Driving Change in Higher Education.

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What drives a student leader?

By Jacob Littler
MSCSA President

Recently, I was asked to explain to a group of student leaders why I had become involved in student advocacy and why I had put so much of my life into benefiting those that will come after me. It was a tough moment for me because I had never really thought about what drives me to do this. Obviously there are the direct benefits such as the growth of my résumé and the amazing contacts that I have been making among students, administrators and legislators. However, those are all superficial concerns and don’t truly address the reasons that I give up so much of my time and energy for this work. As I sat there waiting for my time to address the group about my motivation, I thought back through my life to the times and events that had the most impact on me, and one clear struggle stood out as having influenced my journey into higher education and student advocacy.

When I was much younger than I am today, I lived with my mother and my older brother in Duluth, Minnesota. My mother was working her way through college, having just transferred out of the community college system. I remember her working as a waitress and a bartender while also doing as much babysitting as she could possible squeeze in along with her full time load of nursing credits at St. Scholastica. As I watched my mother struggle to scrape enough money together to buy a pound of hamburger so we didn’t just have to eat another box of “just helper,” I realized, even at my young age, that this was a terrible and broken system. When the people that make this society run—nurses, cops, firefighters, teachers, social workers, etc—have to struggle daily to make ends meet and end up graduating with large student debt loads, we lose the contribution that those people could make economically, socially and politically to our great experiment in democracy. Even as a little tyke, I realized the destruction that a system like that could have on the very fabric of American society.

Those days eventually passed, and we became full-fledged members of the middle class. As the memories of our tough times faded, so too did my concerns about the problems in higher education. I figured that I had either over-inflated the issue in my own hyper-analytical mind or that the government was aware of the situation and would be doing whatever was necessary to fix the problem. When I entered the higher education system, I was shocked and disheartened to see that not only had the problems not been fixed, but the system was even more broken than before. Tuition was skyrocketing; textbook costs were out of control; many students were being priced out of getting the education that even the most basic jobs in America now require; and on top of that there were crises of healthcare, energy, banking, and climate change. As I took all of this in, it ignited a passion within me to do whatever I could to make a positive impact on these problems. As I became more involved in advocacy and political awareness, it became very evident that the key to solving all of these issues was having an educated society. And so my passion was focused and I was now pushed into a new world of advocacy.

I tell you this story not only so you can understand me better and understand better what pushes me to do this work, but also so that hopefully you will be inspired to look within yourselves and ask what it is that drives you to do this work. For the student leaders who read this, look deep within and discover your passions and what fuels them. For others who may not be involved in advocacy work, look within and find what experiences would shape your passions and then find a way to impact the world. Let this be a challenge to all of us to know ourselves and to know what motivates us. Together, we can change the world and we can make this a better world than the one into which we were born.

A busy time advocating for students

by Kary W. Bowser
MSCSA Vice President

Welcome to the Fall Edition of the Students’ View. I’m sure you all want to know what I’ve been up to for the association since being elected vice president. Well, there are numerous state offices, organizations, and affiliates the association must advocate to on behalf of us students. The Board of Trustees is one of them. On the May 20 I formally introduced myself to the Board. Part of the presentation was devoted to student life, and I addressed what impact the current bonding cycle has had on Century’s campus. Also, I spoke on how we students are engaging legislators at the local, state, and federal levels throughout Minnesota, and now at the nation’s capitol with our concerted organizing skills. I also spoke about our successful Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts. We are rapidly approaching our state goal of 4000 registered voters. Currently, were at 3,800 plus and by the time you read this, MSCSA will have eclipsed our goal.

Communication during the summer is a work in progress. However, of those members who stayed vigilant, they reported some minor correctable problems or none at all. This is an excellent reason for someone in each campus government to stay tuned into what is happening, not only on their campus but system wide. Just because summer has arrived, does not mean that these state agencies take the summer off. They are very active all year long which I can attest to by the many meetings and functions that I’ve attended this summer. Another statewide committee I’m serving on is the Transfer Oversight Committee. To get an insight into what is going on here, there was a legislative hearing to improve the transfer process. The Chancellor agreed to the dissemination of transfer information, training for campus transfer specialists who assist students with our transfer concerns, and the use of electronic tools such as CAS and DARS used by the system. These improvements would be implemented through the following process: meeting with all stakeholders from student organizations, faculty, and staff. A proposed plan of action was submitted on June 10 and the draft was presented to the committee on September 19 for their recommendation. As this article goes to press, myself along with Jessica Medearis are reviewing these recommendation to see what impact it will have on the association and will respond accordingly.

Shortly after the June Transitional, as the chair of the platform committee, I provided some ethical guidelines for our group. For example, “we will not intentionally send deceptive or harmful messages. We will treat each other with equal respect, regardless of sex, ethnicity, or social background, age, or other personal or social attributes. We members should be valued for our contributions to the group, not our sex or race. As an ethical leader, I’ll minimize status differences to encourage everyone’s participation. Last but not least, I will stand behind the group and carry out the policies and actions approved by the group. I will not try to enhance my own position by betraying the committee. If something goes wrong with a decision the group has made, I’ll assume personal responsibility for the decision.” With that understanding, we set out to handle our duties. I asked everyone to review the platform document for any changes. I suggested the document be reformatted for ease of reading and clarity. These format changes will appear in the next printing of the document. I further divided the committee into sub-committees researching federal, state and local issues.

At our August General Conference, from our roundtable discussion, the platform committee supported the inclusion of the following to the MnSCU Biennial Budget Request. That inflationary dollars sufficient to maintain the current budget and limit tuition increases to 2 percent, and if the system is going to ask for new initiatives, the dollars go into the following projects, expanded advising services, career services and technology. President Littler cited this action in his letter to the Chancellor days later. To be truthful, there is so much more to what MSCSA accomplishes, and this column represents just this tip of the ice berg. As the statewide vice president, every day in every way I work on maintaining a MSCSA organizational culture that emphasizes quality, service, and value to all I represent. I extend this attitude to all people I do business with on behalf of our association. I hope this gives a decent snapshot of what I’m doing for us students. In closing, I wish to thank the members of the association for the opportunity to serve, and their efforts in assisting me in obtaining our organizational objectives.

Don’t forget, if you live in Minnesota, you can register to vote on Election Day!

How do I register to vote on Election Day?
If you are not registered to vote or need to update your registration information, you may do so at your local polling location on Election Day. However, you are required to provide proof of residence when registering on Election Day.
To successfully complete Election Day Registration:
You must have one of the following:
• A valid Minnesota Driver’s License, a learner’s permit, a Minnesota ID card, or a receipt for any of these containing a valid address in the precinct
• A current student ID card, registration card, or fee statement containing your valid address in the precinct
• A student identification card including your photo (your college must have provided a student housing list to election officials)
• A tribal ID card that contains your name, signature and address in the precinct
• A valid registration in the same precinct under a different address
• A notice of late registration that was sent to you from your county auditor or city clerk
• A voter registered in the same precinct as you who can confirm your address with a signed oath
• An authorized employee of a residential facility where you reside who can confirm your address (the residential facility must have provided a list of employees to election officials)
Alternatively, you must provide two of the following:
A photo ID from the list below and a utility bill in your name showing your current address from the list below.
Types of Photo IDs:
Minnesota Driver’s License, Minnesota ID Card, United States Passport, United States Military ID, Minnesota University or Technical College ID, Tribal ID Card.
Types of Utility Bills: Gas, Electric, Telephone, Cell phone, Cable, Solid Waste, Water, Sewer Services

Don’t Want to Vote? Here’s Why You Should

If you are not planning to vote on November 4th I would kindly ask you to reconsider. I promise that in this article I will not patronize you and talk about civic duties and cuddly reasons why voting is important. It is important to remember that your local and state government often has a real and direct impact on your life and finances. I will provide you with some nice and startling facts about the difference that your student vote and voice can make in our great state of Minnesota. Let me hit you with some knowledge.

You think that your vote doesn’t count. Guess what, it does.

In the 2006 election several Minnesota races were decided by less than 100 votes. One race in particular was decided by 37 votes (District 38A). That is about one classroom full of students. Imagine if your English class were in this district, you could have changed the outcome of that race. Some local races were decided by even smaller margins. These races illustrate the impact that a small number of people can have on an election. So get out there with your friends and vote.

As my mentor said, “If you are not at the table, you are on the table.”

When you vote, it demonstrates that you mean business. Here’s an example. Students are a group that generally speaking does not vote in large numbers. That, coupled with the state budget crisis in 2002, led to some choices that hurt students badly. Since students did not vote in high numbers and they had a limited presence in the state budget negotiations, they shouldered the majority of the cuts to the MnSCU system via tuition increases. This increased the average per year cost by over 100% between 1998 and 2008 to over $4000 per year.
What happened after the 2006 election when students started to vote in larger numbers and have a greater presence at the negotiating table?
In 2007 Minnesota students passed one of the first textbook cost control bills in the country. It is important to note that this effort overcame the stiff resistance of the text book publishing companies who have been busting up this kind of legislation for years. Also important to note is that the Minnesota legislation has been copied, nearly word for word, and has been championed at the federal level. Several senators including Senator Durbin of Illinois and Minnesota’s own Senator Norm Coleman have made this bill one of their priorities. The bill was passed in August of this year. Yet another example of the impact that students can have when they are involved in the political process.

In 2008 students secured a tuition increase of 2 percent at the state two-year colleges. This increase was the smallest increase in ten years and happened in spite of another large state budget shortfall. All of this can be attributed to students getting out and voting as well as making their voices heard within the process.

It doesn’t matter what party or candidate you vote for, just that you vote.

In Minnesota, both Democrats and Republicans are responsive to student needs and issues. While you may have an individual preference, it is important to note that we as a community of students need to have the support of both parties in order to be successful. Here’s why.

The work that students do within the political realm of Minnesota is mostly within the state legislature and the MnSCU Board of Trustees. The legislature is the place where decisions are made regarding the funding of the state’s higher education systems (the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System). It is these initial allocations of money that make up the base budget of your college. It is important to note that the legislature is currently controlled by a Democratic majority.

On the other side the MnSCU Board of Trustees is responsible for setting tuition for the colleges and creating programs and initiatives to foster accessibility to higher education institutions. Trustees are appointed by Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is a Republican. The governor is also responsible for approving the funding bills that are passed by the legislature. As you can see, both parties have significant say over education funding. If we anger or alienate ourselves from one party it would prove to be very difficult to get any work done.

I hope that in these few paragraphs I have convinced you of the difference that your vote and your voice can make in our political process. Remember to get out there and vote for the issues you care about and the candidates you believe would do the best job. If you are not sure about whom that may be, find their websites and check out the voter guide included with this edition of the Students’ View. If they are running for state office, give them a call, seriously. They will listen to your concerns if you are a voter, and if you vote they will listen to your concerns as a constituent. SO GET OUT THERE, BE HEARD, AND VOTE!

MSCSA Selects Leadership Scholarship recipients!

Students who are selected for the leadership scholarship have demonstrated a deep commitment to their community and campus while maintaining a high level of academic achievement. The scholarship winners for the fall semester of 2008 are:

• Rustam Zufarov of Riverland Community College-Austin
• Stefanie Gerda Asante-Mensah of Inver Hills Community College
• Mike Witthaus of Mankato State University
• Haeman Teo of Bemidji State University
Congratulations to the Winners! If you are interested in applying for the spring semester Leadership Scholarship please visit our scholarship page for more information and to download the application. The deadline to apply is November 1st. Governing Council members are not eligible for this scholarship.


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