The cartographers of old seem to have hit upon a winning metaphor for success, political and otherwise – redraw the same old forms with different names and boundaries, and you’ve got yourself a new map. The Michigan Action Party has swept student government elections, winning every LSA Student Government seat and the majority of other contested seats in the Michigan Student Assembly. In the aftermath of yet another complacent student government election, MSA should reclaim its role as the representative government of a highly politicized student body – and should temper its concerns accordingly.
Although this fall’s MSA elections saw a newly reconstituted alphabet soup enter the political arena – MAP in place of the now-defunct Students 4 Michigan Party, the Student Liberty Party, the Defend Affirmative Action Party and the doggedly endearing Hungry Hungry Coeds.com Party – the flavor of said soup has not changed. MSA elections still conjure up the same stale images of lofty overtures to nothing in particular greeted by a remarkable silence on the part of the student body. It is difficult to tell what is more disturbing – the HungryHungryCoeds.com Party’s inability to gather student support with promises of free food, or the fact that MAP, an old party with a new name, could manage to change its face and still maintain its dynastic rule.
The distance between the University’s student populace and its elected representatives wouldn’t be so distressing if MSA were really as inconsequential as its candidates’ claims may make it appear. However, the fact of the matter remains that MSA controls a budget of roughly $500,000 – almost entirely composed of student activity fees that each student pays. MSA, dominated by S4M-turned-MAP as it may be, needs to make a concerted effort to make its proceedings intelligible to the student body. Moreover, it should make its resolutions and projects interesting.
However much MSA candidates and parties need to improve, this fall’s election cycle saw considerable innovation in electioneering techniques. The relative infrequency of party spam made for a happier student body while presenting potential MSA candidates with a creative dilemma – how to encourage student voting when the most conspicuous initiatives irritated and turned students away? Laptop voting stations in Angell Hall served as an innovative way to bring the election process directly to the students – even if the procedure of the politics obscured an empty core.
All politicians walk a fine line, but MSA walks the line between dynastic rule and apolitical leadership guild – both forms of government miles away from the ideal of a representative student assembly. Standing for something rather than promising everything and signifying, well, nothing is immensely preferred. But the uncomfortable political pauses spent pondering the ubiquitous crisis in student government will never last long. There will always be the cruel rumbling of a stomach to remind us that we’re still looking for a party that delivers – whether pizza or politics.