With the summer nearing its end, the Minnesota Student Association is prepping for the upcoming school year by establishing new goals.
The student association plans to continue focusing on issues they worked on last year — like improving students’ awareness of sexual assault — while also bringing forward new ideas that aim to increase collaboration among members and the student body.
MSA members are holding focus groups in August to facilitate conversations about campus sexual assault. They plan to include men involved in the University’s Greek community and athletics department. The discussions are set to expand this fall by including more men on campus.
MSA’s Vice President John Reichl said sometimes the conversations surrounding sexual assault aren’t always inclusive. He said the focus groups will open up the discussion in attempt to raise everyone’s awareness.
“A lot of the times, the sexual assault conversation is very one-sided,” he said. “Myself as a male, I don’t really know a lot about the intricacies of the issue, and I’m not as knowledgeable as I’d like to be.”
The focus groups will also include talks of bystander intervention, an important facet of addressing the issue, said MSA’s communication director Drew Coveyou.
Along with hosting the focus groups, Reichl said MSA wants at least one member from each fraternity to receive training from the University’s Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education to ensure every house has a member who’s knowledgeable on the subject.
Another national issue MSA members said they would like to address this year is students’ financial literacy.
“We’re trying to educate students on … really understanding what the consequences of taking out student loans are,” President Joelle Stangler said.
She said MSA wants to partner with the University’s One Stop office to increase students’ awareness of debt and the financial aid options available.
Increased collaboration, accountability
MSA also hopes to improve communication among its members and with other student groups this year.
Abeer Syedah, ranking at-large representative, said this year, she would like MSA to be more inclusive of other student groups on campus and involve them in projects.
She said it’s important to build bridges with other student groups, adding that she wants MSA to reach out to student groups rather than expecting groups to come to them.
By doing this, students will hopefully become more aware of the issues MSA is working on, said MSA Chief of Staff Emma Mazour, and give them the opportunity to weigh in on topics.
To ensure the student association completes its projects, MSA created a committee for the coming year that will review the performance of each of its executive board members at the end of each semester, Mazour said.
“We didn’t have a process to hold our members accountable [in the past],” Stangler said.
The committee will make sure MSA’s officers, who are receiving stipends, are doing their jobs, Mazour said.
Group members also met in mid-July at a leadership retreat to review MSA’s $160,000 budget for 2014-2015 school year. Stangler said they went through the budget line-by-line.
Last year, she said one MSA member brought up concerns about voting on a budget that members had not previously reviewed.
This year, Stangler said MSA would like to eliminate any confusion regarding their budget and allow members to ask questions about it.
“We are now a leadership that knows where the budget is — we can talk intelligently about it,” she said. “We know why these certain things are priorities.”
Members said holding the retreat in July was helpful in narrowing down the main issues the group wants to address this school year.
“I think the change in addressing [goals] early on is going to really help that we are seeing all of our projects through and producing better results, hopefully, and building on what we did last year,” said Fiona Cummings, MSA’s speaker of the forum, who also served as the vice president last year.