The Maneater

Sean Earl and Tori Schafer share their journey to MSA leadership

Sean Earl: “We decided to run after all of the drama because we saw a lot of our friends and our peers hurting. (We saw) how much a group of individuals could tarnish an entire association that represents over 27,000 students.”

Hot Box Cookies was the first place Sean Earl stopped Wednesday night after hearing the results of the Missouri Students Association special election. Once he ordered a cookie and calmed his nerves, Earl made an important phone call to New Hampshire to tell his mother that he was going to be the next MSA president.

The route Earl and his running mate Tori Schafer took to become the president and vice president of MSA was a nontraditional one. After a brief special campaign season, Earl and Schafer were announced as the victors of MSA’s special election on March 4.

Earl and Schafer will have their work cut out for them as the next leaders of MSA. In addition to appointing a new executive cabinet and acquainting themselves with an almost entirely new set of committee chairs, Earl and Schafer will be charged with the task of repairing MSA’s damaged reputation.

“Right now, MSA is at rock bottom,” Earl said. “I think it was necessary for Tori and I to be elected because we have that knowledge of how MSA works. We know where the kinks are (and) we know where the issues are.”

Despite the long road ahead, Earl is optimistic about the future of MSA.

Earl said a large part of rebuilding MSA will be transparency. He plans on strengthening MSA’s relationship with KCOU and MUTV and reforming the Department of Student Communications position into an entire committee. Earl said he hopes these changes will show students what MSA can truly do for them and inspire more of them to get involved.

Earl also said he plans to create monthly “town hall meetings” where students can bring their ideas and opinions to MSA in an informal setting. Currently, any student can speak at a full Senate meeting, but Earl said this is often too intimidating for students.

“We’re hoping that the town hall will be more of a safe space environment where people can have those kinds of conversations and feel like they’re not under pressure,” Earl said.

Earl and Schafer’s journey to the executive office began during the full Senate meeting Feb. 24 when former President-elect Haden Gomez and Vice President-elect Chris Hanner resigned.

“We decided to run after all of the drama because we saw a lot of our friends and our peers hurting,” Earl said. “(We saw) how much a group of individuals could tarnish an entire association that represents over 27,000 students. We wanted to get back to what we came into when we first started in MSA and that was the true spirit of service, advocacy and representing our fellow Tigers.”

In the direct aftermath of the meeting, it was uncertain who would take part in the special election. Earl, a sophomore, said he originally didn’t want to run for MSA president because he considered it a role better suited for an upperclassman. After discussing the situation in detail with Schafer, the pair decided that this was the time.

Earl and Schafer then began an impromptu campaign — a process that was made more difficult by the quick pace of the special election. Both candidates said they relied heavily on their staff during the election, which was made up of MSA members and newcomers alike.

“I think our graphics got done in four days,” Schafer said. “Everything was really quick and we had a lot of dedicated people and students who really wanted to see change work for us and work hard to get the campaign where it needed to be in order for us to win.”

Earl and Schafer became friends while serving on the Operations Committee as freshmen. They had originally planned to running in an MSA presidential election at the beginning of next year, but Schafer said that the problems that she and Earl saw in MSA last semester “sped their plans a couple months forward."

“(My relationship to Sean in Senate) was very conflictual, but at the same time, we always knew that the other one was working for what we thought was the best for our organization and the student body,” Schafer said. “Through that we gained a mutual respect for each other. Ever since freshman year, Sean and I have had such a great working relationship and also such a great friendship.”

Moving forward, Earl believes MSA won’t tolerate members who are only searching for a golden name tag and corner office. “(What happened last November) just seemed very messy, and it’s not what MSA is about,” Earl said. “I think a lot of those individuals, just off of new leadership have left. (The) last election was the last phase of transitioning the group out that is focused on the titles and ambition.”

Edited by Waverly Colville | wcolville@themaneater.com

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