MNSU student in leadership role with Students United

Maxwell Mayleben ® Editor in Chief |

A Minnesota State University student has been elected vice chair of a statewide, student run organization that has been advocating for student involvement in everything from social justice initiatives to MnSCU’s COVID-19 response.

Emma Zellmer, a former speaker of the Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Student Government, is currently vice chair of Students United, an independent organization funded and operated by students with the goal of being an inclusive voice for students within the Minnesota State system.

Students United was established in 1967 and has been working to represent students at the seven state universities.

“I really decided that this was an organization that I wanted to be a part of,” Zellmer said. “I figured that if I was to be advocating for students, I wanted to be doing it with an organization that has the best route to do it.”

Students United State Chair Jonathan McNicholes has been focusing the organization’s efforts on law enforcement education reviews and civic engagement.

In reaction to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, the Minnesota State system has created a Law Enforcement review task force. 

This task force was created with one spot for a student representative, among several other higher faculty, police officers, and superintendents. Students United advocated for increasing the number of students included in this task force.

“We made the point that that’s really not adequate student representation,” said McNicholes, who then went on to present in front of Chancellor Malhotra. “And from those conversations, we were able to gain an additional seat on that council.”

In election years past, Students United held several in-person events to advocate for student voting. 

Due to COVID-19, these events have had to be changed into strategies that allow for social distancing. Students United has shifted its voter encouragement to digital advertising, physical mailers, and posters on campuses. 

Students United has been striving for student representation regarding the COVID-19 response.

McNicholes says that it is crucial for students to be involved and aware of response plans to the pandemic. 

“These conversations should already have had happened,” McNicholes said about a potential shutdown of campuses, “and those plans should already have been shared with the student bodies.”

With fears of campus shutdowns rising, Students United has aimed to make sure that students in need of essentials such as technology needed for online education and housing are taken care of.

“Hopefully we won’t have to shut down. Hopefully we will be able to keep our campuses open and safe,” said McNicholes. “But in the event that they do, we need to make sure it’s done in an equitable way.”

Header photo from Reporter Archives.

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