The rational thing to do in the face of a Michigan Student Assembly election is to laugh quietly and refuse the flyers. The rational thing to do is to realize that MSA, though functional in some aspects, isn”t nearly the powerful body that some profess it to be. The rational thing to do is to simply not vote.
Unfortunately, a cursory look at MSA will show anyone that it isn”t exactly a haven for rationality. While all the rational people do the rational thing (which is anything but voting), what are the irrational people doing? All of the irrational people are holed up in a dark computer lab, voting irrationally. When all the rational people opt out of the voting procedure, we end up with DAAP/BAMN at the helm, and everything goes to pot.
While it”s true that MSA doesn”t have the power that many candidates profess that it does (I”m sorry, but people can promise as many parking lots as they”d like it”s not going to happen because of MSA), there is no doubt that MSA provides a useful service to students. I have to admit that most of the committees are generally impotent and provide little more than a fancy title for resume-minded representatives. But there are things that MSA does which are important.
First and foremost, the president of MSA is a tangible liaison between students and University Board of Regents. At all the regent meetings, the MSA president is given the opportunity to address the regents and provide a real voice for student concerns. Electing a competent, intelligent president does more for student concerns than any amount of experience-building, ultimately useless, committees.
Secondly, though the individual contribution to MSA is negligible $5 isn”t exactly a financial burden the cumulative amount of cash that MSA controls warrants a vested interest in their actions. With that money, MSA can fund any of a seemingly infinite number of programs that provide a direction for campus politics. Take, for example, the Affirmative Action 102 debacle. This “educational experience” was railroaded by the more vocal members of the assembly, and was turned into an incredibly biased attempt at providing affirmative action propaganda, instead of providing a reasonable and well-rounded debate about the pros and cons of affirmative action. The defense of this is that none of the anti-affirmative action speakers wished to come, but the fact is that Ward Connerly was the only anti-affirmative action speaker invited, while a seemingly endless list of defenders were invited. The result? An entire campus seemingly in favor of affirmative action, when it”s fairly obvious that this campus is split between defenders and detractors of affirmative action.
It would be one thing if every single candidate was the same, or if MSA didn”t have an enormous budget. I wouldn”t care if no one except the loons voted if MSA was as useless as people like to believe it is. It”s one thing when a relatively harmless candidate like Hideki wins the election, but it”s another thing entirely when hardcore activists like DAAP win. Certain people can steer the assembly in a direction that isn”t particularly in tune with the student body, and that can be dangerous.
Which brings me to that issue: The Hideki issue. No one involved with MSA wants you to vote for Hideki. I”ve got a personal theory about this.
The average MSA candidate is the kid you hated in high school: Always wore dress slacks from Hudson”s, got a haircut twice a month (at a salon!), and actually owned and operated a pair of penny loafers. These are the kids who had, and still have, a whole crew of people willing to tack up catchy little flyers in the gym locker room and throw little caramel candies to the student body, knowing that each thrust of their sweets-laden, atrophied arm would secure one more vote. These are the kids who your mother wanted you to hang out with after school, simply because they got good at tricking everyone into believing that they weren”t one of the ones smoking weed under the football bleachers. These are the kids who were on a first-name basis with all the teachers (“Hey Chuck, how”s the missus?”). These are the kids who spent their summers in D.C. licking a senator”s shoes to a clean shine and dreaming of money, power, respect. These are the kids who won and got used to winning.
And then Hideki came along and changed that for them. Suddenly, they weren”t so sure about winning, and they couldn”t help but shit in their $35 Lord & Taylor boxers. Hideki walked into his first MSA meeting with virtually the entire assembly hating him, and they still hate him. It”s all very juvenile, because it”s clear that they don”t care about the work that can be done as MSA president, they only care about adding another line to the old resume.
Most of the candidates don”t care and things will run just as they have if those people win. But there are candidates who do care, and there is some danger in that. Irrational motivation is dangerous, and if the rational people bask in the sunlight while irrationality wins the election, this campus could be in for some trouble.
Do the rational thing be irrational and vote.
Manish Raiji”s column runs every other Tuesday. Give him feedback at www.michigandaily.com/forum or via e-mail at email@example.com.