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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato


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Face to Face

MSSA presidential candidates Murtaza Rajabali and Brett Carpenter squared off Wednesday

by Dannie Higginbotham

Issue date: 04/02/09 Section: Campus News
Brett Carpenter (left) debated Murtaza Rajabali Wednesday.
Media Credit: Wale Agboola
Brett Carpenter (left) debated Murtaza Rajabali Wednesday.

Candidates for president of the Minnesota State Student Association discussed academics, college affordability and alcohol-related issues during their debate Wednesday.

"As speaker for this year's senate, I've had to remain neutral," said Brett Carpenter of Lead MSU. "It's a relief for me to finally be able to speak my mind on some important issues."

Carpenter said he doesn't like that debate about the off-campus alcohol policy has taken priority over academic concerns, but that the issue of alcohol abuse was one that needed to be dealt with.

"I don't think the reputation of MSU as a party school really exists," Carpenter said. "But I think we can still shed that image by promoting positive pictures of the university."

Carpenter's opponent, Murtaza Rajabali of Mavericks Stand Tall, disagreed on MSU's reputation.

"I think the university definitely has a party-school reputation," the MSSA vice president said. "The only reason people want to come here is to party."

Rajabali called illegal drinking "not right" but said he still opposes on-campus sanctions for off-campus violations. He also criticized the way MSU appears to apply harsher penalties for off-campus violations than on-campus violations.

"If the university is going to go through with this they need to be strict," Rajabali said. "This means on-campus students would get minors, too."

"Either go ahead with sanctions completely or not at all," he added.

Rajabali and Carpenter agreed they would support a 4-percent tuition raise, which all university budget planning models assume, if it meant preserving class sections.

Carpenter indicated he thought a 4-percent hike was actually less than many previously anticipated.

Under the university's worst-case budget scenario, MSU would need to cut $9 million from its annual operating budget base. Upward of 400 class sections would be eliminated, mostly 100-level classes taught by adjunct faculty.

"Adjunct faculty are some of the top faculty we have. Most faculty members have been professors their whole career, while adjuncts bring in real-world experience," Carpenter said. "To cut them would be one of the worst mistakes we could make."

Both candidates also said they wouldn't want to make cuts to campus services but that, if necessary, they would take funding away from duplicate services first.

"There are some services on campus that are also in the community and are more here for convenience," Rajabali said.

He cited health services and campus recreation as places where money could be cut should the need arise.

When it came to the issue of campus security and the recent rise in violence against women, Carpenter said MSU Security could only do so much and that he'd like to increase awareness of the ways women can help protect themselves and people can help protect friends.

Rajabali encouraged services such as the Women's Center and MSU Security to help women, and noted security has taken positive steps through alerting the public of the recent assaults.

"I like what security is doing with publishing reports around campus and on the web," he said.

Both candidates said they would like to work more with the Women's Center to establish more services for women.

Carpenter said he would like to strengthen MSU and community ties by getting students more involved with the area and improving the schools image.

"Bus signs saying 'MSU students eat while drinking' are dreadful," Carpenter said. "There are many other things to speak to."

Rajabali said students should connect more to the community by participating in events such as alcohol forums and the city council.

"We need to show the community we're more responsible than they think," he said.

Carpenter said he think he would be the better choice for president because he genuinely cares about student's issues and doesn't have his own "pet issues."

"Lead MSU is not composed of many former senators," Carpenter said. "We're bringing in a bunch of new, outside people meaning we'll have new issues and priorities for next year."

Rajabali cited his track record and long-running involvement in the university as reasons for voting for him.

"We're already had change, now it's time for us to make progress," Rajabali said.

Dannie Higginbotham is the Reporter assistant news editor