From the Daily: Competition MIA in MSA

Published February 6, 2007

It's the dawn of a new student government election season. As with any other year, our hopes are high for competitive elections and multiple, ideologically diverse parties to ensure that competent and creative individuals run our student government next year. But last week, when the catch-all Michigan Action Party announced its major candidates and campaign issues, it became clear that those hopes might be dashed yet again. This year's race is poised to be no more innovative or trailblazing than any other.

Sarah Royce

There is, of course, no way to know how committed the newly nominated are to the platforms of their parties or, more importantly, to the productive role of the Michigan Student Assembly. But in past years, the domination of the electoral process by one major, broad-based party has done little to encourage responsible governance or inspire creative change.

Before the Michigan Action Party there was Students 4 Michigan. Before Students 4 Michigan there was the Students First Party. But really, the three parties are different only in name. Like its predecessors, MAP's platform is as broad and inclusive as its candidates. It succeeds in sweeping away a host of single-issue parties by co-opting their issues into MAP's platform. Last year, for example, MAP ran on a pro-affirmative action platform, drawing potential votes away from the Defend Affirmative Action Party.

But these mega parties have proven to be little more than vehicles for electing candidates. The broad-based coalitions that were so effective in getting party candidates elected prove ineffective, and little progress can be made on important student issues. In other words, when the election is over, it's the students who lose.

This year seems no different. MAP's nominees for LSA Student Government, LSA sophomore Keith Reisinger and LSA sophomore Hannah Madoff, have very familiar-sounding goals, like altering LSA's race and ethnicity requirement and lowering textbook prices. No details are offered for these recycled proposals.

What is supposed to be a competitive and discriminating process to get elected people who are passionate about issues and serious about responsible governance in MSA has so far failed once again. Students need more choices and more defined information about the parties. This is especially true of MAP, which, along with its predecessors, prefers to stick to vagaries and trumpet the same old accomplishments of years past.

While last year's infamous Student Conservative Party may not have been the right way to go, at least it stood for something. Having several parties from different ideological backgrounds fighting for the student vote would make MSA more responsive and focused on the issues students care about.

Student government should not exist for the sake of ego-boosting or resume-building. Candidates will always have topics they are passionate about, but making good on a commitment to strengthen student government, and by extension, the University, should be number one on the list.