A young campus group, the Michigan Organization of Students, certainly does not lack ambition. With the central objective of making the University “more diverse, more accessible, and more democratic,” the fledgling organization hopes to foster increased student activism, united behind a broad progressive cause. Considering its aim of addressing important campus issues that don’t always get the attention their relevance demands, MOS’s aspirations warrant support from the student body. In looking to the future, the group should further develop a focused, well informed agenda to bring effective change to the University.
Some of the key struggles MOS hopes to address include the increasing cuts to higher education, the lack of student participation in campus and city politics and the misplaced priorities of the University administration. While these issues may go undiscussed among many students, they are undoubtedly real and pressing. Tuition increases in recent years have made the University increasingly unaffordable to potential students. As several events this semester have shown, MSA and the city government do, at best, an inconsistent job of representing student interests. What is most daunting, however, may not be these trends themselves, but rather the failure of students to stand as a united front against them.
MOS’s agenda is broad and challenging. To effectively call attention to the issues it represents, the group needs insight and tenacity. One of the most important of its efforts will be to ensure that its members are well informed on the issues. Like any other student group, MOS’s legitimacy in the eyes of University administrators will hinge upon not only the dedication, but also the knowledge and insight, of its activists.
In addition to developing intelligent and effective advocates for students, MOS will do best if it forms a clear, coherent agenda. The organization’s assessment that misplaced priorities at all levels of government have led to problems in higher education is on point; however, it is doubtful that the group alone can end the Iraq war or reverse the national trend of funding cuts to public universities. To present itself as an advocate of student issues, the group must focus the majority of its efforts on local issues, where its impact will be directly felt.
A quick saunter through the abandoned graveyard of student activist groups past unearths a cautionary example. Student Voices in Action, an umbrella group that attempted to address a host of budget cuts and other administrative issues, was a progressive organization with goals similar to those of MOS. Unfortunately, SVA appeared poorly informed and unfocused during much of its brief existence – and ultimately failed to make many of the changes it sought on campus. MOS should keep this example in mind in seeking to avoid the pitfalls that have hindered other activist organizations.
The observations and suggestions aside, MOS’s aim of increasing student activity and participation is both necessary and admirable. With local, state and national legislation increasingly going against the interests of University students, the cost of undergraduate apathy is perhaps the only thing rising faster than tuition. Student activism on campus is in need of a jolt. With a little luck, MOS might be just the right group to apply that shock.