MSA gives student athletes a voice

A new bylaw lets teams and spirit squads apply for voting power.

Kyle Stowe

When senior kicker Chris Hawthorne transferred to the University of Minnesota from North Carolina State University in 2010, he hoped to get involved on campus outside of football.

But for student-athletes, finding time to get involved on campus isn’t always easy.

“It’s a challenge,” he said. “There isn’t a whole lot of down time in college athletics.”

Despite the hurdles, student-athletes like Hawthorne will now have a new opportunity to further engage with campus. Last Tuesday, the Minnesota Student Association unanimously passed a new bylaw allowing University of Minnesota athletics teams and spirit squads to apply for voting representation in MSA.

Previously, MSA regulations only allowed officially registered student groups to vote on student government policies and platforms.

“The new bylaw is intended to help athletes that don’t have the time to serve as a part of another student group,” said MSA member Joelle Stangler, who drafted the policy.

Athletics teams aren’t considered official student groups, so in the past, student-athletes needed to join a separate group to have a voice on student government issues, which many couldn’t fit into their schedules.

Stangler said the idea came up last spring after talking with Hawthorne and she thought MSA was losing a “key portion” of the student body by not being accessible to athletes.

“It just didn’t seem to be fair,” Stangler said. “They are a huge part of our school.”

Hawthorne said he’s planning a 12-hour dance marathon to benefit the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital, which he hopes athletes and non-athletes will attend.

He said furthering student athlete engagement on campus will make the University a better place.

“It further unites our campus around one central idea, and that’s the promotion of the betterment of our University,” he said. “I want to help student-athletes assume leadership roles on campus and get in touch with the University.”

Junior women’s tennis player Julia Courter said it can be difficult for student-athletes to keep up with what’s happening on campus and said she wants to make athletes more knowledgeable about campus issues.

“It’s a major priority of ours to make time to represent the maroon and gold outside of athletics,” Courter said. “We just need to be informed.”

Hawthorne and Courter are both members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, a student group aimed at addressing student-athlete concerns and issues.

Although the committee is a registered student group, Courter said there should be more options for athletes to get involved with campus.

 “If we’re more informed about what’s going on, we can get more involved,” Courter said.

Stangler said she thinks the new bylaw will increase student-athlete involvement in MSA.

 “A student-athlete perspective has been lacking,” Stangler said. “We hope this will encourage
participation.”