Every semester around election time, Michigan Student Assembly candidates flock to the residence halls, going door-to-door spouting campaign promises, ideas and plans to unsuspecting students. The Residence Halls Association prohibits such campaigning after 8 p.m. and each MSA candidate receives a copy of Housing policies before campaigning begins. Yet as anyone who has heard a knock on the door at midnight can attest, these rules have been ignored.
MSA”s Compiled Code encourages candidates to “(adhere) to the rules and regulations of each individual residence hall,” but it is a disingenuous admonition the Compiled Code later admits that MSA will never punish candidates for violating Housing”s rules. Thus, candidates routinely invade students” privacy at all hours of the evening with no risk of demerits.
At the Jan. 30 MSA meeting, Architecture and Urban Planning Rep. Shana Shevitz attempted to restore accountability to the assembly by proposing an amendment to the Code.
This essential amendment simply called for MSA to follow the rules set forth by RHA. “It is ridiculous to be a branch of the University and not abide by the rules set forth by another branch of the University,” Shevitz said.
Apparently her colleagues do not share those sentiments. The majority of the assembly voted against the proposal.
The representatives who voted against the resolution have collectively thumbed their noses not only at Housing regulations, but also at the students those regulations are meant to protect. Assembly members claim that an 8 p.m. time limit is far too early and that it infringes on their right to publicize their candidacies. But what about the students” rights to privacy and uninterrupted study?
Assembly members have also argued that enforcement of an early time limit will hurt turnout because fewer students will remember to vote. This assertion is dubious at best. With flyers in almost every campus building, quarter sheets on every auditorium seat, posters enveloping every campus kiosk, a Diag covered in chalk and a campus-wide e-mail from MSA, none but the most reclusive of students will forget to vote. Indeed, this failed resolution epitomizes all that is wrong with politicians: Sure, rules are important unless they”re inconvenient, in which case MSA can just ignore them. With such blatant disregard for rules and regulations, is it any wonder almost every MSA election is characterized by election fraud?
Although just a few weeks remain until the winter campaign, MSA still has time to revisit this issue. The assembly must consider the effect that this vote will have on its public image and examine the message it is sending to Housing, RHA and the entire University community.
Next month, eager candidates from every college will appear in residence halls across the campus. If any of these candidates are seen knocking on doors after 8 p.m., students must not be afraid to let them know that they are breaking the rules and, unless the candidates live in that hall, they are also trespassing. A firm letter to RHA, firstname.lastname@example.org, along with a quick call to the Department of Public Safety, might just teach these candidates some respect for the Housing regulations.