Meet the three MSA presidential slates

The slates address a variety of issues from increasing affordability in housing and dining to advocating for mental health and social justice issues to better the lives of MU students.
Courtesy of MSA Slates

Three slates have entered the 2015 Missouri Students Association presidential race.. The MSA president and vice president are the leaders of the undergraduate student body.

From increasing affordability in housing and dining to advocating for mental health and social justice issues, each platform addresses issues on the campus, city and state level to better the lives of MU students.

The Board of Election Commissioners announced the slates on Oct. 9. Soft campaigning began on Oct. 12 and hard campaigning begins on Oct. 19. Voting will be Nov. 9-11.

Syed Ejaz/Heather Parrie

Senior Syed Ejaz and junior Heather Parrie named their campaign “Mizzou Together” rooted in three pillars: serve, challenge and belong.

Ejaz said his past work in MSA regarding campus and pedestrian safety, sustainability and student living projects combined with his and Parrie’s different perspectives make them different from other slates.

“Heather has a very well-rounded basket of perspectives on discussion of sociological issues on this campus,” Ejaz said. “I think for the first time in a really long time, students are having honest discussion about things such as race relations, sexual violence and the normative culture on campus.”

Ejaz said he wants to continue pushing for affordable housing because of the “enormously high” rent that students have to pay when not staying in residential halls.

“Since we are here to get an education (and) to learn about each other, the cost of living really has a significant impact on student life,” Ejaz said. “On top of that, the higher the cost of living is, the less diverse our campus becomes, because when students are making their decision to come to Mizzou or go elsewhere, student living and the cost of it are big factors in that decision.”

Additionally, he said he wants to keep advocating for pedestrian safety like he did as the Campus and Community Relations committee chairman, because MU’s “driving culture” is not conducive to 27,000 pedestrians.

“There is a two-fold approach to (pedestrian safety),” Ejaz said. “One is having the proper infrastructure and enforcement to ensure that pedestrians are safe and that both pedestrians and vehicles are respective of the rules. That is something we have to advocate for to the administration and to the city. The second part is education of drivers and pedestrians.”

Another issue Ejaz said they want to address is ensuring that the normative culture is very conducive to an inclusive environment.

“Using the office of vice president and president as a sociocultural platform is big because we have the platform to reach out to thousands of students,” Ejaz said. “It should be our obligation to inspire them to make all places around them safe and empowering to everyone.”

Ejaz said his decision to run came about over a long period of time. He said after MSA’s trip to the SEC exchange, he realized MSA needs to keep moving in the direction it is going and felt the urge to step up.

To do so, Ejaz and Parrie approached their leadership strategy a lot differently than what they see from other student leaders, Parrie said.

“For me, I know this is not resume builder,” Parrie said. “This isn’t make or breaking my college career or how I am going to look to employers. This is something that we are bringing to the table because we are passionate about serving Mizzou and passionate about doing this for the right reasons, not just so we can get the office, not just so we can get the gold nametag, so we can actually make an impact on students’ lives.”

Haden Gomez/Chris Hanner

Juniors Haden Gomez and Chris Hanner are running their campaign “Moving Mizzou Forward” based on five tenets: affordability, academic success, involvement, inclusivity and services.

Their platform reflects their desire to expand on the growth of the current MSA executive cabinet and the administration in the past year.

“We know the current administration has done an incredible job of creating awareness of things that need to be brought to light, need to be talked about and really need to be at the forefront of students minds,” Gomez said. “We would really like to take the charge and initiative that they have and continue it.”

Affordability is emphasized on their campaign because money was the number one reason students drop out of the university, Gomez said. One way the two plan to help is to lobby the state government through the Associated Students of the University of Missouri.

Their academic success tenet aims to create a scholarship database so students only have to go one place to search potential opportunities. Gomez said this was because academic success and the ability to finance college “go hand in hand.”

Another emphasis area for their academic success goal is to increase undergraduate student participation in research. Gomez said this was important to improve the university’s Association of American Universities ranking, which would in turn increase the value of an MU degree.

“A lot of students don’t know where to even start to look for (research opportunities),” he said. “Having one centralized location of all these different research opportunities, I think it’s going to be really beneficial for the student body.”

The student involvement section of their platform includes student participation within and outside of MSA. Gomez said he wanted to increase communication with student media to provide for more awareness of MSA among students.

They would also like to engage international students.

“Something that’s become very important to me personally is the well-being of our international students on campus,” Hanner said. “I became an international student this summer while I was in China (studying abroad), and I really got to experience some of the issues they experience on campus. Something that international students have told me they have issues with is finding their niche on campus.”

Hanner said they hoped to create a program through the Department of Student Activities and in partnership with the Missouri International Student Council to match international students with an involvement mentor. The mentor would help them decide what organizations to join on campus and help them settle into MU.

For the student inclusion and safety section of their platform, Gomez and Hanner said they don’t wish to add services to students but to rather improve what is already existing.

“Everybody we’ve met with has asked us to just promote what they have already started,” Gomez said. “Everything we’d like to do just hinges on the promotion of current projects.”

Gomez said accessibility for students with disabilities is a “huge tenet” to their platform.

“(We’re promoting) being cognizant that there are many students with disabilities on this campus and how we can make that better, (such as) promoting professors using their microphones during lectures for students who can’t hear as well,” he said.

Under the student services tenet of their platform, Gomez and Hanner said they want to expand existing services such as Tiger Pantry. Gomez said the two will push for Tiger Pantry to be able to distribute meal swipes to students.

“(We are not) planning on adding another auxiliary, but how can we make them better, and how can we promote what they’re already doing?” he said.

Jordan McFarland/Jonathan Segers

Juniors Jordan McFarland and Jonathan Segers announced that they will be running with their campaign “Back to Basics.”

Their platform features four main programs: Lean On, Swipe Me In, the Greek Liaison Office and Inside Out. They also want to rename and restructure MSA to how it was before 1959. In order to make the organization more open to the student body, they would also like to change MSA’s name to the Student Government Association, as it was in 1959. This will shift the presidential elections to April with terms starting in May. This change will require about 20 definition edits to the MSA bylaws and constitution and will make MU consistent with other organizations across the nation.

McFarland fears that students see MSA as unapproachable and would like to see more student involvement.

“It’s time to put the average student back in MSA,” Segers said.

Lean On, which is a program focused on student mental health, will connect students to existing resources, increase exposure and educate others on the severity of mental health. They also plan to challenge administration to increase the number of programs available to students.

“We need to stop talking about these things as separate issues, like academic retention, mental health, sexual assault,” McFarland said. “(They) need to be at the forefront. They all come together at the student, which is why the student needs to be at the center. We need to see these things as interdependent.”

Swipe Me In addresses food insecurity resulting from the addition of a la carte meals. For those who can’t afford the increased expense of eating, people with extra swipes can offer to pay for meals of others through a Facebook page. The candidates hope that this program will build a sense of togetherness on the issue of food insecurity.

About 27 percent of the student body is Greek affiliated, but no positions within MSA work directly with the Office of Greek Life. The candidates would like to form a Greek Liaison Office with a director and two representatives: one for the National Pan-Hellenic Council and one for the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association.

The candidates would also like to introduce Mizzou ’49, named after the year 1949 when the university decided to admit black students. The program will bring 49 student leaders together to address social justice issues.

“It will finally bridge that gap and have that difficult conversation,” Segers said. “It goes back to mental health. When you don’t address the whole mental health thing, diversity, inclusion and exclusivity, then you don’t have that safe space.”

The final point on their platform is Inside Out. This program focuses on increasing student awareness of Diversity Peer Educators, Safe Space training and the Green Dot program. This program will encourage all the joint session governments’ elected leaders to be trained in these programs to increase exposure.

“We need to show from the inside out that we’re serious about these issues,” McFarland said.

In addition to the main points on their platform, McFarland and Segers would like to introduce Quick Tip Guides, which will be short videos featuring programs and basic how-to segments, such as how to set up direct deposit or how to contact your financial advisor.

McFarland and Segers emphasized that they only have one year to make a difference.

“Let’s make sure that when we leave, that we leave it in the best state we can and that we continue the conversation; that we put the student at the center and that at the end of the day, we get back to basics,” McFarland said.

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