Vote Simon, Johnson: MSA needs a swift kick in the ass

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published March 19, 2001

Looking at this year"s slate of Michigan Student Assembly presidential and vice presidential candidates, there is only one sensible choice for students: Michael Simon and Alicia Johnson of the University Democratic Party.

Simon and Johnson, two respected and very capable individuals, should be elected for many reasons, but primarily because of their shared vision and the direction they want to bring MSA.

Both Simon and Johnson are beyond qualified to lead the student body for the next year. Simon has served as co-chairman of MSA"s Student Rights Commission, is a member of the University branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and is active in the University"s Jewish community. Johnson is currently an elected MSA representative, chairs MSA Environmental Issues Commission and ran "Students for Gore" last November.

A new attitude to MSA

MSA has been an extremely ineffective body for several years. The last time the assembly truly served students was more than five years ago, when the president and vice president led the campus in the fight for student rights primarily against the Code of Student Conduct, now known as the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

Simon"s experience dealing with the Code and attracting a broad coalition of student groups like the Black Students Union and Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality for example shows the University Democrats" efforts to bring more outside voices to the assembly. The only way the assembly is going to accomplish anything and change a harmful status quo is if MSA breaks out of its office in the Michigan Union and works intimately with other student groups. Simon and Johnson are prepared to do just that.

Blue Party presidential candidate Matt Nolan told the Daily he is an MSA "junkie" this is his major flaw. Nolan and his vice presidential candidate Jessica Cash are qualified for the position their knowledge of the issues and ideas for the assembly are credible. But Simon and Johnson are vastly superior to the Blue party candidates.

Simply put, MSA needs a swift kick in the ass. If elected, we expect the two to do exactly that. The Blue Party platform is essentially a regurgitation of what has been said for the past few election cycles. The University Dems" platform, on the other hand, takes the best aspects of the Blue Party platform and injects realistic political action.

The substantive difference between Nolan and Cash and Simon and Johnson is illustrated in their ideas for dealing with the oppressive Code of Student Conduct. The Blue Party platform is devoid of any mention of the Code. In an interview with the Daily, Nolan said the future of the Code is best left to the process already set in place. Clearly this is unacceptable. In fact, it is this attitude that has made the assembly the butt of jokes around campus and that is why the assembly receives a failing grade in so many respects. Simon has already shown his dedication to the Code"s abolition by vigorously denouncing the administration"s handling of recent Code amendments before the University Board of Regents last Thursday.

The Dems" ambitious agenda includes extremely important (but mundane) issues such as increasing funding for student groups, but also pays close attention to the politically-charged campus issues that affect students in a profound way. MSA can play a role in such crucial issues as fighting the outsourcing of jobs at the University, lobbying the state legislature to fight Gov. John Engler"s plan to appoint the University Board of Regents, supporting the University"s admissions policies and lobbying University Health Services to offer the morning after pill.

Vote Michael Simon and Alicia Johnson to lead MSA.

Defend Affirmative Action Party

While the Defend Affirmative Action Party"s stances on many politicized campus issues, particularly affirmative action, is highly admirable and worthy of recognition, its polarizing effect, among minority students especially, is still a bit unsettling.

Few would disagree that members of DAAP have played an instrumental role in shaping the campus political climate (their intervention in the affirmative action lawsuits is especially notable and commendable). DAAP"s ability to mobilize would perhaps be better channeled outside MSA than within it.

DAAP"s polarizing effect on the assembly is quite unfortunate. It is too bad DAAP members don"t receive more respect for the work they do. MSA as a whole should do more to work with DAAP on campus issues. But as things currently stand, until presidential candidate Erika Dowdell and her running mate Jessica Curtin receive more respect from their peers on and off the assembly, an executive leadership role for the leaders of DAAP would only divide the assembly.

We hope that in the coming year, DAAP will join with other groups and organize around other issues. Dowdell and Curtin have indicated their willingness to do this. We are optimistic and hope this continues in the coming year.

FRAT Party and Hideki

Regarding the FRAT candidates, voting for a self-described "joke party" is not an appropriate way to protest MSA"s perceived impotence. Neither is voting for Hideki Tsutsumi. As current MSA president, Tsutsumi has been been a total failure. Even his current vice president thinks so (refer to today"s viewpoint written by Jim Secreto). A vote for the 27 year-old student who won"t go away is in short utterly asinine.

The Michigan Party: No "New Deal"

The most prominent example of the Michigan Party"s flaws is the baggage vice presidential candidate Chip Englander brings from last year"s election. Englander"s unethical campaigning actions caused most of the candidates running with the now-defunct Wolverine Party to be removed from the election. Presidential candidate Doug Tietz has expressed his discontent with the number of resolutions brought up in MSA that he says are essentially a waste of time. However, he had no qualms with bringing up and supporting a resolution to donate all of the money raised from the Vagina Monologues to SAFEhouse, instead of splitting it between SAFEhouse and Planned Parenthood a resolution that Tietz himself admitted was destined to fail.

Tietz and Englander are also associated with David Jaye, a far-right-wing state senator and a convicted drunk driver who has spent time in jail. A sampling of Jaye"s out-of-touch ultra-conservative beliefs can be seen at http://www.jaye.org. Both candidates attended the Young Americans for Freedom Conference, where Jaye was a major presence. Tietz is the executive director of the Michigan chapter of this conservative group, whose views are horrifying, and can be read at http://www.yaf.com/issues.shtml. Students should reject MSA leadership associated with this brand ultra right-wing thought.