Student body president discusses goals for campus in first Q&A

Trish Palermo talked about student safety and government involvement on Friday.

Student Body President Trish Palermo talks about the new school year with the Minnesota Daily on Friday, Sept. 22.

Carter Blochwitz

Student Body President Trish Palermo talks about the new school year with the Minnesota Daily on Friday, Sept. 22.

Max Chao

University of Minnesota Student Body President Trish Palermo joined the Daily on Friday for her first Q&A interview. Palermo discussed dining hall food quality, expanding Gopher Chauffeur hours and her favorite spot to eat on campus.

This is your first full year as MSA president, how has it been so far finally taking office?

It’s hard to put that into words. It’s been exciting and I’ve been very proud to be able to watch every single member of the leadership team, every single member of forum, every single senator and at-large begin to explore student governance and how they can best contribute. The beginning of the year is always one of the best times in student government because people are always filled with new ideas. 

Food has been a big focus for MSA recently. Kosher and halal options were added over the summer and there is a new UDS subcommittee that was just created. Why is this such an important goal for MSA? 

Ever since I was a freshman, the food in the dining halls is something that really surprised me, just because the University of Minnesota is such an amazing campus when it comes to every other thing, whether it’s research, the variety of majors that we offer or the dozens of student groups that you can get involved with. And I’ve just always felt that the food did not meet the standard set by everything else at the University. Not only in terms of overall food quality, but also the fact that we didn’t accommodate to religious or dietary restrictions. 

Many members of the student body may be unfamiliar with MSA and some of the things they do behind the scenes. What are some of the goals that MSA is working towards that might be the most tangible? 

A huge priority of [MSA Vice President Erik Hillesheim’s] and mine this year is to create a long-term strategic plan to address safety on campus. An example of that is Gopher Chauffeur expansion. There are a lot of students on campus that simply don’t feel safe walking home at night. We want to make sure that there are transportation options for students, whether they’re coming home from a student group, whether they’re coming home from the library, whether they’re coming home from a night class, we want to make sure that students feel safe on their own campus. 

You and other members of MSA have been in discussions with, for example, Rep. Ilhan Omar about landlord accountability, and you also just had a representative speak to the larger MSA body. What does this mean for MSA? Is it part of a push for MSA to have more involvement in the local government?

Something that people don’t really understand about the Minnesota Student Association is that we advocate for students on multiple levels. Not only on the University’s governance structure, but on the local level, the state level and the federal level. This year we have a very strong government advocacy team, and something that they’re really hoping to work with this year is the state legislature. There are a few very tangible things that we hope to pursue, and one of those items is a partnership with Rep. Omar involving off-campus housing legislation to address things that can’t be addressed through the University’s governance structure. 

MSA has been actively promoting students to visit the “A Campus Divided” exhibit. How did that become something that MSA was aware of and decided that they wanted to push for? 

The Office of Student Affairs reached out to myself and Erik to let us know that this exhibit was happening and encouraging us to go. I think it’s very important for students to be informed on the history of our university, and that’s why I personally am so grateful for the president-provost charge on the committee on university history. 

What is your favorite place to eat on campus?

Oh, that’s hard. There are just so many good local restaurants that it’s hard to choose, but we’ll go with Afro Deli.

Editor’s note: This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.