Michigan Student Assembly to change its name in January

By Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 30, 2011

The name “Michigan Student Assembly” will become a relic come January, when the governing body will change its name for the first time since 1976 to the Central Student Government.

MSA President DeAndree Watson said MSA will change its name in January to dispel confusion, as many students are unaware that the Michigan Student Assembly is the main student governing body at the University.

“The first question we always get from the students is, 'What is (MSA?),’ ” Watson said.

The name change will “help students better understand who we are and the role we serve on campus,” he added.

One of the main reasons for the change is that the word “Assembly” does not accurately reflect the current structure of MSA, Watson said. Previously, there was only one central assembly meeting that all members would attend. But under the All-Campus Constitution, which was revised last year, there is a separation of powers with two houses of the legislature and a distinct executive branch.

The two houses of the legislature are called the Student Assembly and the University Council, which Watson said causes confusion when people say “assembly” since it is unclear whether they are referring to the Student Assembly or the Michigan Student Assembly as a whole. With the new name in place, he said it will be easier to know which group students are referring to.

“It's confusing for even members within MSA … to understand exactly which part of the organization we're talking about,” Watson said.

The All-Campus Constitution also does not include the name “Michigan Student Assembly.” Instead, the document refers to the governing body as the Central Student Government. After the constitution was revised in March 2010, student government representatives say they intended to change the name of the governing body to reflect what’s stated in the Constitution.

With the name change, the student government also aims to highlight the University Council, a group of unelected delegates acting as a second house in MSA that draws members from MSA, student governments of University schools and colleges and the University Activities Center — which plans a variety of student events. Added into the All-Campus Constitution in 2010, the University Council hopes to increase collaboration among these groups.

Brendan Campbell, vice president of MSA, said the group created a website to help facilitate the name change — www.msa.umich.edu/newname — and highlight some of MSA's recent initiatives like the alteration of MSA’s funding system for student organizations. Starting in January, instead of applying for funding by three designated deadlines per semester, student groups can apply for funding every week.

Campbell said the name change has "received support from everyone we've spoken with." He added that the Division of Student Affairs, E. Royster Harper, the University’s vice president for student affairs, and University Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones have been helpful in introducing the new name.

"We're hoping that we can use this name change as an opportunity to reconnect with the students," Campbell said.

The student government’s new name needs formal approval by the University’s Board of Regents, but Watson said he expects the name change to pass at the next regents meeting on Dec. 15.

Denise Ilitch, chair of the University's Board of Regents, said the regents have not formally discussed the issue, and, she could not yet comment on the likelihood of the name change being approved.

"The student government is up to the students," Ilitch said. "If they, as a majority, show that they can communicate their mission and message better with a stronger name, then I'm all for it."

The last time the student government changed its name was in 1976 when it became the Michigan Student Assembly, replacing its former name, the Student Government Association.