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Saturday, August 30, 2014

MSA slates talk diversity in final debate

Slates agreed during the debate that MU's traditions should be respected.

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MSA Presidential candidate Xavier Billingsley discusses his plans for creating unity on campus Sunday night at Memorial Union. Topics discussed included diversity, gender-neutral housing and campus safety.

Andrew Weltch/Photographer

All three Missouri Students Association presidential slates were present for the final debate before voting opens Monday.

Slates include Xavier Billingsley and Helena Kooi; Everett Bruer and Lexie Cartee; and Greg Loeffler and Lauren Damico.

The debate was hosted by Four Front and The Maneater, and focused on diversity issues at MU.

The slates addressed MU’s diversity problems, touching on the apparent exclusiveness of Homecoming, racially charged incidents in past years, gender-neutral housing and One Mizzou.

All three slates emphasized more communication and advertising for all homecoming events to promote inclusiveness.

“If I’m an African-American student and I want to go to the Step Show, it shouldn’t contradict with the parade or things like that,” Billingsley said. “(They) should be given those opportunities as students to be able to do everything that they want to, not ostracize them.”

All of the slates said respecting MU’s traditions is important.

“I think we also have to be very knowledgeable about the traditions that need to be held in tact,” Damico said. “(We) need to continue forward with those.”

Bruer said he hopes to involve MU’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community more as well. An LGBTQ student’s account of being afraid to leave her room during homecoming events at the Homecoming Forum on Oct. 25 affected him, he said.

“It really shocked me,” Bruer said. "I can sympathize with that. That’s something no one here at the university should have to go through.”

All three of the slates are also in support of a proposal to add gender-neutral housing options to residence halls on campus.

Loeffler said Residential Life is already working to make gender-neutral housing an option at MU. He said it is important the student body president makes “sure that those rules and those standards are implemented in a way that makes students feel comfortable.”

Bruer-Cartee’s plan to implement a safe walk home program was shot down by both Billingsley-Kooi and Loeffler-Damico.

Bruer said while MU did have a similar program in the past, Tiger Watch, it failed because of a breakdown of leadership.

“There’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea,” he said.

Damico said MSA cannot provide the manpower to sustain Bruer and Cartee’s proposed service. She said STRIPES, MU’s safe ride home program, is still having problems with manpower.

“I say perfect the programs we have versus creating more,” she said.

According to a previous Maneater article, STRIPES received more than 500 applications last year.

Loeffler said as the Department of Student Services Director, he was very involved with the decision to cut the original Tiger Watch program.

“This was something that we were not willing to continue spending money on,” he said. “It was unsuccessful and unsustainable.”

In response, Bruer said that his program would not operate the same way Tiger Watch did.

“You probably should have listened a little bit more to what I said,” he said in response to Loeffler and Damico’s comments.

Regarding campus safety, Billingsley and Kooi focused on educating students on the purpose of the Missouri University Police Department.

“We need to focus a lot of our efforts on the drinking culture on this campus,” Kooi said.

Billingsley said he plans to increase student communication with MUPD.

“A lot of the time students will fear the campus police officers on campus and that shouldn’t be,” he said.

Billingsley also said MUPD and campus security already provide a safe walk service of their own.

Each slate had a definite goal for their potential term as student body president and vice president.

Bruer-Cartee hopes to make MSA more visible to students year round, while Billingsley-Kooi wants to increase student awareness of One Mizzou.

Loeffler-Damico said they hope to improve communications to make MU a welcoming place for all students.

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