In a controversial decision, on Tuesday,
the Michigan Student Assembly announced that it had decided to fund
a visit by political activist and filmmaker Michael Moore.
Ostensibly, MSA promoted the decision as an effort to further
political dialogue on campus. Moore’s appearance is a
worthwhile venture for MSA, but its ability to catalyze debate
might be limited by the cost of admission as well as the lack of
speakers from a variety of political viewpoints to complement the
Bringing Moore is a laudable achievement on the part of MSA. In
a hotly contested election year, a speaker of Moore’s
prominence can have an electric effect on the student body,
sparking debate across ideological boundaries. Despite criticism
that Moore is too political a speaker, bringing dynamic,
influential and sometimes controversial events to campus is an
important function of MSA, and this event is a marvelous use of
student money. Students of all political persuasions should make an
effort to go see Moore, if only to get a valuable perspective on
the political scene.
There are, however, some small caveats. First is the apparent
lack of a conservative speaker with which to balance out Moore. The
issue here is not necessarily equity, but rather taking the steps
to truly foster dialogue. Representatives of MSA, including Peace
and Justice Commission co-chair Matt Hollerbach, have defended the
decision by encouraging conservative groups to propose to the
assembly their own speakers to bring on campus. The fact remains,
however, that this was an MSA initiative, almost from start to
finish. No outside student group had to prod MSA to pursue this. If
MSA is really interested in using Moore’s visit as a way to
spark debate, then working to bring prominent speakers with diverse
philosophies to campus would provide a necessary balance to the
The cost of admission also might limit the event’s impact
by inhibiting those not already sympathetic to Moore’s agenda
from attending. Each year, MSA has hundreds of thousands of dollars
to distribute as it sees fit. In addition, at the end of the term
it often has thousands of unused dollars that need to be allocated.
For example, MSA had about $20,000 left over from winter term
If it truly wishes to promote political discussion on campus,
using its ample funds to make the event free would certainly help
this cause. Students who are disillusioned with the political
process or students who oppose Moore’s message will be less
likely to show up if they have to pay to see Moore.
In recent weeks, the prospect that Moore might come to the
University has brought joy or disgust to various groups on campus.
This reaction undoubtedly means that there is an increased interest
in the political process this year, and that increase is a good
thing for student government to cultivate. As evident in its drive
for voter registration, MSA clearly believes that students at the
University need to participate in the political process this year.
Yet, as students are being urged to participate in the election
this year, they should be provided with many readily available
opposing points of view that will allow them to make informed
decisions this November.