Candidate interview: Murdock and Smith

photo by Matthew Williams
photo by Matthew Williams

1) Why are you running?

M: This past year [as ASMSU vice-president] has been an incredible learning experience and an incredible opportunity. I love working with students, I love serving students and I love advocating for students. In my ideal world, I spend the rest of my life working in higher education — this is an environment in which I thrive.

I also feel like having a year of experience under my belt has built me a good reputation with the administration, with the Board of Regents, with the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, so I’m in a better position to advocate for students. They know who I am, they know what I stand for and they know my work ethic.

S: I love helping people in general. If I can advocate for one student who is having a hard time, it will make all the work I do worth it. Something that is very personal to me is helping people thrive.

2) What is your platform?

M: Parts of our platform are just moving forward with things Kiah and I started last year. One of our goals is really trying to harp on building a cohesive campus culture. Also, focusing on engagement and making sure students are involved on campus. Finally, we want to focus on sustainability and holding the administration accountable to sustainable campus growth. This includes making sure we are advocating for more residence halls and more classrooms.

S: Sustainability is a big thing to me, not just environmentally, but financially. Another main thing for me is, being a freshmen, I see a lot of students having trouble getting involved on campus, so that’s something I want to focus on.

3) What do you offer that the other candidates don’t?

M: Continuity is huge. ASMSU, as with every other student organization on campus, faces the lifelong issue of high turnover. So having someone in this position for more than one year is pretty rare — I think that in itself gives us a leg-up. But other than that, we’re a very well-rounded team — dynamic in age, passions and experiences.

S: We represent a larger group of constituents. We’re also very dedicated to representing them.

4) What do you think the responsibilities of student body president and vice-president are?

M: It’s a lot of responsibility, and more than some people realize. We have a $1.8 million budget and a 200-person organization tasked with representing 14,660 students. Any job representing students is difficult because we have such a diverse campus.

S: As vice-president, I’ll be overseeing the ASMSU committees. Something really important is having them work together and having students get involved with the great things we throw here on campus. I want to improve them and make them better for the students.

5) What does student engagement mean to you?

M: Student engagement is much more broad than just joining a club. It looks like being involved with sorority or fraternity life, it looks like being an athlete or being a member of a club. It looks like sitting at the front of the class becoming a straight-A student and then becoming a TA and helping other students. It looks like being a tutor, and it looks like doing research that benefits not only the campus, but the community.

That’s what engagement looks like to me; it’s meaningful and it’s engagement that we’re doing for reasons more than just to put on a resume. It looks like making a difference. Not just on campus, not just in Bozeman, but around Montana and around the world.

S: Engagement is going to be different for everyone. If you can’t find what you want to do, then I want to be able to help you find that.

6) What does sustainability mean to you?

S: Sustainability is being able to support things for a long time. There’s also a long-term strategic plan that we’ll be working on. Then there is sustainable finance, where you are spending the money that the students are paying and [are] responsible for giving them the things they want with their money.

M: One of the things we pushed last year are the three pillars of sustainability. Environmental sustainability is becoming something that is very well known on campus. More than just recycling, it’s reduce, reuse, recycle. Fiscal and financial sustainability is also critical. We oversee a a very large budget of student fees and need to ensure that it is sustainable but also transparent.

Finally, we see sustainability as a social thing. If we have the same 200 students that are heavily involved in every single one of our clubs and organizations, it isn’t sustainable for them. We need to find a way to reach out to more students and ensure that our clubs and organizations are sustainable.

7) What do you think the relationship between student government and the university administration should be?

M: I think navigating that relationship is definitely one of the most imperative parts of this job. If we, as student representatives, aren’t able to stand up to the administration when we think otherwise, we’ll never be able to be effective. That relationship is very thoughtful, one that is constructive in it’s feedback and one that does represent what the student body wants.

8) What is your opinion on the proposed student fee increase?

M: As a member of the state-wide affordability task-force, I’m always very sensitive when it comes to student fee increases. Students pay a lot to be here, and I want to make sure every cent students pay gives them more bang for their buck. That being said, I do think the RSO fee increase is something that would give students more bang for their buck.

If the administration is really saying they want to double student engagement by the year 2019, then we need to be able to put money where their mouth is. If we have students joining clubs at an extraordinary rate, we need to be able to fund the projects they need to do. If we are going to tell students that it’s important to be engaged, we need to fund them with the funds they need.

9) What actions will you take to address the parking shortage on campus?

M: So, as some students may or may not know, parking is an auxiliary entity, meaning that they don’t get any state funding, so they have to function as a profit-making entity. So no matter what they do, they need to continue to make money. We passed a resolution earlier in senate that I stand behind in moving forward with paving the F lot and adding more spaces near the stadium. I think that’s a good first step for some short-term solutions.

More long-term, I think we need to look critically at expanding Streamline hours. That’s a resource students heavily utilize that we need to work on making more convenient.
Another complaint we often get is the lack of bike-racks around campus. If we’re going to encourage students to bike to campus, we need to provide them with the infrastructure they need to be doing so.

Another thing Kiah and I have been looking into this year is carpool spots. If roommates are sharing a car and a parking spot, they are taking up less spots and we need to reward them for that.

I think those are all viable short-term solutions that can lead to long-term thinking.

10) What actions will you take to address the growing pains of our growing institutions?

M: One of the main parts of our platform is sustainable growth and holding the administration accountable for that. Working with ResLife to work on simple solutions to housing shortages, ensuring that we are asking the administration these difficult questions and making sure they understand what being in a MSU classroom is like so they experience what that learning environment is like is essential.

S: Keeping quality over quantity. I think keeping the classroom student-to-teacher ratio low is very important so students are getting the education here that they are looking for.

11) How do you feel about the voiced student opposition to the smoking ban?

M: I think, on some level, it was expected. I think it is a cultural transitions that is going to take a few years, although I do understand that there are definitely better ways to be handling some situations that arise. I think we need to move forward with some immediate transitions to make sure students understand the policy, understand the ramifications and understand why it is in place.

12) Is there anything else you’d like to say about this election or your campaign?

M: We would love to see turnout increase this year. But beyond just voting, please be informed. We need to be taking these responsibilities very seriously.

Lukas and I are a pretty dynamic team, in that we come at this position with a lot of experience, but also with Lukas still being very much a fresh face. He is a senator, so he’s involved a lot with sustainability here on campus, a little bit with RHA, and I’ve had this whole past year of experience as ASMSU vice-president, which has provided me with what I feel to be the perfect experience to move into the presidential role. But I’ve also had a facet of other involvement on campus, whether that be through NECO, Sustained Dialogue or ResLife.

The both of us together have the full circle of involvement.