MSA and GAPSA work together to communicate and cooperate

by Sascha Matuszak

The Minnesota Student Association has a standing invitation to attend any Graduate and Professional Student Association Assembly and vice versa.
It is illustrative of the determination by the two groups to work in collaboration.
The student associations have been able to work well together in the past year, dispelling any notions that the two groups are at odds. A clash over the Student Service Fees Committee composition tied up both agendas for much of the last two months.
The groups attest, however, that the fees committee conflict was not as bad as it appeared. In the past, however, relations were not as tight as they are now, said Karin Alexander, administrative officer for MSA.
The two organizations were once a single entity — under MSA’s name — which represented both pre- and post-baccalaureate students.
Ten years ago, the graduate students splintered off and formed what is now known as GAPSA so they could better represent their constituency.
The first few years after the split, MSA and GAPSA rarely communicated with each other staying mostly within their respective constituencies, Alexander said.
Student association president Jigar Madia said there was traditionally no need for the two groups to work together. With no written procedure that requires interaction, cooperation and communication was discouraged, he said.
This tradition has been challenged in the past year, with the two groups collaborating on University-wide issues such as the school’s recent dealings with Aramark Corp. The latest in a series of University public-private partnerships, the school outsourced its vending and food service functions.
Other collaborations have included selecting fees committee members and lending support to the administration’s $249 million legislative bonding request.
“We have worked hard to enhance communication and increased opportunity for collaboration between GAPSA and MSA,” said graduate association chairman J.P. Maier.
The biggest obstacle that hampered cooperation between the two associations has been negative press, Maier said. Many articles in The Minnesota Daily depicted the two associations as being antagonistic, he said.
“If the Daily chooses to report accurately on the confluences, as well as the occasional conflicts, the student University community and the general public would be better served,” Maier said.
Regardless of past communication problems, cooperation on issues such as the Aramark deal has been vital.
Through collaboration, the pre-and post-baccalaureate groups were able to establish the Student Committee on Food Services, which represented students during the transition from public to private food services on campus.
“Aramark is a success in process,” Maier said. “We have gone from an atmosphere of confrontation in the initial stages to a high level of collaboration in one year.”
The two associations also organized an emergency joint meeting of both the MSA Forum and the GAPSA Assembly in order to come to an agreement on the members of the student services fee committee.
The meeting, which took place Jan. 6, focused on the disagreements between the two associations concerning the members of the fees committee. The fees committee makes recommendations to the administration as to how to spend student service fees.
“We found out with the fees (membership issue), had we been communicating in advance, we might have avoided some problems,” Madia said. “When we do take the time to work together, it works better.”
The associations are now beginning to recommend improvements and revisions to the fees committee member selection process.