Candidates share goals but not plans

Joelle Stangler and Abdisamed Awed are vying to lead the U’s undergraduates.

MSA presidential candidates Joelle Stangler and Abdisamed Awed

Photo courtesy of the candidates

MSA presidential candidates Joelle Stangler and Abdisamed Awed

Taylor Nachtigal

Two veterans of the Minnesota Student Association and a pair of newcomers are vying to lead the University of Minnesota’s undergraduate student government next year.

Joelle Stangler and John Reichl will take on Abdisamed Awed and Miguel Morales to be MSA’s president and vice president. Both campaigns are interested in tackling issues of college affordability, campus safety and inclusivity, but they have varying plans to do so.

The All Campus Elections Commission, which oversees the election to ensure fairness, announced MSA presidential and vice presidential candidates last week. Whichever pair is elected will be charged with bridging the gap between students and top University officials.

Both campaigns highlighted the University’s set-to-expire tuition freeze for resident undergraduates as a primary concern.

Stangler noted the experience that both she and Reichl have with working with the University’s Board of Regents and lobbying at the Capitol with the Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition as an advantage in advocating for another tuition freeze.

“Our No. 1 priority for next year is keeping the cost of college low,” Stangler said. “I think we’re primed to really make our case for why we would like another [tuition freeze].”

To further cut college costs, Reichl said he wants to advocate for more open-source educational materials, which could include open textbooks.

Awed pointed to his own experience — including budgeting experience with student government at Normandale Community College and lobbying with the Minnesota State College Student Association — as reasons why he could also advocate for lower tuition costs.

Awed, who transferred to the University this fall, proposed a more holistic approach to lobbying by collaborating with similar student organizations around Minnesota to help prioritize goals and ensure everyone’s needs are met.

“It’s a disservice for students at the U of M in the undergraduate programs to not really be involved or not be in discussions with other student organizations that are actually appealing for the same pot of money,” he said.

Tackling safety concerns

Both campaigns highlighted safety and security on campus as a pressing issue that student government must address.

If elected, Awed and Morales hope to create a safety committee through MSA to represent and advocate for student concerns to the University and police. Awed said he believes more community engagement is the best way tackle the problem.

Stangler and Reichl want to continue MSA’s current partnership with the Aurora Center, while creating a new sexual assault advocacy training program.

The campaign, Stangler said, would focus on consent and advocacy training. She said that she hopes at least one member of each greek house and other students on campus would complete the training.

A more inclusive MSA, campus

Boosting campus unity, while creating a more accessible and better-understood MSA, are focal points for both campaigns.

Awed’s main goal is to increase students’ campus involvement so they get the most out of their University experience.

“One component is going to school … but I think just as equally important is getting involved, networking and getting the experience out of college,” he said.

Awed also said students should better understand who makes up MSA and what its role is on campus.

“I think that culture would probably … be better changed if more students actually know who represents them,” he said.

Stangler and Reichl hope to address students’ lack of knowledge about MSA by expanding its outreach to other groups and creating more cohesion between them.

Stangler said student organizations occasionally work on similar things simultaneously but are unaware of each other’s efforts. That could be avoided and groups would be more efficient, she said, if MSA expanded its reach.

More specifically, Stangler and Reichl want to make campus a more comfortable place for LGBTQ students, students of color and international students by addressing issues such as the University’s preferred name change policy and racial profiling.

Varied backgrounds, similar goals

Awed and Morales met in class and decided to run together when they realized their shared goals. They said they think their outside perspective would make them uniquely qualified advocates for students.

Both are in their first year at the University. Awed transferred from Normandale, and Morales served nine months with the Army National Guard in Afghanistan.

Stangler always planned on running for MSA president and said she knew Reichl was the perfect running mate when they met as members of various groups, including MSA and the University’s Honors Student Association.

After some long conversations that brought out their mutual interests, the duo found they were passionate about the same campus issues, and Stangler asked Reichl to run with her.

Polls will be open online April 2-4.