While students across the University will be voting in a contested election for the top positions on the Michigan Student Assembly, they will be faced with no choice when deciding who deserves the presidency and vice presidency of LSA Student Government. With no competition, Students 4 Michigan candidates Andrew Yahkind and Paige Butler will cruise to victory, with an ambitious agenda they believe will improve the academic experience for all students of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. However, while we believe Yahkind and Butler will be more than competent in their positions as LSA-SG executives, we do feel their candidacy presents some serious shortcomings.
Despite their good intentions, there are some doubts about whether or not Yahkind and Butler are capable of accomplishing all of their goals. One prime concern stems from last semester’s academic transcript changes. At an interview with the Daily’s editorial board this week, Butler — who is the current LSA-SG Academic Relations Officer — indicated that she was only given one week’s notice before the changes were voted on. While it was wrong for the University to close her out of the deliberations over such a large change, it is the responsibility of student government to press University officials, actively seek information and proactively fight for students’ rights. We feel Yahkind and Butler must be willing to challenge the administration if they are going to improve LSA — they cannot merely wait for information to seep down from above.
We are excited that Yahkind and Butler are enthusiastic about continuing the integration of technology into LSA operations, including the implementation of an online degree completion tracker. The candidates have proposed that a checklist of graduation requirements become a feature of Wolverine Access, so that students are able to know what requirements they have fulfilled and which ones they are still responsible for. We are also pleased the candidates have pledged to tackle the problem of textbook pricing and availability. To combat the excessive cost of printed textbooks, they would like the administration to put more pressure on the faculty to use online coursepacks, which are readily accessible. They also hope to convince the administration to create an ordering deadline for textbooks. Such a deadline would force professors to order books before the beginning of a term and allow students to know which books they need early, leaving enough time to order cheap copies online. They have also suggested that the various departmental advising offices make online scheduling available and that professors post syllabi on websites during registration so students can make informed course decisions.
While these changes are probably likely to get pushed through during their tenure, we are concerned that Yahkind and Butler seem reluctant to take on important issues that have failed to gain steam in the past. When pressed on why they do not plan to recommend changes to the pass/fail deadline, the candidates argued they did not wish to campaign on such an issue because they felt it would inevitably fail. If this feeling is at all representative of their leadership capacity, it will limit the potential of meaningful LSA-SG reform.
We are also troubled that neither Yahkind nor Butler had much of an opinion regarding the new LSA scholarship program. While some students may argue that MSA should be the chief body advocating the student perspective on financial aid, a majority of students attending the University are enrolled in LSA, and the college itself provides a large amount of need and merit-based aid. We sincerely hope that Yahkind and Butler choose to expand the role of LSA-SG and use its power to address financial aid issues.
Even though Yahkind and Butler are guaranteed victory, we hope that students nonetheless choose to go online and cast their ballots. If students show that they have an interest in LSA-SG politics, there is a chance that additional candidates and parties will rise to challenge Students 4 Michigan candidates in the future. We wish Yahkind and Butler success for their term and encourage them to take an aggressive position in advocating their ambitious agenda.