As 2013 begins, New Years resolutions may be a necessity for everyone from University regents to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. The past year has shown that while change is inevitable, it can’t necessarily be equated with progress. When the elected officials begin their terms, it’s essential for them to re-examine past decisions and set specific, progressive goals.
For the University, this means making tuition equality a reality for Michigan’s undocumented students. Some members of the University community, from students to the newly elected Regent Shauna Ryder Diggs, are still unaware of tuition equality, further demonstrating the fact that the University needs to make more of an effort to inform the community about future changes. In December, the Coalition for Tuition Equality staged a protest at a Board of Regents meeting, demanding in-state tuition for undocumented students who grew up in the state of Michigan. The University should take these students seriously, and a policy change should be made this year.
In Ann Arbor, transportation has been an issue of contention at city council as well as at the state level as Michigan struggles to form a regional transit system. Councilmembers and residents alike seem to be unsure of what they’d like to see changed, yet the current state of transportation in Ann Arbor is neither efficient nor used to its fullest potential. The current train station is outdated and not fully utilized, but building another train station is a costly endeavor. The regional transportation system proposal, as it stands, will not serve Ann Arbor’s transportation needs most effectively and faces opposition. Ann Arbor should work to develop its own transportation plan that makes travelling between counties easier, while still addressing transportation within the city.
If the marathon lame-duck session of the Michigan state legislation proved anything, it was that politicians are willing to ignore the voices of citizens in order to pass ideological legislation without dedicating time to proper discussion. In less than two weeks, Michigan became a right-to-work state, passed legislation to more heavily regulate abortion clinics and passed legislation to allow concealed weapons in schools, churches, hospitals, arenas and other locations, although the last bill was vetoed by Snyder. These changes are quite significant and the fact that they were passed so quickly is troubling.
However, what’s perhaps worse is that politicians are suppressing the voices of their constituents. Legislation was passed that will now make it tougher to recall politicians. A week before the right-to-work legislation was passed, protestors were pepper sprayed outside of the Capitol Building in Lansing. In 2013, state policymakers must allow proper time for public engagement on issues and reexamine the last minute — and at times shady — legislation that they recently passed.
Instead of focusing on divisive social issues, the state government should focus on supporting higher education. For the past 10 years, Michigan has cut higher education funding, usually resulting in tuition increases. Higher education should not be the first on the chopping block when the state needs to make budget cuts. An educated workforce is crucial to Michigan’s future, and should be advocated by all policymakers.