Ready to Roar's campaign approach incorporates many students' perspectives

Will Shafer and Key Avingston-Banks' campaign for MSA president and vice president positions has a unique focus on respect and inclusion.

By Teagan King

Will Shafer and Key Avingston-Banks bid for Missouri Students Association president and vice president in their newly launched campaign, Ready to Roar.

Both Shafer and Avingston-Banks have had experience with student government in the past, as well as previous roles within MSA that inspired them to run for the president and vice presidential positions.

Avingston-Banks is a junior majoring in political science and American constitutional democracy with a minor in public policy. He has held many positions within MSA in the past, including student body treasurer and an executive chief of staff position for a previous campaign. He currently serves as vice president of the Black Pre-Law Students Association and director of finance for the Campus Activities Programming Board.

Shafer has also held a variety of positions in MSA, such as a senator and director of policy and advocacy, and he currently serves as the president of his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Order, and as a paralegal for the Army National Guard.

The two want to continue their MSA careers by playing a larger role in the community.

As president and vice president of MSA, they both plan to serve as bold advocates for other student organizations and the entire student body.

“There is a balance that you have to strike between pleasing students… and then also working with administrators,” Arvingston-Banks said.

Shafer echoed this statement, saying, “We’re here to lobby on behalf of students and make a change.”

The Ready to Roar campaign is structured around the university’s values of respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence. One area they are especially passionate about is respect. Avingston-Banks and Shafer say they already try to honor this value by meeting with various student organizations and communities at MU to learn about what issues are most important to them and what they want from their MSA leadership.

Shafer said that engaging with MU community members with unique perspectives is extremely important to their campaign.

“We’re running to advocate for everyone, and that takes difficult conversations,” Shafer said.

Shafer and Avingston-Banks emphasize this stance regarding social justice initiatives and sexual assault prevention at MU. Ready to Roar is encouraging a drink test kit initiative to help protect MU students, and they support improvement in MU’s sexual assault education programs to better fit the student body.

Their campaign also features a focus on mental health resources for students, as they encourage more funding toward mental health programs and establishment of a fall recess to give students a mental health break.

To support their campaign tenets of respect, Shafer and Avingston-Banks want to create a statue to honor Gus T. Ridgel, the first Black graduate student admitted to MU.

They also hope to strengthen the bonds between the different branches of MSA and take a holistic approach to their campaign promises. Avingston-Banks said that if he or Shafer do not have an answer to a problem, they will continue “elevating the voices of student leaders around us who may have closer ties to a particular community.”

The campaign also hopes to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Both Shafer and Avingston-Banks want vaccines to be more accessible to the MU community, though they currently do not plan on asking the university to mandate vaccination.

“We need to work with our local leaders as well as our statewide leaders to make sure that we have the resources here at Mizzou so students can get vaccinated,” Shafer said.

Both Shafer and Avingston-Banks are proud that they come from very different backgrounds and believe it offers their campaign and the student body a unique approach to problem-solving. The two pride themselves on being bold and their commitment to elevating other students’ voices.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about us, it’s about students from every background, every community,” Avingston-Banks said. “We are here for [students], we are dedicated and we are more than capable.”

Avingston-Banks and Shafer will face Landon Brickey and Emily Smith at the MSA Presidential Debate on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. The debate will be livestreamed over Zoom at https://umsystem.zoom.us/j/96848068945. Voting opens on Monday, March 1 at vote.missouri.edu.

Edited by Joy Mazur | jmazur@themaneater.com

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