Column: Special election will set a precedent

Students’ trust towards MSA is about to be tested once again.

The upcoming Missouri Students Association special election is more than merely voting for whomever the MU student body wishes to be president; it will make or break the fragile trust MU students have toward student government.

After Haden Gomez and Chris Hanner resigned and Payton Head was appointed interim president, the Senate decided a special election was the next step toward a strong and stable student government. Phrases like “a fresh start” and “a new beginning” have been floating around the campus as students hope for stability.

However, if this wish is not met with a successful outcome, there may hardly be any hope left. Consequently, this special election is MSA’s last chance to build up a student government worthy of the trust and respect of the students it serves. Otherwise, the damage of the past several months has the power to disintegrate the entire reputation and effectiveness of MSA.

MSA has failed to display proper leadership since the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year, which has set a low precedent for MSA’s ability to improve the MU campus. For instance, there were opportunities where the Gomez/Hanner slate could have been removed from the election due to infractions.

The Pocket Points notification supporting the Gomez/Hanner slate was filed as a major infraction. Additionally, the Board of Elections Commissioners filed a minor infraction towards Gomez/Hanner because of a mass text message sent by campaign manager Natalie Edelstein asking friends to vote for Gomez/Hanner. This stunt put the campaign at risk of a second major infraction, which would have led to the removal of Gomez/Hanner. The BEC decided it was a minor infraction since Edelstein wasn’t formally a part of the slate, and there was insufficient evidence that either Gomez or Hanner knew of the mass text Edelstein sent.

That is not true leadership. Blindly following the book and not thoroughly questioning the people who have the potential to be president and vice president of our campus is not enough when it comes to fulfilling the greater good. In this case, going by the book was taken advantage of and hurt the MU campus. The lack of strength and skepticism displayed by the BEC and MSA is partly to blame for the embarrassment of Gomez/Hanner’s resignation.

I respect the “innocent until proven guilty,” attitude of the BEC, however, the benefit of doubt given to the Gomez/Hanner slate was slightly absurd because despite the infractions handed to Gomez and Hanner, their messages were already sent. The publicity the campaign gained could not be taken away despite minor punishment, which ultimately made their entire campaign unfair.

The past semester came with multiple unanticipated challenges, but that must not be used as an excuse for how unorganized and soft-spined the MSA election was. If Edelstein’s mass text would have received a major infraction rather than a minor one, Gomez/Hanner would have been removed from the election, saving MU from the process of the upcoming special election.

It is of the utmost importance that the special election is treated with seriousness. The special election needs to be done swiftly, smoothly and sternly. No benefit of the doubt can be given this time around, and communication with students needs to be more open. Students are shying away from being an informed and active voice in student government because of this past election, which is inexcusable.

The precedent that MSA has been setting so far this year needs to be improved, and if the special election does not set a better example, the trust in student government may be misplaced and broken more than this campus can afford.

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