Students do not feel represented in the Minnesota Student Association forum. They feel that MSA doesn’t really do anything. They want stipends reduced and their student services fees to go down. From what I’ve seen, these are the reactions of many students.
First of all, if students do not feel represented in MSA, why are they not involved? If you want your voice to be heard, you need to speak. Yes, MSA needs to reach out more, but it goes both ways. You need not be a member of forum to be involved. Anyone can join a committee, where the real work gets done. Forum seats do open up during the year, allowing newcomers to vote.
I agree that MSA does not do enough. This organization has the potential to do so much. It just needs people who are willing to put politics aside and do real work for students. A lot of what MSA does is not visible, but it does make an impact, such as the Academic and Legislative Affairs Committee work.
Next year, a major focus will be the Student Life Committee. In order for this committee to be a success, we need people. We need people who have real concerns and are willing to work. We need people who don’t want to play politics, who can and will do what’s right.
We need people who normally may not be interested in student government but want to do something to improve students’ lives. We have the potential to do a lot of great things next year, with the new administration coming in, but potential does not guarantee success.
The last item I’d like to address is the issue of stipends. I think it’s awesome and honorable when people choose to give up their stipends, but not everyone can afford to do so. Being in MSA, especially in a leadership position, is like a job. Most members of MSA are not paid but still put in a lot of work. We talk about diversity and outreach and wanting to make MSA truly representative of the students, but many students just don’t have the time to be involved. Students can’t afford to not work. Students have many other commitments. We lose a lot of perspective, and MSA becomes much less diverse than it already is if those involved are only those who can afford to not work. If some people can afford to do so, they should give up their stipends, but when they can’t, they shouldn’t be blamed for making their jobs improving students’ lives. By cutting stipends, we may be cutting diversity.
I’m not saying someone can’t hold a job and be in MSA, but we’re all students; we all understand lack of time. We want MSA to do a lot, but those who may be willing to, probably do not have the time to work a job and devote enormous amounts of time and energy to students (unless they neglect their studies, which is why we’re all here). It may sound as if the only way to be involved in MSA is to totally devote yourself, but that’s not true. There are varying degrees. People can be casually involved and still help students greatly, but these are not the ones who receive stipends.
I’m not trying to place blame on anyone. That never resolves anything. I think both sides could each give a little so we could get a lot.
For those already in forum, let’s put the politics of who gets what position aside and work together to get some real work done for the students. This isn’t grade school; no one’s asking for everyone to be “best friends.” I believe questioning and controversy is quite necessary, but it shouldn’t hinder our collective goal: improving the lives of students. If we put half the effort that went into reps-to- regents selections into other projects, we could have made some real progress. No one person can do it alone. It can’t remain this side vs. that side. We’re all in this together.
Laura Taken is a member of the Minnesota Student Association and a CLA sophomore.