MSA presidential candidates talk platforms on KCOU
All three presidential candidates would like to see Planned Parenthood contracts reinstated with MU.
Oct. 28, 2015
The three Missouri Students Association presidential candidates were guests on KCOU’s “The Student Voice” on Wednesday in their final public appearance together before voting begins. Candidates Syed Ejaz, Haden Gomez and Jordan McFarland sat down with hosts Jack Herrick of The Maneater and Kasey Carlson of KCOU to discuss their platforms and current campus issues.
All three candidates say they wish to advocate for marginalized students on campus and believe the administration could do more to address the recent string of discriminatory events that have occurred, such as the experiences of current MSA President Payton Head and the Legion of Black Collegians Homecoming royalty with racism.
“What I think that we’re getting into a dangerous cycle of is that you’re seeing an incident followed by outrage … and then a PR move,” McFarland said. “We need more activism. We need to be participating in the movements that students are organically starting. They want to see the chancellor, they want to see (UM System President) Tim Wolfe, respond as a person, not as a political talking head.”
“When it comes to social justice movements that affects the students, there’s really no reason why the MSA president or anyone in MSA shouldn’t be supporting these things.” – Haden Gomez
Ejaz said the “kneejerk response from the administration is to make sure that the university doesn’t look bad.” While there is utility in that, he said, like keeping donors happy and admissions numbers up, this results in a lack of action. Ejaz said the biggest asset students have is their voice.
The candidates all said they have participated in social justice events while at MU, including the recent sit-in at Jesse Hall and last year’s MU4MikeBrown rally. They believe participation in campus activism is an important role of the MSA president.
Gomez said that there is no reason MSA needs to keep the same narrative as the administration when it comes to social justice issues.
“When it comes to social justice movements that affects the students, there’s really no reason why the MSA president or anyone in MSA shouldn’t be supporting these things,” Gomez said.
The candidates are also all in favor of the proposed diversity course requirement. They cited small discussion groups, a core curriculum and relating class content to campus life as components they would like to see in the course.
Changing the election season
Part of McFarland/Segers’ platform is changing the MSA election from November to April. They propose a special election to decide if the president and vice president will serve four months or a year and four months when in transition to the new election date. Ejaz and Gomez said they are in support of the idea but think there are factors to consider when changing the election date, such as how the transition will occur.
The McFarland/Segers’ campaign also wishes to change the name of MSA to the Student Government Association, which is in line with other Southeastern Conference schools. Gomez said he is in favor of the name change but has concerns.
“MSA has been marketed so heavily here; you can walk around this campus and see it everywhere,” Gomez said. “We have so many places on campus where MSA is marketed … and it would be a huge endeavor to go through and just replace all those things.”
Ejaz said he is not in favor of the name change because the name “Missouri Students Association” best represents the role of MSA.
“We’re not as much as a government as much as we are just a democratically elected interest group for the students,” Ejaz said. “All we can really do is issue the student opinion and then provide services in exchange for a fee. That’s an interest group. That’s not a government.”
In Monday’s debate, Ejaz said that he would like to make Memorial Union more accessible to students. On “The Student Voice,” he called accessibility on campus “pretty poor” and said that pushing for better accessibility is the only logical course of action.
Gomez said that according to Vice Chancellor of Operations Gary Ward, there has never been a big push by students to put a ramp on Memorial Union. It is not an issue of funding, Gomez said, just a matter of advocacy.
McFarland agreed that funding was not an issue. Instead, he said, it was a matter of getting through red tape because Memorial Union and other buildings are chartered as historical buildings.
“It’s actually very hard, physically, to get changes made to Memorial Union,” McFarland said. “But as far as some things like motorized doors there’s literally no reason why we can’t do that. I don’t think the aesthetic change would be that noticeable.”
Graduate Student Rights
All three candidates said they have attended events related to graduate student rights. Ejaz said that everyone involved in MSA should have marched with the graduate students to show their solidarity.
“Whenever there’s a problem we tend to just pass a piece of paper saying, ‘We support you’ and then we fail to go further because we worry about the politics and PR of that,” Ejaz said. “It’s time to not do that anymore.”
Gomez said his platform advocates for better communication between MU administration and students.
“(Graduate students) found out about their health care through Twitter and they recently found out that it was reinstated for the next year through Twitter,” Gomez said. “It shouldn’t be a social media issue. It should be something I’m actually getting a letter about or an email or something actually giving me this tangible information.”
McFarland says that health care cannot be a political asset.
“It can’t be taken away and given back,” he said. “Students want to be treated as human beings.”
Multiple agreements were canceled in September between MU health care and Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri that had allowed graduate students to receive training at the clinic in Columbia. On Oct. 21, MU health care announced that it will enter new contracts with Planned Parenthood. All three candidates are in favor of the reinstatement of these contracts.
“I think that the student body should support reinstating those those contracts just because it gives access to education,” Ejaz said. “Just on that principle alone, I think the contracts should be there.”
Gomez said politics were involved in the decision to end contracts with Planned Parenthood, and MU was forced to choose between cutting ties with Planned Parenthood or risking their own funding being restricted.
“It is extremely disappointing that we would cut funding to something that was more of an educational matter than it was any political matter,” Gomez said.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a policy that allows certain undocumented immigrants a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation if they entered the U.S. before June 2007 and before they turned 16. There are currently two DACA students on campus. This past summer, Missouri House Bill 3 was passed, which caused DACA students to lose in-state tuition.
At the first debate, the Ejaz/Parrie slate didn’t directly address a question about DACA and McFarland/Segers and Gomez/Hanner discussed childcare and student parents instead.
“I think after the first debate, everybody here did a little bit of education on this,” Ejaz said.
Ejaz said that taking away in-state tuition from DACA students was done purely as a political move and that they should be eligible for in-state tuition.
McFarland said disallowing students access to scholarships and accommodations based on their immigration status was institutional prejudice.
“This is an area where we can’t allow the institution to decide who is and isn’t eligible,” McFarland said.
Gomez said it was “deplorable” that the university would take away in-state tuition from students because of their DACA status.
“If they were living in Missouri, if they meet those requirements that the university puts out, they should be an in-state student,” Gomez said.
Voting for the presidential elections will take place from 5 p.m. Nov. 9 to 5 p.m. Nov. 11.