MSA slates talk student involvement, campus connections
Each slate has different ideas as to how to connect the rest of campus with MSA.
Nov. 04, 2014
This week, the Missouri Students Association slates addressed how they want to increase student involvement on campus. Each slate suggested different tactics on how to connect MSA more with students.
Juniors Myles Artis and Mary Cate O’Brien said they hope to unite MSA with other student governments and the student body by being actively involved in events and educating students about ways to get involved on campus.
“We can’t expect students to go to events that we ourselves don’t go to,” O’Brien said. “If MSA goes to different events to support them, other people will follow suit hopefully.”
O’Brien said she wants to create an universal schedule for the student governments to list events so that each government could stay in contact.
“The whole concept of joining in and having everyone on the same page is the true goal,” Artis said.
Artis and O’Brien said they want to work with the student governments to help unite the campus.
“One entity cannot facilitate all the different events,” O’Brien said. “There’s so many different people with different talents. It’s a collective effort to get as many people involved as possible who are passionate about what they do.”
Artis and O’Brien said they hope to work with many different organizations, such as the various resource centers and the MU Equity Office, to implement their program PROWHL (Patrolling the Risk of Walking Home Late).
They also suggested having MSA representatives work closely with Linda Bennett, the Title IX Coordinator.
To address mental health, O’Brien said she wants to work with the MU Counseling Center and student groups who work with mental health issues to promote their events, volunteer opportunities or training sessions.
Artis and O’Brien said they hope to make the campus feel smaller to the large student body by helping students find their niche and providing the resources to make students aware of their opportunities.
“We want to make sure students find a comfortable place on campus that they can go to and can identify with and know this is (their) home,” Artis said.
Although they said there is somewhat of a disconnect between MSA and students because of MU’s size, Artis and O’Brien said they are hoping to communicate more with the student body by increasing visibility.
They want to communicate with social media, email or MSA auxiliaries such as MUTV and KCOU 88.1 FM to raise awareness of MSA.
They also will be physically present by tabling in the MU Student Center and talking with students to hear their concerns.
“MSA is in the (MU) Student Center, but it’s secluded,” O’Brien said. “It should be an open environment where MSA approaches students, not forcing students to seek out MSA.”
Artis said he hopes to keep MSA transparent, and keep students updated by working with MSA Outreach.
“We want to make sure they recognize a face,” Artis said. “We want to let students know we’re your student government. We’re here to be your resource.”
Juniors Payton Head and Brenda Smith-Lezama said they have many ideas they would like to convey to students through their campaign, Ignite Mizzou.
One of these is encouraging students to get more involved with MSA, so they can strengthen their connection with the rest of the campus.
They have started to communicate with students about changes they want made and have put several on their platform. The two have been doing several meet-and-greets with students to figure out what some problems on campus are and how MSA can help them.
Head and Smith-Lezama emphasize the need to communicate with other organizations, and have communication go both ways equally.
Smith-Lezama said that in the past, MSA has done a lot of campaigning to bring people to them, but MSA needs to go to these organizations as much as they need to come to MSA.
“One thing that (Head) and I are very adamant about is the fact that (MSA) needs to stop treating other organizations as being below us,” Head-Lezama said. “I think Head did a really great job of that when he was chairman of the Social Justice Committee.”
Head and Smith-Lezama said they are actively reaching out to students all across campus, and talking to organizations that are typically underrepresented in MSA.
Head said MSA often tends to forget that they target a lot of students who are already involved on campus.
“There’s a big (group) of students we’re not tapping into,” he said. “Their student fees still cover all the services of MSA, but there is that group of students that comes to class every day, then goes home.”
Head and Smith-Lezama said they want to get these students more involved, and one aspect of their plan is more promotion of activities that are going on, Head said.
“Although we’re doing a good job of creating awareness about things going on at Mizzou, there is still so much more we need to do and that we can do,” Smith-Lezama said.
Head and Smith-Lezama pointed to their idea of “Coffee Chats with Cabinet” to create a more welcoming environment in MSA.
Head said they also want to revamp the Department of Student Communications and turn its outreach department into a team of student ambassadors who would be going to different learning communities and talking about what MSA’s different entities and programs offer.
“MSA is everywhere, and there are so many different ways to get involved,” Head said. “If we get students excited about the different programs under MSA … we can definitely make the government more accessible.”
Sophomores Jordan McFarland and T.J. Hinch suggested educating students on MSA through social media, starting by having incoming freshmen follow MSA on different platforms during Summer Welcome.
“If I had a dollar for every time I’ve told people MSA puts on Wednesday and Friday movies, I’d be able to buy myself a lot of Chipotle for a very long time,” McFarland said. “Outreach goes beyond a pamphlet. It’s really important for students to know what MSA does because maybe we can do something for them.”
They also said fostering a relationship between MSA and the Residence Halls Association can get more students involved on campus.
McFarland criticized what he sees as a lack of communication between the two governing bodies.
“There’s always so much talk about sustainability and fluidity and staying connected,” McFarland said. “When was the last time an MSA president went to an RHA Presidents Council, which affects every corner of campus? I could probably count on one finger how many times somebody from MSA came in to an RHA congress last year. When we talk about that Mizzou experience and getting freshmen involved and connecting students to organizations, why don’t we talk about the students who live on campus 24/7?”
McFarland said he and Hinch would draw on their experience in RHA if elected.
“When you look at the three slates, there’s no one more suited than T.J. and I to work with RHA,” McFarland said. “We’ve been in it. I’ve held leadership positions in it. I have a good working relationship with the current president and probably the next one.”
McFarland and Hinch identified getting international students involved and assimilated as something dependent on collaboration with RHA.
McFarland also suggested bringing organizations into the fold with a Diversity Caucus, which would be chaired by the Chief Diversity Officer, Noor Azizan-Gardner, and comprised of representatives from different organizations on campus. Each member would receive a seat in the Senate, and its main purpose would be engaging students.
“You don’t need any more money for it,” McFarland said. “You don’t need any fliers or mass emails. All you need is structure. If you’re serious about activating students, that is a serious structural change that could provide a consistent body and forum for students of diversity-related organizations to be an active part of the decision-making in MSA.”
McFarland and Hinch said they value any student ideas, no matter where they come from, and any student organization, regardless of size.
“If we preach that One Mizzou message, we need to be serious about it,” McFarland said. “One Mizzou implies that one voice is not stronger than 26,000 others. It means that every voice is the same. There are no glorified positions. There are only students working with other students on behalf of the student body to improve student life.”