The election that begins today will determine whether or not the Michigan Student Assembly can continue to be the democratic hub of student politics. MSA, especially at moments of heightened student activism, has been and can be a powerful advocate for the interests and needs of the whole student body. The Defend Affirmative Action Party believes that it is crucial for MSA to maintain its right to be the independent organizing center for the most powerful constituency on campus — the student body. DAAP is the only party running in this election committed to preserving and strengthening the power of the MSA.

The central issue in this campaign is whether or not the anti-democratic and dangerous Students 4 Progressive Governance Constitutional proposal, which is a sweeping overhaul of the University student constitution and student bill of rights, should be adopted. If adopted, the S4PG constitution would significantly weaken the power of MSA and students’ ability to act independently through our officially recognized governmental body. It would also end critical civil rights and free speech protections for students, most importantly the right of immigrant and international students, and transgender and transsexual students to be protected against discrimination based on national origin, gender identity and expression. And it would give the MSA president veto power, significantly lessening the ability of students to exert democratic control of our student government in order to assure that it expresses our will.

Now more than ever, we need a strong MSA led by a party determined to organize the tremendous but currently disorganized power of students. DAAP is that party.

Students in California and at public universities across the nation are responding to rising tuition costs, increased privatization, inadequate financial aid, declining enrollment of minority students and program cuts by building a new mass student movement. Their mass actions, building occupations, sit-ins, marches and pickets beginning last fall stopped more tuition hikes and moved both the Democratic and Republican parties of California to propose state finance reform to protect the University of California system. African American and Latino students at University of California-San Diego, who are a tiny portion of the school’s student body, responded to a racist frat party and a noose hanging in their library by occupying the University of California-San Diego Chancellor’s office. They demanded that the administration back their words of concern with concrete changes to the admissions process to raise underrepresented minority student enrollment. They won. Undocumented students at California universities are now poised to win a DREAM Act scholarship.

DAAP is committed to bringing this movement to the University of Michigan. On Mar. 4, students at the University of Wisconsin and students at other Big Ten universities took decisive direct mass action, turning their huge student body into the most important force for progress in the state. Students on this campus cannot afford more tuition hikes. Even those of us that are from families once classified as affluent or upper-middle-class are reeling from the economic crisis and cannot cover 5- to 10-percent tuition hikes every year for the foreseeable future. Minority students have had racial slurs scrawled on their doors and feel increasingly frustrated by the administration’s seeming incapacity to take even obvious and minimal steps to correct the increasingly hostile climate we face on campus.

Over the next year, our campus needs to assume its rightful place as a center of student struggle. If we build the new student movement here on this campus, then we know that students on other universities across this state, including Michigan State University — which is facing massive program cuts, large tuition increases, and a steady decline in minority student enrollment — will join with us and act.

We ask every student here who supports student democracy, student rights and a free and independent student government to vote DAAP. We need bold leadership and this is our moment. Let’s seize it and act.

Kate Stenvig is the DAAP presidential candidate for MSA.

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