MSA slates debate campus safety, advocacy, internal changes

The next MSA debate is scheduled for Nov. 6 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
MSA Presidential candidate Jordan McFarland speaks Monday, Oct. 27, 2014 at the MU Student Center. Each candidate was allowed time to answer questions and promote their campaign. The election will be held Nov. 10-12.

The Missouri Students Association’s Board of Elections Commissioners hosted the first MSA presidential debate Monday night in The Shack. The three slates gave their opinions and described their platforms on various issues.

The three slates are juniors Myles Artis and Mary Cate O’Brien, juniors Payton Head and Brenda Smith-Lezama, and sophomores Jordan McFarland and T.J. Hinch.

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs, MSA Senate Speaker Benjamin Bolin and Residence Halls Association President Steven Chaffin moderated the debate.

Debate Questions

What is the role of student government and what will you do to educate the campus body?

All slates agreed that a student government’s main priority is to address the issues concerning students, and that it should be transparent by reaching out and talking with students.

Head/Smith-Lezama said that they want to visit the student organizations that are left out of conversations.

McFarland/Hinch said they want to create a more open culture in student government, where it’s acceptable to ask questions.

Artis/O’Brien said they want students to “Join In,” like their slogan says, and unite to give students the best MU experience possible.

What would happen if you had to cut two percent from the MSA budget?

All the slates agreed that education should be prioritized when making budget cuts. McFarland/Hinch and Artis/O’Brien said they would take cuts to their salaries, while Head/Smith-Lezama did not think that should become a precedent. Hinch said he would donate his entire salary of $5,000 to MSA to help offset budget deficits.

McFarland added cuts should be taken from MSA first instead of cutting education spending.

Artis/O’Brien said they would work with different organizations on campus to determine where they would need money most, then make cuts from there.

Head/Smith-Lezama said cutting salaries is noble, but added that many students work to support themselves, so it shouldn’t become a habit for the future. What unique issues do you think students living in the residence halls face?

Each slate brought up different issues when addressing the problems faced in residence halls.

Artis/O’Brien said that they wanted to have more diverse dining options so multicultural students or students with dietary needs feel comfortable. They also would like to make sure off-campus freshmen feel included.

McFarland/Hinch mentioned gender-neutral housing as an issue. They agreed with Artis/O’Brien on the issue of needing more food that addresses the unique needs of every student.

Head/Smith-Lezama said they wanted to continue to collaborate with RHA, and work on improving the state of the laundry facilities in residence halls.

McFarland/Hinch are asked about being the youngest candidates running in recent MSA history

They said that issues affect all students, not just juniors.

“You shouldn’t have to be a junior or fit a certain list of criteria to be a leader on campus,” McFarland said during the debate. “You should feel like you should be able to walk in and voice your opinion the same as anyone else. We want to have these conversations that other students have on a daily basis.”

There was no rebuttal from either of the other slates.

“No one expects us to win this election,” McFarland said after the debate. “But we truly believe that we can. We want to win over students who don’t know us. Our hope coming in was that students would listen. And while there’s always room for improvement, I think all of the slates got out a lot of great ideas.”

To the Artis/O'Brien slate: You both resigned from past MSA positions. How will you handle a position shift in your cabinet?

Artis/O’Brien said they would go through the interview process to see who would best fit the position. Artis said that when he left Chief of Staff, he went through an interview process to see who would step into his former role, so he would continue this precedent.

“We will see who is passionate and ready to work,” Artis said. “It’s challenging to be an executive member of MSA so we will look for an individual who is willing and ready to take the reins of the position that is handed to them.”

There was no rebuttal from McFarland/Hinch or Head/Smith-Lezama.

To the Head/Smith-Lezama slate: Will your previous experience in social justice advocacy influence your priorities?

The slate has diversity as a big part of their campaign, and said they believe it is a huge part of Mizzou. Head revamped the Social Justice Committee, and Smith-Lezama was a senator for the committee.

“A lot of times, I have been hearing that people say I am just going to put diversity on my platform, and nothing else,” Head said. “But the way I see it, Mizzou is diversity.”

The Artis/O’Brien and McFarland/Hinch slates had no rebuttal.

The vice presidential candidates are asked how they will value transparency throughout the budgeting process.

All slates agreed that transparency is very important to them.

Artis/O’Brien said they want to let people know where the budget money goes and to work with different groups to find out where the biggest needs are.

Head/Smith-Lezama said they plan to run a completely transparent campaign. They will work with the Budget Committee and chairperson and all proposals should be shared with them.

McFarland/Hinch said they want to open up the budget on a Google document and adjusting it “as a team,” involving auxiliaries in the process. They said they value transparency very highly.

What are your advocacy plans in Jefferson City?

Artis/O’Brien said a main point in their platform is student safety and creating a safer campus, which they hope to spread to the state level.

“Making a more safe campus is what is needed to have students experience the full Mizzou experience,” Artis said. “Our campus is supposed to be a safe haven for all students.”

Head/Smith-Lezama said they will advocate political involvement at the state level among students and encourage students to care more. By being so close to the capital, Mizzou students have an unique opportunity to get involved with politics at a state level, Head said.

McFarland/Hinch said that sexual assault is a priority on the state level for their platform. They want students to know that Title IX policies are in place outside of just the mass emails. They would like to make legislative pressure at the state level, McFarland said.

Follow @TheManeater on Twitter for more updates. The next MSA presidential debate is Thursday, Nov. 6 at 5:30-7:30 p.m. and will be hosted by Four Front Minority Council and The Maneater.

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