FAQs: The MSA presidential election

From the cost of running to how it affects you, here are the answers to your MSA election questions.
2017 MSA President and Vice Presidential Slates (L-R): Shruti Gulati and Josh Stockton, Tori Shafer and Riley de Leon, and Nathan Willett and Payton Englert. (L-R): Courtesy of "It Starts with Us" twitter. Courtesy of "Tori & Riley for MSA" twitter. Courtesy of "Nathan and Payton – MSA 2017" Go Fund Me.

To somebody who doesn’t attend Missouri Students Association meetings or read The Maneater’s MSA coverage religiously, the onset of campaign season may seem daunting.

One day, tents go up in Speakers Circle and fliers appear around campus. Then, there are two people who want you to sit on ayellow couch with them, and two other people who are trying to drive you to class in a golf cart. Some Twitter user named “It Starts With Us” just followed you. Maybe you’re suddenly wondering: What even is MSA election season?

Don’t be overwhelmed. Here are our answers to seven frequently asked questions about the MSA presidential election:

1. Why should I care about the MSA election?

MSA has an annual budget of $1.6 million, composed entirely of student fees. The vice president is responsible for drafting the budget, which is ultimately passed through the MSA Senate. The budget funds MSA’s 11 auxiliaries, which include STRIPES, Truman’s Closet and Tiger Pantry, as well as the Department of Student Activities, which brings many speakers and concerts to campus.

The president and vice president receive a salary that is also paid by students. Under the 2016 fiscal year budget, the MSA president receives $6,883.50 total for a year’s work. The vice president receives $4,588.

Aside from the cost to students, the association is often the first place administrators turn to when they want to hear students’ thoughts on major decisions. Campus Dining Services briefed the president on the Tiger Plan before implementing it last fall. More significantly, current President Sean Earl was appointed as a full member of the MU chancellor search committee to represent student interests.

2. Who is running for president?

There are three slates: Josh Stockton and Shruti Gulati, Tori Schafer and Riley de Leon, and Nathan Willett and Payton Englert.

Each slate has its own campaign slogan you may see around campus. Stockton/Gulati’s is “It Starts With Us,” Schafer/de Leon’s is “Make It Matter, Mizzou” and Willett/Englert’s is “Tigers Together.” Each slate has a detailed platform that is available on the campaigns’ websites.

All slates have varying degrees of past involvement with MSA. Schafer is the current vice president, and de Leon is the executive cabinet’s social media and technologies coordinator, with past experience in the Senate Budget Committee as well. Stockton, Willett and Englert have all been senators in the past: Stockton in the Budget Committee and Willett and Englert in the Academic Affairs Committee.

De Leon is the only candidate not involved in Greek Life. Schafer is a member of Alpha Delta Pi, Willett is an executive board member of Sigma Chi, Englert is a member of Delta Delta Delta, and Stockton is a founding father and the first president of Delta Kappa Epsilon. Gulati and Stockton are both members of Alpha Kappa Psi, a business fraternity, but Gulati is not a member of a social sorority.

3. How much do these people spend to run their campaigns?

Every current MSA slate plans to spend upwards of $1,000 campaigning for your vote. The Willett/Englert slate has the largest budget, clocking in at almost $5,000 raised through a GoFundMe. The slate has stated that they do not anticipate spending all of the money, and they plan to donate leftovers to a nonprofit to be determined. The initial goal on their GoFundMe was $10,000.

Schafer/de Leon and Stockton/Gulati have smaller budgets, the former planning to spend about $1,800 and the latter about $1,500. Stockton/Gulati also created a GoFundMe to raise money but have only raised about $500 through that avenue. Instead of a campaign fundraiser, Schafer/de Leon created a GoFundMe for It’s On Us, a national campus sexual-assault-prevention initiative and a cornerstone of their platform. The slate has raised almost $300 dollars, with a goal of $500.

In the first presidential debate, all three slates agreed that the cost of running a campaign can be a barrier for some students.

4. What is the Board of Elections Commissioners?

The BEC is the student court responsible for overseeing MSA’s presidential and vice presidential elections. The court has the power to fine slates for violations of the BEC Handbook and even expel them from the election.

The handbook is a 24-page document that details what slates can and cannot do during the three-week campaign season. Slates cannot, among other things, break university policy or city of Columbia laws, send mass emails or other mass forms of communication, campaign in Campus Dining Services locations or post fliers in certain areas.

The first violation results in a written warning from the BEC, and the second results in a $50 fine. The third violation, if committed before the last week of campaigning, results in a $150 fine, an order to cease campaigning for a 24-hour period and the slate may be expelled from the race. If a slate commits an infraction during the last week of campaigning, the slate must pay a fine of $200 and may also be expelled from the race.

The BEC regularly posts press releases with information about its rulings on the court’s Twitter.

5. What happened during last year’s election?

The president- and vice president-elect, Haden Gomez and Chris Hanner, resigned the night of their scheduled inauguration under threat of impeachment by Senate. During the election, the campaign had paid the app Pocket Points to send a notification to students endorsing the slate, but the BEC did not expel the slate from the election because the court did not find sufficient evidence that Gomez/Hanner had sought the endorsement.

After their election, former campaign manager Natalie Edelstein released screenshots from the campaign GroupMe showing that the slate had indeed sought out and paid for the endorsement. At the time, Edelstein had recently been fired from her appointed cabinet position. Two students involved with current presidential campaigns, de Leon and Willett/Englert campaign manager Leslie Parker, were also involved with the Gomez/Hanner campaign and appointed to cabinet positions.

After other senators proposed various pieces of legislation that would block them from assuming office, Schafer, who was academic affairs chairwoman at the time, was the first senator to propose inaugurating and then impeaching Gomez and Hanner. The president- and vice president-elect resigned immediately after. Earl and Schafer became president and vice president in the subsequent special election.

6. What is different about this election?

Last year, MSA created a proposal to move the election from the fall semester to the spring, which passed via referendum. In doing so, the referendum made the timing of the election permanently match the special election, eliminating the logistical problem of electing yet another president and vice president the semester immediately after the special election.

The change has not come without some difficulties. The new timing of the election means it falls at the same time as the passage of the MSA budget, forcing senators who are also working campaigns to split their attention between review of the budget and campaigning. Campaign season also comes at the same time as the Residence Halls Association presidential election and the MSA Senate speaker election.

While the Senate speaker is bound by a neutrality clause that bans them from endorsing or aiding a presidential campaign, the speaker-elect is not held to the same standard. This allows Speaker-elect Hunter Windholz to also serve as the campaign manager of the Schafer/de Leon slate. Windholz will not take over from current Speaker Mark McDaniel until after the presidential election closes.

7. What else is on the ballot?

The Student Services Enhancement fee, a $35 fee that will restore 24/5 library access, add three counselors to the Counseling Center and enhance TigerWiFi, among other items, will go up for a vote on the same ballot.

Academic college senators will also be elected at the same time.

Voting will take place March 6-8 at vote.missouri.edu, and the results of the election will be announced following March 8’s full Senate meeting.

Edited by Sam Nelson | snelson@themaneater.com

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