MSA creates a petition system to reconnect with students

MSA will issue an official opinion on any concern that receives at least 50 signatures.

Students now have the option to directly petition the Missouri Students Association about any issue, according to a new bylaw passed during the March 16 full Senate meeting. The legislation’s author, former Senate Speaker Kevin Carr, said he hopes this will change the way MSA interacts with the student body and increase transparency within the association.

Carr’s legislation requires MSA to issue an official opinion on any concern brought to Senate if it is accompanied by a petition that has been signed by at least 50 undergraduate students. Prior to this legislation, students could speak to individual senators, but no system existed that required senators to address those concerns.

Senator and co-author Saad Malik said this is an important change to the bylaws because it allows students to ensure MSA takse a stance on issues they may not otherwise discuss. He said that students can still speak with individual senators about their concerns, but that this legislation offers an “extra avenue” for students to have their voices heard.

Malik said the new legislation could also benefit senators whose opinions were unheard. This legislation will keep ideas from being “killed in committee” by allowing a different way for legislation to reach full senate, where it will be subject to multiple points of view.

“If somebody comes to me with an issue I hope that I could be able to pick it up and do something with it,” Malik said. “Given a circumstance where I couldn’t, this would be another route to get that onto the agenda.”

Carr began drafting his legislation last semester after MSA’s inaction with issues, such as concealed carry on campus and MU’s severed ties with Planned Parenthood. Carr said both issues were “talked about heavily” but eventually tabled because Senate did not want to appear controversial.

“(Senate) got caught up in semantics rather than the purpose of it,” Carr said. “We allowed ourselves to remain silent because of minor details.”

The number of signatures needed has been a point of debate since the legislation’s first reading in Senate on Feb. 24. Some senators thought a high number would deter students from petitioning or stop them from coming to MSA.

Before the legislation reappeared at full Senate on March 16, Carr and his co-authors changed the constitutional amendment to a bylaw and reduced the required number of signatures from 100 to 50.

Malik said finding the right number of signatures is a “balancing act” but added that a set number is necessary to keep MSA from having to deal with “frivolous concerns.” He said that changing the act to a bylaw will allow the required number of signatures to be changed more easily and help Senate ensure that this balance is maintained in the future.

MSA’s next step will be promoting the petition system to students, a task Carr said he would like to see MSA work effectively in the future. Carr said he is worried that this legislation will “remain hidden and silent” if MSA doesn’t start promoting itself as an organization by using its connections on campus.

“We want to be able to use (those) contacts and resources to the average student’s benefit,” Car said. “We need to start working on that message of how we can transfer our time and resources to student advocacy more effectively.”

Edited by Waverly Colville | wcolville@themaneater.com

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