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Friday, June 23, 2017

The loudspeaker: How Mark McDaniel put his voice to good use in MSA

The 48th Senate speaker reflects on democratizing the Missouri Students Association.

Mark McDaniel is loud.

His conversations carry through hallways in the Student Center. He gets excited about politics in Facebook Live videos. He shouts over those who interrupt in Missouri Students Association Senate when necessary.

For as long as McDaniel can remember, he’s been loud. Growing up, people called him “the mouthpiece.” And by continuing to democratize Senate processes and literally using his voice, that’s exactly what the 48th MSA Senate speaker has tried to be for students.

“I think that quality has allowed me to shine in any capacity I have been in,” McDaniel said of his loudness. “If I’m allowing my ability to speak loudly or speak boldly upon things I believe in, I can use that if someone has concerns; I can be that microphone for them. I can be that voice for them.”

McDaniel joined MSA in October 2013, during his sophomore year. He said in his five years at MU, he’s learned self-reliance above anything else, and that’s something he’s tried to help others in MSA achieve.

MSA Senate has been trending toward a more democratic internal culture, meaning fewer projects run entirely through committee chairs, for some years now. He credits his predecessors, Kevin Carr and Ben Bolin, for starting that culture shift and helping fresh members “hit the ground running.”

“By lowering all the pomp and circumstance and the gold nametag culture that has surrounded MSA for years, it’s more beneficial for the students,” McDaniel said.

One MSA member who benefitted from this was Hunter Windholz, McDaniel’s successor as Senate speaker, who started working on the Food Truck Fridays project before he became a committee chair, McDaniel said.

“As a chair, your committee is not going to accomplish half of what it can if you’re the only one doing the work,” Windholz said. “Delegation is a huge part of success. When it comes down to it, you can’t be a one-man show and find success.”

But during his term, McDaniel didn’t just defer to other students’ voices. He used his own, at times forcefully.

Windholz remembers McDaniel’s commanding leadership in meetings, especially the controversial Senate meeting following the contested presidential election between Nathan Willett and Tori Schafer.

“He knows how to lead a room,” Windholz said. “When we had a couple controversial meetings and we demolished fire code — keeping order in the chamber in those scenarios is very delicate, and it’s something that Mark definitely had a natural talent for.”

Part of that natural talent was using his voice to speak over people from the audience who attempted to interrupt the senator or guest who had the floor. He frequently shouted out parliamentary rules over the course of the two-hour meeting and repeatedly demanded decorum from the audience.

McDaniel said he wanted to make sure all voices were treated fairly that night.

“It goes back to when you were a kid, and you’re fighting with your brother over something that’s really stupid and dumb,” McDaniel said. “And you both go to your mom, and you’re like [crying noises], and she tells you both to shut up so she can actually hear everyone’s point of view. It’s kind of like that.”

As the Senate speaker — known for his loud voice, small bust of Abraham Lincoln and Facebook tirades about politics or sports — hangs up his megaphone, he said he’s excited for the future of MSA, especially considering all the “fresh energy” infused by Windholz and the Willett victory.

He also has some advice for young students: “Go HAM.”

“You will find your way,” McDaniel said. “You will find your path to success. All you have to do is just kick down the door and go in.”

Raising your voice sometimes might help, too.

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