COLUMN: Renew Mizzou is the best choice for MU – The Maneater

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Sydney Lewis is a first-year journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about politics and identity for The Maneater.

With polls opening Monday evening for the Missouri Students Association election, students have to decide who will lead the student body.

Between the two slates, Ready to Roar and Renew Mizzou, the choice is clear. Renew Mizzou, led by Landon Brickey and Emily Smith, is the best option for MU.

Both campaigns have a strong emphasis on mental health, sexual assault prevention and diversity, inclusion and equity. So, what sets them apart?

Renew Mizzou’s platform focuses on student well-being through four specific platforms and three projects. Aside from mental health and sexual assault prevention, their main platforms are to uplift the voices of students and faculty of color on campus and promote student well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ready to Roar, led by Will Shafer and Key Avingston-Banks, has centered their campaign around Mizzou’s four values: respect, responsibility, discovery, and excellence. Though this may seem like the perfect setup for an MSA campaign, it seems to cater more to administrators than it does to students. In the debate, the pair claimed to be “bold leaders” but also that they plan to “bring Mizzou back to its core values.” Boldness and tradition are not two ideas that work well together on a campaign.

Ready to Roar is not without good ideas, such as creating a statue in honor of Gus T. Ridgel, the first Black graduate student accepted to MU, and establishing a program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. However, many of their ideas seem unrealistic and, frankly, rather insignificant.

One of Ready to Roar’s more attractive platforms for students is the implementation of a fall recess to give students a mental health break. While I am all for mental health breaks, this proposal is unrealistic at best and impossible at worst. This campaign seems to have forgotten that they only have one year to implement every policy they propose. Changing an academic calendar that has already been set in stone is extremely difficult to do, much less in one year.

This is not to say that Renew Mizzou is without its faults. One proposed project is to create a zero waste campus through using reusable bags, donating food and “renewing” recycling services. Though a zero waste campus sounds like the perfect plan for environmental sustainability, actually doing it requires more than a three-step process. It requires funding, research and long-term infrastructure, which are all things that are unlikely to happen and sustain in just one year.

Perhaps the biggest downfall of the Ready to Roar campaign is their lack of acknowledgement of the COVID-19 pandemic. They may be hoping that the pandemic will simply be over by the time they take office, but that will likely not be the case. The only mention of COVID-19 in the Ready to Roar platform is their effort to reintroduce sports despite the pandemic. This gross oversight is telling of their superficial priorities as student leaders.

Ready to Roar emphasized their platform to bring intramural sports back during COVID-19, but were shut down by Brickey in his rebuttal. “There are more important things to be talked about,” Brickey said. In the context of a pandemic that has killed over 500,000 Americans, intramural sports should fall pretty low on the priority list, and should definitely not be the only reason COVID-19 is mentioned in a platform.

After the debate, there is a clear slate that is better suited to represent the student body. While Shafer and Avingston-Banks sat back on the couch, maskless and in close proximity, Brickey and Smith attended in different Zoom rooms in which they appeared to be alone.

Ready to Roar approached the debate with a sense of entitlement, like it was our privilege to be in their presence. It seemed like they were so important, they didn’t need to wear masks, physically distance, or follow any other COVID-19 protocols. We don’t need leaders who hold themselves above other people or think the rules don’t apply to them. We need true leaders who set a positive example for the student body.

Beyond the slates’ plans, it’s important to know and understand who the candidates are as people. If MSA President Anthony Tretter’s poolgate incident taught us anything, it’s that who our elected student leaders are in their off-time is just as important as what they do in office.

The Instagram account of Ready to Roar’s presidential candidate Will Shafer is littered with maskless pictures, including at an MU football game on Oct. 10, 2020. We are approaching one year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Shafer still doesn’t seem to think it necessary that he wears a mask at large gatherings. How is he supposed to look out for the well-being of the entire student body if he doesn’t have the common decency to wear a mask in public?

In addition to his maskless tendencies, he has worked on the campaigns of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Roy Blunt and Mike Parson. He is the Chairman of the Missouri Federation of College Republicans and has participated in a march with Mizzou Students for Life.

Do we really want the person in charge of the entire student body to be someone who doesn’t believe in the right to choose, or that supports candidates who are racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist bigots?

In an interview with The Maneater, Renew Mizzou emphasized their goals of transparency; they hope to streamline communication between the administration and students. Their platform is heavily focused on student health and education while Ready to Roar is focused on unifying Greek Life and reintroducing sports.

In her profile of Ready to Roar for The Maneater, Teagan King wrote, “The two want to continue their MSA careers by playing a larger role in the community.”

In the Renew Mizzou profile, Brickey said, “We want to be the voice for students because we get [it], and we care.”

This stark contrast in the motivations of the two slates is all students need to know to make the right decision. Brickey and Smith are the right people to lead MSA, and voting for Renew Mizzou is the best way to ensure prosperity for MU students.

_As part of its commitment to highlighting organizations fighting for racial justice, the Maneater is encouraging readers to donate to Forward Through Ferguson, which “acts as a catalyst for lasting positive change in the St. Louis region as outlined in the Ferguson Commission Report.” Donate at: https://app.etapestry.com/onlineforms/ForwardThroughFerguson_1/annualgiving.html._

Edited by Sofi Zeman | [email protected]

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