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Performer Mayyadda singing at the University of Minnesota Juneteenth Celebration “We Are The Noise: The Echoes of Our Ancestors” captured on Saturday, June 15.
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Published June 23, 2024

UMN regent speaks with Undergraduate Student Government

Regent Mary Turner spoke at a bi-weekly Forum session of the Undergraduate Student Government in a reverse Q&A.
Image by Ashik Das (courtesy)
Regent Mary Turner addresses USG forum body on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

At the bi-weekly Forum session of the University of Minnesota Undergraduate Student Government (USG) on Tuesday, Regent Mary Turner said she will work to help USG get their legislative efforts through University administration.

In a reverse Q&A, Turner asked the USG forum body about their current concerns and efforts, touching on food and housing insecurity, campus building safety and how USG should work to have their issues heard by the Board of Regents (BOR).

Alongside her work as a regent, Turner is a working intensive care unit nurse at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale and was president of the Minnesota Nurses Association for eight years. During this time, she led the largest private-sector nursing strike in U.S. history in 2022.

“I believe in a voice of the people,” Turner said during the event. “Whether it be workers or students or the faculty.”

Turner asked the forum how they bring their issues “to the forefront.”

USG Government and Legislative Affairs (GLA) Interim Director Joslyn Blass said one example is how students frequently name food insecurity as one of their biggest concerns in GLA surveys, namely the lack of an affordable and accessible grocery store on campus.

Earlier this semester, USG started a Food Insecurity Committee to create an on-campus grocery store, an effort USG widely supports, USG President Shashank Murali said. 

USG Representative to the BOR Ebba Wako said issues arise when legislation passes through USG but is largely ignored by the BOR. 

“I cannot stress enough how hard we have been working to get University administration to recognize how important it is for us to have an on-campus grocery store,” Blass said to Turner. 

When USG encounters “roadblocks” in getting responses from University administration, Turner said they should increase their activism on that issue.

“That’s all part of the college experience: raising a ruckus,” Turner said.

Turner also asked whether USG was making efforts to bring legislative issues to the state capital. 

Blass responded that housing and food insecurity have been some of USG’s biggest concerns, adding they hope to bring housing security legislation to the state level, which would reflect its accomplishments at the local level. 

GLA worked to promote a Minneapolis ordinance, passed in December, which outlines guaranteed protections for tenants who sign a pre-lease before the building is ready for move-in.

Blass said renters’ protections are a big priority for GLA going forward.

“If you have a regent in tow, that could help,” Turner said. 

In regards to issues with buildings on campus, Turner said the University is not building anything new this year. Rather, it will work to renovate existing buildings, something she referred to as a “fix-it list.”

“I’m not into building new buildings when I’m hearing about elevators that don’t work and leaking roofs,” Turner said.

The University is specifically looking at Eddy Hall, Turner said. Eddy Hall is the oldest building on campus and has been vacant for nearly a decade, according to the Star Tribune.

Turner asked the forum body if they could think of any other campus buildings with significant safety hazards. Members cited health and safety hazards in Anderson Hall, Keeler Apartments, Middlebrook Residence Hall and 17th Avenue Residence Hall.

Prior to the Q&A, Murali and USG Vice President Sara Davis said they were excited to see the interaction between Turner and USG. Though a regent typically speaks at USG forum once a year, it is still a somewhat rare opportunity.

“That gives everybody an opportunity to be genuine and really share and then she can take that back and involve that in her work with the other Board members,” Davis said. 

Turner said, as a nurse, her patients are everything to her and as a regent, the student body is her patient whom she cares for and listens to. 

“That is what moves the legislature more than anything,” Turner said. “When [administrators] get up there and talk numbers it does not change hearts and it does not sway votes.”

Turner said a partnership between USG and the regents would make passing legislation through the capital more effective.

“If you’re up there,” Turner said, “I want to be part of your team.”

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