Student governments at the University have been getting a lot of attention so far this year, and not because of any impressive accomplishments. Instead it has been the unnecessary resolutions, disturbing inaction and party politics that have captured the student body’s interest. The collapse of student government’s dominant party, the Michigan Action Party, and a controversial attempt by the LSA Student Government to drop party labels from the ballot, are certainly reflections of this negative attention. But while these changes may represent the slightest of improvements to student government’s approach, dropping party labels isn’t the change it needs. Instead, MSA and LSA-SG need to change their definition of parties into an entity that actually works for students.

The Michigan Action Party has swept the past two elections with campaign promises that are left unfulfilled and get MSA and LSA-SG nowhere. The party has been an election-winning machine because of its ability to rally around one cause: getting re-elected. Sadly, it has failed to act in the best interest of students, instead functioning only as a tool to get a select group of students into LSA-SG and MSA.

Early last week, MAP split into two different groups — the Michigan Vision Party and the reMICHIGAN Campaign, which doesn’t want to be thought of as a party. On top of that, LSA-SG decided to go party-free this election — at least in principle, since the LSA-SG bylaws require that candidates be allowed to identify with a party on the ballot. Getting rid of parties is currently all the rage.

But just because these organizations don’t want to be classified as parties doesn’t mean anything has really changed. Whether they call themselves parties, campaigns, groups or anything else, student governments need to form entities that have greater concerns than getting elected. The name doesn’t matter — what matters is that representatives come together to work toward a common goal of meeting student’s specific needs. Student government leaders, whether they form new parties or shed the label of party altogether, must keep in mind that their groups should be based around the idea of policymakers working together to help their constituents. A “party” should have a policy agenda that aims to better the University.

Ideally, parties are a proven way for a group of candidates with a similar message to work together and articulate their goals. And if there were more than one legitimate, constructive party in the running, actual competition might drive voter turnout — or at least turnout that’s better than 9 percent (the abysmal percentage). Higher voter turnout could even result in a measure of accountability for these parties. Restoring student government’s accountability should be a central concern of any new group in MSA or LSA-SG, and party labels should exist to accomplish this goal.

An effective student government would achieve real policy changes, create effective political parties and build a system of accountability. If this happens, students could see their elected officials actually get things done. MAP certainly wasn’t the first group in student government to misinterpret the word “party” as a club to get people elected — and it probably won’t be the last — but with its dissolution comes an opportunity for MSA and LSA-SG leaders to have parties the right way.

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