After two long, drawn-out meetings on January 13 and 21, the Michigan Student Assembly finally passed the resolution that it had debated for so long. This all-important, time-consuming resolution was a statement expressing regret for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. As the student government of the University, MSA is supposed to represent the students and work toward solving issues that concern them. But yet again, it has neglected its responsibility to students and wasted time arguing about an issue over which it has no jurisdiction to address. If MSA wants to earn respect, it must mount a tangible effort to solve some of the issues that pertain to campus life for students instead of issuing pointless statements.
MSA has spent the majority of its last two meetings debating over resolutions about the crisis in Gaza. At Thursday night’s meeting, the assembly finally settled on a resolution calling for the American Movement for Israel and Students Allied for Freedom and Equality to come together with any other interested students and screen a documentary about Arabic and Jewish women coexisting peacefully. This was a compromise resolution after a more strongly worded resolution calling for a permanent cease fire failed to pass.
The problem with the approved resolution is not that it doesn’t do enough to address the crisis in Gaza. The problem is that MSA is spending its time on the issue. Despite what members of the assembly may think, their personal feelings about the situation in Gaza should not come before their commitment to dealing with campus issues.
There are plenty of issues that students are trusting MSA to handle. The assembly needs to follow through on its promise of better lighting across campus. It needs to improve its website — including actually posting the minutes from its meetings — so that students have a way of checking up and seeing what’s going on in MSA. Representatives need to confront campus crime. And, as the University faces the prospect of decreased funding from the state, students are counting on MSA to be their voice for college affordability. What we’re getting now is a student government that cares more about debating distant international issues than discussing the improvements students need.
Every election cycle, MSA representatives promise to take care of these issues, and every MSA session, the results are disappointing. If MSA fulfilled its promises and worked with students, perhaps its elections would see a rise in voter turnout. Last election only 9.6 percent of campus voted. This isn’t surprising, because students have virtually no way to express dissatsfaction with MSA’s single party, the Michigan Action Party, aside from simply not voting. And this allows MSA to get away with not serving students’ needs.
At the root of this problem may simply be the way that MSA views itself. Actions like the unnecessary Gaza resolution reveal that the members of MSA think it’s more important to pretend to be the U.S. Senate than representatives elected to confront the problems of University students. MSA representatives must hold themselves accountable to students’ wishes and work for students to improve campus.