Committed and dedicated members, key to any successful student organization, have long been in short supply at the Michigan Student Assembly. Recognizing these difficulties, MSA set up a more formal application process for new members last fall. By ensuring would-be members take the time to fill out an application and then directing them to specific committees, MSA has made an easy reform that could greatly strengthen and expand its membership.
MSA’s new application process requires applicants to write a short essay about their involvement at the University and asks them to rank their prospective MSA committees. This new process revises the former system, which simply required members to attend a set number of meetings. The old process often left members lost or feeling unimportant in the assembly because their commitment was not taken seriously.
The new process will better direct prospective members to committees that best fit their interests and draw in members who are more serious about their position in the assembly. The level of competition associated with the system also forces prospective members to work harder to gain their position and makes them more likely to accept the positions they receive.
In the past, MSA has been criticized for having uncommitted members and failing to be a powerful body on campus. Even among elected assembly representatives, dedication – and often meeting attendance – are recurrent problems. With this application system, new members will hopefully be more devoted to their positions. Assembly members who take the initiative to apply for their committee seat may be more willing to dedicate the time and energy to implement new programs and help MSA run smoothly.
With the bulk of its membership composed of non-elected students serving on committees, recruitment efforts outside of MSA elections are crucial to attracting new members. The new system may not be perfect – MSA will have to be careful to ensure that favoritism plays no role in placing students on committees, and that the process remains fair and as transparent as possible. In order for MSA to operate as an effective assembly and represent University students, it must attract loyal members willing to work hard to improve the University. This new system is an encouraging sign that the organization is working to do so.