MSA presidential candidates square off in first debate

Vice presidential candidates were questioned on their ability to manage the MSA budget.

The first debate between the three slates running for the Missouri Student Association presidency was held Wednesday evening.

The candidates were asked specific questions on their platforms and how they planned to work for students if elected Nov. 8.

Three sets of running mates participated in the debate Tuesday night: Josh Travis and Michelle Horan; Eric Woods and Emily Moon; and Ben Hansen and Kaitlin Oxenreider.

One issue debated extensively was the vice presidential candidate’s ability to effectively manage the $1.3 million MSA budget.

Moon said she is someone who does not solve problems by herself, but rather turns to those with expertise and experience with whatever task she is working on.

“I have become as knowledgeable as possible for budgeting,” Moon said.

Moon said she has been trying to learn about the MSA budget in her time campaigning by sitting in on MSA Budget Committee meetings, meeting with MSA Budget Committee Chairman Matt Sheppard and attending Student Fee Review Committee meetings.

If elected, Moon said she would like to establish an endowment fund for MSA.

“We would be able to invest money to return interest every year,” Moon said.

Moon also said with this fund, MSA would most likely eventually be able to sustain itself, therefore eliminating student fee support of the student government.

Horan said she sees MSA as a business and that she plans to treat it as such. In response to Moon’s idea to eventually eliminate student fees, Horan said such a thing is not a simple task. Her plan is to coordinate with student organizations to determine who is most in need of funding. She also wants to cut back on anything not cost-effective, specifically mentioning MSA's The Jungle student tailgate spot.

“We have our eye on The Jungle," Horan said. “We’ll cut costs if attendance does not improve.”

Horan said she and Travis will advocate for more funding for STRIPES, MU's safe-ride program.

Oxenreider said her budget experience comes from the Department of Student Services, of which she is currently the director. She said she also has experience dealing with money from serving as the Fundraising Chairwoman for Relay for Life and Little Sisters of the Gold Rose.

“When we deal with the budget for MSA, it works from the bottom up,” Oxenreider said. “The budget is viewed very carefully before it gets to the vice president.”

Diversity and segregation on campus, specifically pertaining to Homecoming events, was another issue discussed in the debate. Travis said different groups and ethnicities celebrating Homecoming in different ways was not a problem, but said he believes there are very clear divides on campus based on race, religion and participation in Greek Life which does need attention.

“This speaks to a cultural problem on this campus, one no one really wants to talk about, one no one really listens to when people do talk about it, and one no is willing to stand up and fight for,” Travis said. “Homecoming is just a door to walk into the room when we talk about diversity on this campus.”

Hansen said he did not think having the two Homecomings was a bad thing. He compared homecomings at MU to separate Mardi Gras celebrations in Alabama.

“It’s not different because it has to be, it’s different because of tradition and what’s happened since then, for better or worse,” Hansen said. “So no I don’t think it’s a problem. I do think we can find ways to engage more ethnicities in overall Homecoming events, as well as engage the ethnic majority, such as Caucasians or Hispanics, in events such as the Black Homecoming show.”

Woods said MSA has the duty to facilitate discussions concerning diversity. As far as Homecoming is concerned, Woods said he thinks everyone can eventually come together.

“The separate committees that compose these different ethnic group homecomings should be in contact with each other,” Woods said. “If we’re not quite ready to come together yet, that’s fine, as long as we have some cooperation there.

Moon, who serves on the Homecoming Steering Committee, said students of all ethnicities are welcome to help with the planning and execution of Homecoming.

Another point made in the debate was the lack of awareness students have about MSA and what it does and how communication between MSA and their constituents could be improved.

Hansen said he would like for students to know more about MSA and understand what it does.

“We do care about people knowing that we are here for you and to help,” Hansen said.

Woods said a major problem preventing communication between MSA and students is MSA’s inaccessibility. Woods said students don’t know when and where meetings take place, which halts any possible student involvement.

“Instead of putting ourselves on YouTube, we’re going to put ourselves in meetings,” Woods said. “We want make the students the focal point of MSA. They all deserve to be involved, and we’re going to prove that to them.“

Travis said he wants to make the student government work for the students again. He would like to use technology as a means of communicating with students and said he would deliver an address to the student body via social media sites every two weeks or so.

More debates will be held as the election draws nearer, but no official dates have been set yet.

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