The Michigan Daily: What is LSA-SG’s relationship with MSA?
Andrew Yahkind: It depends on the issue. On a lot of projects, LSA Student Government overlaps with the Michigan Student Assembly, but we have a unique focus where we just look at the 17,000 students in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, so issues that affect the entire student body but also affect LSA students, we will work with MSA and issues that are independent – let’s say the creation of academic programs, minors, policies within the college – that’s something that LSA-SG will tackle on it’s own.
TMD: Do you find (LSA-SG and MSA) overlapping a lot?
AY: It really depends on the issue. When it comes to academics, not that much, but when it comes to putting on an event and fighting for general University policies, much more.
TMD: The language requirement: Why did LSA-SG support it and why do you think it failed?
AY: LSA-SG actually didn’t come up with the 2-and-2 option, contrary to popular belief. The 2-and-2 option is something that originated from the faculty, and LSA-SG was asked to take a stance. A lot of representatives didn’t feel like it was the ideal solution, but it was the only solution we were being offered with so because of that, it was favored. Why did it fail? I think a lot of it has to do with the dynamic of how voting works. I think that since this is something that has been debated since 1997 with the faculty, faculty are sick of the issue, and the faculty that did show up are faculty that are strongly opposed to any changes. I think in many ways it’s a mixed blessing because it pushes the college to keep re-examining the issue and come up with a better solution. The failing of 2-2 isn’t the death of the language requirement.
TMD: Are you going to keep focusing on that?
AY: Absolutely, until we find a viable solution to the foreign language issue, which is something that LSA student continuously bring to us, we’re going to keep pushing for changes.
TMD: Do you have any ideas in mind?
AY: Something that was thrown out was 3-2. An option that has to be examined more is allowing students who spend one semester abroad to count that for more than one semester of language because the immersion of one semester abroad is more than one semester of foreign language here. That’s something that has to be examined even more.
TMD: What do you try to do to get more people to find out exactly what LSA-SG does and so people are able to distinguish you from MSA?
AY: That’s been part of the problem with LSA Student Government in the past few years is students don’t know what it is. When they think student government, they think MSA and while MSA does a lot of great things on campus, LSA students deserve those great things too, so we’re making an effort to work with the Daily, work with other campus media outlets, our website. So we’re making a push to make sure people know what we’re doing. A lot of the issues that we work on have more of an effect on the day-to-day lives of students, so they’re more concerned with what LSA-SG is doing for them.
TMD: The Honor Council is finalized?
AY: The Honor Council is finalized. I believe it’s actually hearing a case this week, and it’s already begun working on the education process. It’s a momentous step. This is something that we’ve been working on for years and years and it’s almost absurd that it’s taken this long but now we’re seeing the result.
TMD: What was the background behind creating it?
AY: The background is students were concerned there were no clear policies regarding academic integrity in the college and things really varied from class to class, from professor to professor and they weren’t being educated on what the policies were and they wanted some consistency and clarity when it came to issues like that. A lot of other schools have honor councils, including schools within the University of Michigan. (The Honor Council) had a dual role in educating students and actually participating in the cases.
TMD: The LSAT prep course that you’re working on: How can that work if it’s independent?
AY: Prep courses are a reality when it comes to graduate level examinations and unfortunately, they are an expensive reality. Students are now forces to shell out over $1,000 on a prep course and it puts a lot of students at a disadvantage. While the University is not going to formally endorse prep courses, it’s a reality that students need to take them to strive to get into these better graduate schools. It’s going to be a self-directed prep course that’s offered in conjunction with The Career Center. The Career Center is going to help us lay out a syllabus for what should be studied and how to study it. It’s the first step. I think we can do more in regards to prep courses, and there’s an obligation for the University and the college to prepare students for graduate school.
TMD: You had an uncontested election. How do you try to get more candidates for LSA-SG and subsequently, more voter turnout?
AY: I wish it were a contested election. I wish I had a straight answer. If you look at past history, they have been very contested, with multiple candidates and multiple parties. I think there’s a very strange dynamic on campus in general as regards to why there are no parties other than Students for Michigan or Defend Affirmative Action. I think we’re trying to outreach by going to student groups. Every representative was assigned a student group that he or she had to go to and explain what LSA-SG does. I think part of the problem is that this new party system Student for Michigan recruits students from within student government where as if you look in the past, they recruited students from outside student government.
TMD: LSA-SG plans for the future?
AY: Where to start? We’re hoping there’s going to be a vote on the international studies minor within the LSA curriculum in the next couple of weeks, and that’s something we’ve been working on for years. If our graduates are going to compete in the globalized world, they need an international studies background. It’s as simple as that. Continue to push forth academic minors, continue to lobby in policy changes for things such as registration. The way registration works right now is you register in increments of 15 credits – they’re called 15-credit blocks. Michigan State University has it down to the individual credit – you register with people who have the same exact number of credits as you. You can’t tell me Michigan State is far above us in terms of technology. I don’t believe it, I don’t buy it. Outside the vein of academics, we continue to put on events. An example of an event we just put on (last week) was the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative rally. It was a very unique event on campus, the debate was very contested for an emotional – in many ways – issue and we hope to take that model and apply it to other issues on campus.
TMD: Last question: Do you think the average Joe on campus cares about campus politics and knows a lot about them?
AY: They care about campus politics when campus politics means something to them. When LSA student government funds their student organization, when they create minors or maybe down the road, they create a psychology minor and when they get that minor, they care about campus politics.