Candidates weigh in on intensifying MSSA election

The 2017 student senate election is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing and complex in recent memory. The election is now twelve days away and the race is beginning to take shape. The Reporter spoke with both presidential candidates and vice presidential candidates yesterday.

Mavericks Empowering Mavericks

Abdulrahmane Abdul-Aziz and Kayla Cremers are the presidential and vice presidential candidates of Mavericks Empowering Mavericks respectively. Both are currently serving as senators in the 84th senate. Mavericks Empowering Mavericks was the first party to enter the race. According to its Facebook page (“Mavericks Empowering Mavericks”), Mavericks Empowering Mavericks is fielding a total of twenty-six senate candidates. Including the President and Vice President, there are thirty-5two seats in the senate. Abdul-Aziz boasts of the diversity of Mavericks Empowering Mavericks’ senate candidate lineup.

Abdul-Aziz declined to comment on de Ruiter’s campaign, saying that he prefers to focus on his own party’s message. The core of that message, he says, is establishing a senate that reaches out to students.

“We want to serve the students and we want to be able to say that we’re addressing your concerns,” says Abdul-Aziz. “We really want to change up the culture of how senate is. Usually students have to seek us out and we want to change it [so that] we’re going to come to you.”

Abdul-Aziz says that the Mavericks Empowering Mavericks’ campaign strategy, which includes efforts to reach out to registered student organizations (RSOs) in order to receive feedback on the party platform, reflects this ideal. He also notes that Mavericks Empowering Mavericks is proposing the establishment of “Town Hall Tuesdays,” a biweekly or monthly event that would foster communication between students and their senate.

At the core of the Mavericks Empowering Mavericks platform are three goals: improving academic advising, diversifying campus, and prioritizing environmental issues.

Abdul-Aziz expanded on each aspect of his three-point plan. He says that MNSU students deal with numerous problems under the current academic advising system which he hopes to remedy through personalized academic advising. Diversifying campus means increasing enrollment rates for diverse students and fostering collaboration between student senate and international RSOs on campus, he says. In terms of specific environmental initiatives, he points to creating more green spaces on campus and starting a composting program.

“It’s all within the name: Mavericks Empowering Mavericks,” says Abdul-Aziz. “We want to empower Mavericks for success. Being a voice for students—that’s what MSSA is about. We want to empower you. It’s your choice, it’s your money, you go to this university. It is your university—you should have a say in the things that happen on campus.”

“We want to include everybody’s voice and make sure that their concerns are met,” says Cremers. “If anyone has any concerns, just reach out to me or Abdul.”

More information on the party and its platform can be found on its Facebook page.

Support Our Students (SOS)

MSSA Speaker Fred de Ruiter entered the MSSA presidential race this week, shortly after the Elections Commission’s decision last Friday to postpone the election from April 12 to April 25. Tuesday he named Jeremiah Kirch as his running mate. They are running on the Support Our Students (SOS) ticket.

De Ruiter and his party have entered what was a single-party race. He says that Mavericks Empowering Mavericks should not have the election handed to them and that SOS is bringing an ambition to the race that Mavericks Empowering Mavericks lacks.

De Ruiter was not hesitant to pit his campaign against that of Mavericks Empowering Mavericks. He says that while SOS’s platform is very similar to that of Mavericks Empowering Mavericks, there are several key factors that separate the two parties. He points to platform differences on two specific issues. SOS’s platform includes a plan to provide feminine hygiene products in all women’s restrooms and a commitment to keep the free lot free. The Reporter notes that, according to their Facebook page, Mavericks Empowering Mavericks supports “better access to feminine hygiene products.” He believes the free lot question is especially significant.

“It’s been a prominent issue in every platform of pretty much every party since the early 2010s,” he says. “Mavericks Empowering Mavericks is the first party that doesn’t have it, so that tells me something. I’m not saying they necessarily oppose it, but they’re skipping over a very important issue for a lot of students.”

He also argues that he and the SOS senate candidates (now numbering roughly ten) are more qualified than Mavericks Empowering Mavericks’ candidates. De Ruiter says that he has more MSSA experience than both Senator Abdul-Aziz and Senator Cremers combined. He notes, however, that unlike Mavericks Empowering Mavericks, SOS is fielding many senate candidates that are not incumbent senators. De Ruiter argues that, because of this, SOS offers a mixture of both MSSA experience and “fresh eyes” who will help the next senate avoid a sort of senate “tunnel vision” that incumbent senators are susceptible to.

Kirch echoes this.

“My experiences with MSSA are not to scale as [Fred’s],” he says. “However, I believe this makes us the perfect duo. I have more than enough experience to have this position with being an executive member of Sigma Nu—Treasurer—and an executive member of Student Ambassadors Marketing.”

De Ruiter makes the case that Mavericks Empowering Mavericks’ senate candidate lineup will be less representative of the MNSU student body than SOS’s. While he commends their diversity, he maintains that they are not very proportionately representative. At this time, the Reporter lacks information which could provide evidence to this claim. De Ruiter notes that his decision to field a running mate and senate candidates from Greek Life organizations shows that SOS values giving a voice to this currently underrepresented demographic of students. De Ruiter takes issue with one particular motion proposed by Senator Abdul-Aziz last academic year. Passed by student senate but vetoed by the MNSU administration, the motion aimed to ban the social media app Yik Yak on campus. De Ruiter sees it as a violation of free speech.

SOS has yet to establish a Facebook page. De Ruiter says that active campaigning will begin early next week.

Profiles of both parties and all four candidates will run in Tuesday’s edition of the Reporter. If any new candidacy filings are made by the Monday deadline, the Reporter will make an effort to reach out to those candidates by the Tuesday edition as well. A debate between the candidates will take place at noon on Wednesday in the CSU Hearth Lounge.

MSSA Advisor John Bulcock provided an important correction to Tuesday’s front page story (“Student Senate election postponed amidst rule violations”). He clarifies that while Speaker Fred de Ruiter did serve as a member of the Elections Commission, he never served as its Chair. This role has been filled by Senator Connor Martin since the Commission’s first meeting. This has been confirmed by de Ruiter himself.

The MSSA election scandal, which was brought to light by the Reporter last Thursday and has resulted in the election postponement, has not subsided. Former presidential candidate Aaron Eberhart has doubled down on his claims that he and his Accountability Party were not given a fair opportunity and detailed his arguments in another letter to the editor addressing students, which can be seen on the front page of this edition. Eberhart has not re-declared his candidacy since dropping out prior to the election postponement. The situation will be the topic of a special public Constitution Commission hearing to be held on Tuesday at 1 p.m. The Reporter suggested on Tuesday that the election postponement may have been an unconstitutional decision by the Elections Commission as Article III states that “the election shall be held on the second (2nd) Tuesday in April.”

In addition to selecting candidates on April 25, student voters will have a say on three constitutional amendments proposed by the Constitution Commission. Details on those amendments will be available in next Thursday’s edition of the Reporter.

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