Letter to the Editor: Do better, MSA
Student activist Hannah Feagan expresses her frustration with MSA Senate.
Feb. 03, 2016
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As I sat in the Senate Chamber on the night of Jan. 27, palms sweating, face reddened by anger, I couldn’t believe my eyes. At 7:43 p.m., upon being asked if Haden Gomez would accept his inauguration as Missouri Students Association president, he responded, simply: “Yes, absolutely.”
And that’s the problem. Entitlement is the problem.
Had Haden Gomez and Christopher Hanner walked into that MSA full Senate meeting and said: “We recognize what we did was wrong. We compromised our personal integrity, the integrity of the Missouri Students Association and Mizzou as an institution. We messed up, big time. We failed you, Mizzou; for these reasons, we resign effective immediately as President and Vice President of the student body. We are sorry.” This meeting would have gone much differently. It could have been a calm and productive discussion on how MSA could institute election reform, change their by-laws, their constitution and ultimately on how to rebuild a once-esteemed organization after being sullied by scandal.
But that’s not what happened — instead, it took four and a half hours of utter chaos before these two men gained an ounce of self-awareness and moved forward with resignation.
Everyone is walking on eggshells around this issue — particularly those who have made Facebook posts detailing that what happened in senate wasn’t much of a hearing at all, it was a “public execution.” Not only is this term incredibly, overtly offensive to students of color whose family ancestries are bloodied with the harsh realities of Jim Crow-era lynching, but it offers zero accountability for those who do not simply hold positions of power — but were proven to have cheated their way into those positions. Why are you so committed to respectability rather than listening to the concerns of the constituents you claim to represent?
The phrase I’ve heard most, from Haden Gomez himself and countless others, is that he and Chris Hanner are human beings. This is obviously true. They are living, breathing and complex people who are absolutely capable of stumbling, of imperfection; just like any other human. On that same note, some of the information brought up in open forum wasn’t entirely pertinent. Some of it probably shouldn’t have been said at all. But, to be frank, I don’t care and neither does a majority of the student body. Those non-pertinent issues and experiences were brought up to exemplify an utter lack of moral fiber from the individuals who lied to secure the two highest positions in undergraduate student government. They are human, sure, but I don’t think being human suddenly justifies compromising the democratic process in the name of updating your LinkedIn.
Humans are rational, intelligent beings. Attempting to steal an election, failing to erase the electronic receipts proving such and believing that you could fool the entire student body was, well, naïve. It was irrational. It was imprudent — and it was what brought the Gomez/Hanner slate’s short-lived tenure as President and Vice President-elect to an end. This is just another example of how money and entitlement have corrupted democracy to such an extent that even collegiate politics aren’t isolated from their influences. The fact that MSA was initially unwilling to fight for Mizzou’s student body, knowing all of this, is completely absurd.
I first want to acknowledge and thank those senators who were fighting for us, the undergraduate students who desperately want our government to be reasonable. There aren’t many of you but you know exactly who you are, so thank you. You’re doing the important work that others were too scared or too inconvenienced to do. You deserve more recognition for refusing to take the easy way out than you’ll ever get. Breathe, fight and repeat, y’all. You can do this.
I can’t say the same for most of MSA — I was personally appalled by how many senators reacted to this controversy. Giving each of them the benefit of the doubt prior to Jan. 27, I hoped they would rally behind legislation that nullified the election or actively move forward with impeachment proceedings. Instead, I got respectability, cowardice and an utter lack of recognition of who these people actually represent. Many of them looked outwardly annoyed that students had chosen to participate in MSA processes and voice their experiences in full senate.
If you claim to represent the study body but are unwilling to listen to student concerns, you do not deserve to be an MSA senator. If you care more about your résumé than the student body, you do not deserve to be an MSA senator. If you are a rule-follower who refuses to recognize and fix a blatantly broken system (aka MSA’s bylaws, constitution and the BEC Handbook), you do not deserve to be an MSA senator. If you don’t fight for justice and inclusion, you do not deserve to be an MSA senator. If you instead choose to stand behind and support corrupt ex-members of student government because it is easier, more convenient and makes your future look oh-so-much-brighter, you do not deserve to be an MSA Senator. If you are reading this and feel even the slightest twinge of guilt, then you’re part of the problem and I’m speaking for many, many students when I say that we are absolutely tired of your lack-luster representation. Do better.
I don’t care about your guilt, I don’t care about your involvement; I care that you’re a decent person who genuinely cares for the student body and its best interests. Voting for convenience was not what was best for the student body on Jan. 27, but many of you unfortunately forgot that. Many of you proved that you don’t deserve your senate seat. Many of you think that eyes are no longer focused on you because this was all about Gomez and Hanner, who already resigned, so why would you be in the spotlight? It should just take time for the student body to stop caring so that MSA can lean back and have carte blanche again, right?
If you think this, you’re painfully incorrect. Angry and informed Mizzou students are here to stay. If you want to improve the system, take a seat and get comfortable, because there’s a lot of work ahead of you. All eyes are on you, MSA. Do better.
Hannah Feagan, Student Activist firstname.lastname@example.org