With the fall lease rush approaching and the absence of legislation that would make the lease-signing process more student friendly, the city has yet to fulfill its promise to advocate for student’s renting concerns. But a new proposal from City Council candidate Stephen Rapundalo (D-2nd Ward) may be a sign that the city is starting to pay attention to students.
Rapundalo has proposed that the city establish a joint commission between the City Council and the Michigan Student Assembly that would discuss issues pertinent to students and seek input from students about pending legislation. The proposed commission would consist of seven students appointed by MSA and two City Council members appointed by the mayor.
Rapundalo said the idea for the commission first developed during his primary election during the summer, when he ran against LSA senior Eugene Kang, who, if he had been successful in his bid, would have been the first student representative on City Council in more than 30 years.
“Eugene pointed out that we needed better representation for students in city government,” Rapundalo said.
Councilman Leigh Greiden (D-3rd Ward) said he supports Rapundalo’s proposal. “I expect this will help in two ways,” he said. “First, communication is always a positive and second, there are upcoming issues that we need student input on. We can get the input that we need from this commission.”
But Kang said he is not convinced that this is a genuine attempt by the city to get feedback from students.
“I think that it’s in the right direction, but it might be more effective in conducting the ruse of students being involved in government,” Kang said.
Kang also said that during his primary campaign, Rapundalo told voters that as a student, Kang would be incapable of handling issues facing the city. Kang said such remarks showed disregard for students’ capacity to play a role in city government.
“Unless he’s had a drastic change in opinion, I’m still skeptical about how seriously the Council will take the commission,” Kang said, “It seems like a political move rather than a genuine attempt to recognize students in city government.”
MSA President Jesse Levine, however, said he feels the measure is a sincere effort to make the City Council more accessible to students.
“This has the potential to lead to a more open policy between the Council and students,” he said. “It could institutionalize communication between the city and MSA.”
Michigan State University has had a similar program in place that gives its student government a hand in local politics. Drew Bell, vice chair for external affairs of MSU’s student assembly, said that for the past five years, the student assembly’s director of community affairs has acted as a student liaison to bimonthly City Council meetings in East Lansing.
“It has proven to be effective,” he said. “We often have issues where it is vital to have close interaction with the city.”