Although Students 4 Michigan has dominated Michigan Student Assembly elections since its establishment last fall, next semester’s elections may offer students a little more variety. LSA junior Walter Nowinski and LSA sophomore Travis Radina have each formed their own party to challenge Students 4 Michigan and the one-party dominion it’s come to represent. Nowinski’s Michigan Progressive Party and Radina’s Students for Progress Party have now merged, and while the united party will provide much-needed competition, it must distinguish itself from the multitude of short-lived anti-establishment parties that have emerged in the past. Its presence alone will not be sufficient to fight apathy; if a new party wants a real spotlight, its members must address the growing disconnect between MSA and the student body.
Students 4 Michigan lacks a unifying identity and remains little more than a compilation of campus leaders, each with his own personal projects. MSA President Jesse Levine claims Students 4 Michigan embodies inclusiveness, opening its doors to anyone with an interest in improving campus life. But so long as all that unites party representatives is their desire to serve in government, Students 4 Michigan will be more akin to an extracurricular club than an actual student government.
Despite enthusiasm for representing students’ interests, no party, new or old, has yet to address the more pressing problem of student apathy. In this fall’s election, only 8.4 percent of students voted. Last month’s mismanagement of the Ludacris concert, where MSA lost more than $20,000, is just the most recent example of MSA negligence that went unpunished. With less than 4,000 students holding MSA accountable for its mistakes, the assembly will face little pressure to become more effective. As if these figures weren’t embarrassing enough, this problem continues to worsen year after year. Parties cannot address this issue with brightly colored quarter sheets; students need to be given actual reasons to care.
Whereas the Student Progressive Party has two planks on its platform, Students 4 Michigan doesn’t even have a platform. Whereas the Student Progressive Party is united behind a set of common objectives, Students 4 Michigan takes pride in its mixed bag of pet projects.
Because Students 4 Michigan has effectively swallowed MSA, its failure to engage students and present a unified stance has translated into an ineffective student government. As Nowinski pointed out, the harmonica man on the Diag contributes more to students than the current assembly.
To be successful, the Michigan Progressive Party will have to fight the perception that it – like past independent parties – will fizzle out within months of the election. Fortunately, any doubts about the seriousness of this party were put to rest when the Daily learned it has a Facebook group – a telltale sign of dedication.
The Michigan Progressive Party has until April to assemble a concrete platform and a viable roster of candidates. In the meantime, Students 4 Michigan should do some soul searching to address the growing frustration toward its reign on MSA.