On an old episode of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” when the gang was still in high school, Andrea and Brandon discover that a select group of students have found a way to break into the school and change their grades. Supposedly, this was to give them the fast track to college. The two super-reporters must deal with the ethical implications of running the story, especially given that their friend Steve is a likely culprit. They eventually publish the salacious story, which ignites a storm in the hallowed halls of West Beverly Hills High.
I think about this story sometimes when I read an article in The Minnesota Daily about the Minnesota Student Association. Not because MSA President Nikki Kubista has attempted to change her grades and graduate early, but because of the tabloid-style reporting in which the Daily has consistently engaged. Who hasn’t read the Daily’s news articles detailing the bickering of the MSA Forum or the opinion pieces claiming that Speaker Ben Bowman should “grow up?” Anyone unfamiliar with President Kubista or MSA would have to conclude that the organization is corrupt and juvenile; incapable of carrying out the work of students.
I won’t deny that some members of MSA have played the kind of politics that usually dominate high school student government, but the few that perpetuate this pettiness stand in stark contrast to over 60 members of MSA that put in a great deal of work. These members serve faithfully on their committees, forwarding solutions that will make every student’s life better on campus. Here is a list of a few things that we are working on.
Members of the Legislative Affairs Committee are maintaining ties with local city council members, ensuring that the concerns of students are heard. And they’ve met with Gov. Ventura, explaining to him that there are many students who would not be able to attend college if financial aid was slashed. Ever needed a hug after class? Sam Tuttle, chairwoman of legislative affairs, and Hillary Walters are planning a “Random Acts of Kindness Week” that promises to make students’ days more comfortable, even if it is only temporary.
Members of the Academic Affairs Committee are working with the University libraries to extend hours. They’ve already worked with Academic and Distributed Computing Services to institute a 24-hour computer lab on East Bank. Ever wonder what happens to those professor evaluations you fill out every quarter? Academic affairs is working with the University Senate to make those evaluations public. Imagine, students being able to find out about the strengths and weaknesses of professors before enrolling in class!
The Student Life Committee is working on a package approach to provide students access to safe and affordable housing by working with organizations like Minnesota Public Interest Research Group and Housing and Residential Life. Members are researching tenant-landlord law in Minnesota and plan to distribute a housing information packet at forums in the spring to educate students about their rights and responsibilities as renters. We’re working to integrate our efforts regarding housing and transportation and including a program to institute a minimum, livable wage for student employees. We’re going into the residence halls and telling people about student government and opportunities at the University.
MSA again this quarter is accepting Diversity Event Fund Grant applications. These grants are given to registered, non-fees receiving student groups that put on programming designed to enhance our awareness of the University’s incredible diversity. We’ve given out thousands in the past year, and plan to continue doing so. We’ve funded the Taiwan Student Alliance, that put on a New Year’s Celebration, and the Latin Dance Group, which presented Latin dance workshops and competitions. It’s a great program. Ask any student group that has received funding.
For some reason, the Daily forgets these endeavors, and instead chooses to attend one meeting every three weeks and describe in detail the arguments between a few forum members that began and have no place inside the forum. Instead of focusing on the 60 other members who represent cultural centers, the greek community and ordinary students, and the struggle for solutions that these members seek, The Minnesota Daily only reports the problems.
Although it may seem so (especially considering the Daily’s coverage), MSA is not an Aaron Spelling drama. None of us uses the word “dude” constantly. We don’t all live together in an apartment complex with a pool in the center. Our problems don’t take an hour to solve and our solutions to student problems don’t always come with ease. Most importantly, we don’t all bicker incessantly. And we have not one, but two Brandons.
Patrick Peterson is the co-chairman of student life, and can be reached at [email protected] He no longer watches “Beverly Hills, 90210.”