The last contact most students had with Michigan Student Assembly President Zack Yost was his Nov. 13 e-mail calling on us to pack the Big House for the game against Ohio State. However noble his sentiments, perhaps his one monthly e-mail could have focused on the mess in his own house, MSA.
MSA Rep. Anton Vuljaj, former chair of the Budget Priorities Committee, is facing felony charges for allegedly criminal behavior in the 2006 MSA election. Vuljaj, then a supporter of the Students 4 Michigan party, is charged with intentionally crashing the website of the opposing Michigan Progressive Party during the election. In the face of overwhelming evidence, Vuljaj stepped down from his position on LSA Student Government, but he ran for MSA a year later with the Michigan Action Party, an off shoot of S4M. He stepped down from his leadership position on the Budget Priorities Committee after being charged last month, but he remains an assembly representative.
Even as another student implicated in the attack pled guilty in recent days, there’s no chance that MSA as an organization will do anything to hold Vuljaj accountable for the damage he has done to MSA’s reputation. Obviously, Vuljaj is legally innocent until found guilty in a court, but senior S4M officials admitted in 2006 that their party was behind the attack: If the culprit is not Vuljaj, then someone else is in the party is guilty. MSA must either take action against Vuljaj or actively work to find the real culprit, not simply try to gloss over the whole situation.
When he spoke to the Daily’s editorial board earlier this month, Yost didn’t give a clear answer when asked if he would ask Vuljaj to resign – even if a guilty verdict is reached. Yost’s nonchalant attitude, even in the face of one of his guys facing criminal charges, is quite revealing of MSA as a whole. The assembly is a closed-door club that looks out for itself before looking out for the students. This calls into question the relevance and necessity of having such a governing body at all.
Yost’s responses to questions from the Daily’s editorial board were incomplete and insincere: He couldn’t even say where he was during the night of the 2006 election, insisting that he simply could not recall. Yost’s inability to answer even this simple question raises doubts about him where none should exist.
I don’t think Yost was actually involved in the scandal. A far more likely explanation for his dodgy answers is this: He is already a seasoned, conniving politician. Unfortunately, it seems that the wordy and disingenuous manner of speaking that so plagues the members of our state and national governments might also be afflicting our student government. If this is MSA, do we really need it at all?
Investigating what MSA actually accomplishes is a difficult task. Its website lists numerous committees and commissions, which would suggest a very active role in campus affairs. Some commissions give a promising summary of what they would ideally like to do, and then a “news” section for that commission that is seemingly always blank.
There is another, much shorter list of projects that MSA has completed. The biggest problem with this list is that it names accomplishments from fall 2004. Has MSA not done anything since then? Or it is too lazy to update its website so that students may read up on what the assembly is doing?
Perhaps MSA has done substantive things in the past three years, but regular students have little chance of knowing about them. MSA clearly suffers from an inability to be transparent, as evidenced by Yost’s vague answers and the website’s outdated information.
As residents of Michigan and citizens of America, we have all too often been subjected to governments that are disdainfully unaccountable to us. If what we see today in MSA is indicative of what is happening at other college campuses and what the future holds for this country, we really have no need for such organizations. The University should be able to produce a student governing body that breeds leaders, not politicians.
– Robert Soave can be reached at email@example.com.