Letter to the Editor: MSA participation is up to the electorate, not the elected

MSA senator Jeffrey Ford shares his opinion on MSA senate elections.

I’d like to take this opportunity to respond to the opinion column published in the Nov. 14, 2018 edition of The Maneater titled, “Your vote mattered in the midterm elections, but not the MSA senate race,” by Abigail Ruhman.

My name is Jeffrey Ford, a senator serving in the Missouri Students Association representing the College of Arts and Science, a first year transfer student and a junior majoring in geography. I am not representing MSA or speaking for the MU student body as I write, I am speaking only for myself as a fellow student. I joined the MSA because I, like many, feel a calling to be involved in representative government – to actively participate in the discussion and decision making.

It’s not a matter of fair elections. With more than 600 clubs and organizations on campus, MSA must compete for participants among students who belong to several organizations as well as their academics. Those who have the time and calling to serve, and this is service mind you, seek out MSA. Undergraduates are all members of MSA and it is the responsibility and duty for us each to be advocates. MSA is only the mechanism by which to do so. By placing all the burden on MSA and specifically the senate is not only unfair, but unjust.

“All meetings of committees, commissions, departments or other sub-agencies with the Association governmental structure and meeting of Association recognized organizations must be open to the public,” according to The Constitution of Missouri Students Association, Article XI, Open Meetings. In my experience joining MSA this past fall, there were advertisements, applications, orientations and even a mock Senate meeting, which was covered by The Maneater. Ample opportunity is afforded to every member to participate. Can we do better recruitment and retention, better communication of the work we do? Of course, and we shall. It seems to the writer of the column to which I respond, we are not making our membership aware of our work. Seeing as not one single aspect of efforts was ever mentioned in the article, I personally find that unfair.

If there are only 80 seats and 80 good people who want to serve, then it is still 80 good people. At least we know they are people who really want to be there (all meetings are mandatory for all senators). In the case of the MSA Senate, each committee has members who are not of the Senate as well as senators that meet bi-weekly. Each member brings forth ideas, issues and comments on ongoing projects or issues that need attention. Also, each committee several times per year invites key faculty members to appear and give presentations several times per year whereby there is a good discussion by all parties. In addition, high level faculty are invited to appear before the full Senate meetings, also bi-weekly (full Senate and Committees alternate weeks). Such faculty who have presented include Chancellor Cartwright, Provost Latha Ramchand, Vice Provost Jim Spain, Mike Sokoff, director of parking and transportation, Gary L. Ward, vice chancellor for operations and Tiffany Bowman, Wellness Resource Center coordinator, just to name a few.

The student body of undergraduates are ultimately responsible for participation in MSA, should they choose to be and at whatever level they are able. The best way to do this is via OrgSync, where everyone will equally be advised of seat openings, elections, legislation and all issues under consideration by MSA. Twitter and other social media, even The Maneater either on the web or in print, are not to be relied upon for official election information as they are incidental. Constitutionally the Legislative Branch of MSA Senate has a Board of Elections Commission. The BEC does not have the power nor the direction to advertise elections. One thing I can say as a member of the Operations Committee is that we are very careful in carrying out the duties mandated by the Constitution.

Those of us in MSA spend many long hours working on the challenges facing our campus. Personally, I would love nothing more than to have our meetings busting at the seams with students looking to serve, to make a difference and to have a say in our combined experience. The column to which I respond is correct in pointing out that we do need participation, diversity, broad scope and greater representation of the entire student body. I agree we can and must do better, even though I am contentious of the conclusions made.

Every member of MSA (the entire undergraduate class) is encouraged to participate, run as a senator, sit on committees, present legislation, speak or bring agenda items to be heard. While we can, as MSA, do better at making the organization known to as many members as possible, it is ultimately up to each member to seek out information via OrgSync or by going to the Student Union on the second floor during business hours and get information should they choose to be involved. I am the first to admit, as a new student, I am thoroughly disappointed to see the lack of participation within all facets of our student government. This does not mean MSA Senate is not filled with the very best MU has to offer, we only need for MU to offer more of us. I must re-emphasise the lack of participation of the body as a whole should not reflect negatively on those who have decided to serve nor, does it mean the whole is not well represented by the part.

Can we do better? I will say this: with issues we face as MU students and citizens of the world, we must do better, we can do better because we are better. That’s why we are here at MU. That’s why I’m here.

Full Senate meets 6 p.m. every other Tuesday in the Student Union Leadership Auditorium. When not in full session the following meet on Tuesday: Academic Affairs: 7 p.m. in room 2204 of the Student Center

Budget: 7 p.m. in room 2203 of the Student Center

Campus Affairs: 7 p.m. in room 2205A of the Student Center

External Affairs: 7 p.m. in room 1209 A&B of the Student Center

Operations: 8 p.m. in room 2203 of the Student Center

Social Justice: 7 p.m. in room 2205B of the Student Center

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