MSA candidates discuss student advocacy
With the election drawing near, MSA candidates push their platforms.
Oct. 30, 2008
This is the fifth part in a series looking at the Missouri Students Association presidential slates and their platform positions. This issue focuses on the candidates' plans to serve as a student advocate to campus administration. The election is Nov. 10 to Nov. 12.
Phyllis Williams and Jonathan Snipes have run their entire campaign on being an advocate and chief liaison between students and administration, including the Columbia City Council.
"I've pushed being a liaison over deciding what students want," Williams said.
Williams had the unique opportunity to go through advocacy training where they taught her what it means to be an advocate, she said.
She feels an advocate is a person who understands the words of another, deciphers the information and passes it on to the appropriate parties. She feels it is important to take herself out of the equation and simply be a liaison for that person.
"It takes a lot of practice to take yourself out of that situation," Williams said. "I have had a lot of experience doing just that."
Williams feels that she has learned from people within the administration who have been brutally honest in their student advocacy and have shown her the importance of translating the needs and wants of the students.
Jordan Paul said he believes he is best suited to serve as the campus' chief student advocate because of his experience dealing with members of MU's administration in the past. Colleen Hoffmann is Paul's running mate.
"I don't feel that any of the other candidates have the scope that I do," Paul said. "I've met with people across the board on a number of administrative levels."
Paul said his experience as Department of Student Services director, his role on various chancellor's standing committees and his time in the MSA Senate have all sufficiently prepared him to be the student body's best advocate to the administration.
"There's not going to be a learning curve of any kind for me if I'm elected," Paul said.
Paul also added something to his platform that he said students have been asking for: a breakdown of student fees that would more effectively show students where their money was going.
"We'd like to give students a better idea of what they're paying for by creating a fee schedule which would hopefully lead to an opt-out on some of these fees," Paul said.
Paul said he would work with the City Council, and specifically said he wants to work to get city services to Greektown and East Campus to clean up those areas, neither of which is MU property.
"Lindsey and I will always put the students' needs first," MSA presidential candidate Joe Fessehaye said about his and running mate Lindsey Abell's plans for student advocacy if elected in November.
Fessehaye said he and Abell were willing to fight for students' needs, even if it means going against administrators' wishes or requests.
"That is a length we are willing to go to for the students," Fessehaye said. "At the end of the day, we are students and the students voted us in, not the administrators. We have to put the students first."
Fessehaye and Abell hope to effectively advocate students' needs by maintaining professional relationships with the UM system Board of Curators.
Fessehaye said when he is approached with a student issue, he will find the appropriate curator and handle the issue as soon as possible.
Even when there are not pressing student issues, Fessehaye said he and Abell plan to continue regular communication with the curators to maintain a good relationship for when there are specific issues to discuss.
Fessehaye said he and Abell do not have plans to work with the City Council, but they are willing if necessary.
Ask the experts
Tony Luetkemeyer, student representative to the Board of Curators and a former MSA president, discussed the plans the candidates have for student advocacy.
Leutkemeyer said he felt Williams' plan to take herself out of the equation when advocating for students wouldn't be the correct course of action for an MSA president.
"The MSA president has to exercise independent judgment when advocating for students and deciding which issues to present to administration," Luetkemeyer said.
However, Luetkemeyer said he did agree Williams should advocate on a campus level.
Luetkemeyer said he didn't totally agree with Paul's statement he would not face a learning curve if elected.
"I think there are certainly things, such as previous experience in MSA, that can lessen the learning curve," Luetkemeyer said. "But, the reality is being the leader of the student government is different that any positions candidates may have held before."
Luetkemeyer said he didn't agree Fessehaye should go directly to the curators when presented with an issue. He said instead, the MSA president should go to the chancellor or a vice chancellor before presenting something to the curators.
"It's important to understand that the MSA president is a campus-level advocate for students," Luetkemeyer said. "He's not a system level advocate and certainly not a curators-level advocate."