are making leeway in pursuit of an overarching lobbying arm for all University campuses throughout the state.

Representatives from each campus have been meeting to define roles and plan how the Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition would work, said Chris Tastad of the Minnesota Student Association.

Tastad is the director of MSAâÄôs Legislative Certificate Program, which trains students to advocate at the Capitol âÄî and would see a makeover with the MSLC.

The MSLC would have an overarching executive board plus representatives from each campus, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, the state, the administration and the Student Senate Consultative Committee.

The goals would be communication and an equal voice for each campus, especially when it comes to lobbying, Tastad said.

The MSLC will have two bodies: Legislative Affairs for student outreach and the lobbying arm, which would replace the Legislative Certificate Program.

Tastad said topics of lobbying could be anything from the University budget to the controversial voter ID bill. The group will discuss student issues, decide a position and define a message, he said.

While MSLC at the Twin Cities campus will be funded by MSA, some campuses are still looking for funding, he said.

The next step is to draft a constitution and begin electing students for each position this summer, Tastad said.

âÄúWe look forward to working with all the campuses,âÄù said Zack Filipovich, a representative from the Duluth campus.

Students from the Crookston campus are feeling the impact of budget cuts and hope MSLC will help the campus of 1,450 students have its voice heard, Shawn Friedland, CrookstonâÄôs outgoing student association president, said in an email.

In the 1990s, a similar initiative, the University of Minnesota Coalition for Higher Education, didnâÄôt last.

Talstad said the group likely failed because of heavy reliance on funds. In 1993, the group needed $146,000 to run itself âÄî including a $25,000 salary for the director âÄî all of which came from student fees.

After studying UMCHEâÄôs budget and plan from that year, Tastad feels that MSLC will succeed.

âÄúWeâÄôre taking what weâÄôve already established and adding layers that focus on things that are currently working,âÄù Tastad said.