Editorial: From DACA to mental health, MSA candidates should admit to not knowing all the answers

Instead of striving to impress students the most, the three slates are competing over who can upset students the least.

An ideal Missouri Students Association presidential election would include candidates competing with one another to impress students. Unfortunately, it seems to us that this year's election has become a battle of who can upset students the least. What’s even more concerning is this year’s candidates’ willingness to speak about student issues they admittedly know nothing about.

It started with a series of embarrassing responses to a question at the first debate about how they would advocate for the needs of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival students. This federal program protects children of undocumented immigrants who arrive in the U.S. before they turn 16 from the threat of deportation and, in many states, allows them to pursue grants and scholarships and attain in-state tuition rates.

Not in Missouri, however. As a result of Senate Bill 224, students who have obtained lawful presence through DACA are now prevented from participating in the A+ Scholarship Program. In addition, because of a rule change in House Bill 3, the appropriations bill for the Department of Higher Education, in-state tuition is now denied to DACA students.

It should go without saying that this topic should be on the candidates’ radars. At the same time as this campaign is taking place, the university they are seeking to represent is currently being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri over the inflation of tuition rates for DACA students.

So this should be of concern to our candidates, right? After all, the three slates frequently talk about addressing marginalized groups on campus. You’d think that DACA students would be on the candidates’ minds.

Think again.

The McFarland/Segers and Gomez/Hanner slates responded to a question regarding how they would serve DACA students by discussing on-campus childcare for student parents. Ejaz/Parrie answered the question vaguely.

This isn’t the only topic the candidates have blundered on, either.

At the BEC debate Oct. 26, the candidates answered questions on mental health at MU. Among the various vague answers, Gomez chimed in with his take. He argued that students should feel just as comfortable getting help if they have a “broken mind” as they would be seeking help for a broken arm.

Oops.

Gomez’s response elicited a series of angry tweets, and rightly so. Gomez/Hanner, in addition to all the other slates, claim they want to fight the stigma against mental health that exists at MU. Unfortunately for Gomez, however, his effort to alleviate this stigma has proven to be the example of how to exacerbate it.

And that’s the most troubling, reoccurring theme throughout this whole election. It has become a battle of who can make the least amount of mistakes.

We were happy to see McFarland/Segers and Gomez/Hanner admit their lack of knowledge on DACA following the first debate. Still, the right thing to do would have been to admit their ignorance at the start rather than pretending, intentionally or unintentionally, to know what they were talking about.

No one is expecting these candidates to know everything, but we do expect them to admit they don’t know something. It’s OK to admit a lack of knowledge. It’s not OK to have student leaders that pretend to know what they’re talking about on the fly.

So, candidates, enough with the tepid, vague and ignorant responses. Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know enough about an issue. Instead, be honest with yourself and the students you’re seeking to represent.

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