Elections to fill a number of seats on the Michigan Student Assembly began last night at midnight and end at midnight tomorrow night. Once they are elected, there will be a host of issues for the representatives to tackle in order to improve student life at the University.

Chief among these issues is the continuing housing shortage and the low quality of off-campus housing. MSA should continue to implement President Jason Mironov’s plans to replace the now-defunct Ann Arbor Tenants Union, even though thus far his plans seem rather modest. MSA should push the Ann Arbor City Council to adopt a city ordinance that would push back until the winter term the time period when students sign leases for off-campus housing. Students often have to begin looking for housing in early October, giving them little time to make crucial decisions about where to live and with whom. The Greek system also finds it hard to delay Rush because of Ann Arbor’s tight housing market.

Students’ lives would improve if their Mcards were accepted at more places where they like to eat. Making more restaurants and stores Mcard accessible would be an easy task for MSA, and it should be able to accomplish this goal in the near future. Student dining would also improve if MSA convinced many of the eateries that already accept Mcards to remain open longer, thus providing students with more dining options late at night.

On the weekends, too many students are stranded on Central Campus where all the activity is, while the hours of bus service between the two campuses remain rather limited. To make it easier for students to visit Central Campus on the weekends, busing hours should be extended so that students are not stuck on Central Campus during the early morning hours. It would also help if MSA used some of its time to facilitate events on North Campus that are worthwhile for the students who live there, separated from the more vibrant Central Campus.

Despite the perception that it is powerless, the assembly has been able to accomplish a fair amount in recent years. MSA was able to successfully convince the administration to adopt fall break and MSA successfully advocated for students and stopped the City Council from passing the proposed couch ban that would have banned students from putting couches on their porches.

MSA was able to achieve these victories for students by remaining on top of these issues and keeping track of changes on the local political scene that might affect campus life. MSA must continue to do this so that it can best serve the student population.

Students who do vote in these elections must decide which of the candidates will work the hardest to make sure that these and other goals are accomplished. MSA can best serve students by being an advocate for them with Ann Arbor and the University on the issues that directly affect their academic and social experiences. But MSA must also not be afraid of taking stands supporting the legality of affirmative action in the state of Michigan and the right of the University to offer its employees domestic partnership benefits.

Each time there is an MSA election MSA must prove that it is worthwhile for students to take an interest in who wins. MSA is once again presented with the opportunity to do something for the student body, and it must seize this opportunity , especially if its members hope to see a student body more interested in campus politics.

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