The Maneater

Andrew Hutchinson talks about self-expression through poetry and running for MSA

Hutchinson: “Everything that happened last semester, it kind of separated us all from each other, so I knew I felt, not a responsibility, but somewhat of a desire to help piece things back together in any way I could.”

Before Andrew Hutchinson ever considered running for MSA president, he channeled his voice through poetry.

“My poetry teacher Jesse Adolph once told me that poetry is only good if you’re speaking your own truth,” he said. “That’s something I’ve kind of taken to heart. Poetry is a very easy accessible craft, all you need is your head, and it allows you to carve your own experiences, but more than that, writing also when done correctly can have people understand and feel what you’re feeling.”

He described a good poetry recitation as having a moment when everybody in the room feels the same emotions. Poetry, he said, was a particularly good medium for marginalized people to share their experiences. But he didn’t always see it that way.

“A big part of (running mate Lydia Ghuman) and my platform has always been diversity and highlighting voices that are routinely silenced,” he said. “Especially in the poetry world, it’s very white-male oriented. Growing up, that’s why I hated poetry. It was all kind of bullshit, honestly, and I didn’t like it, and I didn’t think it spoke truth.”

He said Adolph taught him that the only real indicator of quality in poetry was whether it spoke the poet’s personal truth. That’s what turned him on to poetry as a way of bringing to light hidden narratives and, eventually, to the One Mic program.

Hutchinson co-hosts One Mic with T’Keyah Thomas. The program, which aims to highlight diverse voices through performances of poems, features a few selected poets as well as an open mic section and appears at venues at and around Columbia.

Outside of poetry, Hutchinson has also camped and protested alongside the Concerned Student 1950 activists. He is a McNair scholar, a history and sociology double major, and is also pursuing a multicultural certificate. Campaigning for president came at a major cost to him.

“I dropped two classes, I’m pretty behind on research, I basically took off work for the entire period of the special election, so financial costs for me are probably $1,000 in lost wages, minimum,” he said. “If we don’t win, that’s going to be a lot.”

The Hutchinson/Ghuman slate has held fundraisers to raise money for the campaign, but Hutchinson said they were basically out of money. In debates, the two have talked about the exclusivity of MSA and barriers to entry such as monetary fines the Board of Elections Commissioners issues to punish campaign infractions.

Hutchinson/Ghuman recently received a $100 fine for a flier posted in a classroom.

He said a major reason he wanted to run was the leadership culture surrounding MSA. He saw and had heard of students approaching the election with a sense of “entitlement” to the office.

“We wanted to run really just to fix the inherent structural issues within MSA to a wider extent,” he said. “Everything that happened last semester, it kind of separated us all from each other, so I knew I felt, not a responsibility, but somewhat of a desire to help piece things back together in any way I could.”

He expressed disappointment with what happened during the past election and said he’d thought MSA would’ve had a “better head on its shoulders.” He said that, at the end of the day, MSA needed to advocate for marginalized students, and it had failed to do that.

“The moment we start saying inclusivity and advocacy are not the primary goals of MSA, you’re losing the entire point of government and you’re losing the entire point of being a good person,” he said. “There are people on this campus who do not feel comfortable. That’s the biggest issue.”

Edited by Waverly Colville | wcolville@themaneater.com

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