The Michigan Student Assembly has probably had a better year than last — none of its members were convicted of felonies and its president wasn’t forced to resign in disgrace as a result of a serious lapse in judgment. But despite avoiding the flashier scandals of the past, MSA has still garnered significant negative attention and student frustration. This year, representatives found themselves bogged down in divisive ideological debates that frequently consumed the time they should have allotted for addressing student’s real concerns.
MSA’s troubles, however, weren’t isolated to the meeting room. The Michigan Action Party, MSA’s strongest party, disbanded after it became clear that it lacked the ability to lead MSA to fulfill its potential. In MAP’s wake emerged the Michigan Vision Party and the reMICHIGAN Campaign, which have both produced candidates for the MSA presidential seat.
Both parties seem enthusiastic about reforming the assembly. Both also get bogged down by lofty rhetoric. But this is where the similarities end — for the most part, MVP and reMICHIGAN represent very different approaches to student government. In MVP, voters have the choice of a party that’s wildly motivated but short on experience. ReMICHIGAN’s leaders, on the other hand, have a stronger track record of working with the administration but don’t inspire as much confidence in their dedication to the cause. The stark difference in the two party’s strengths and weaknesses makes it tough to determine which party is, on the whole, better for students.
MVP, led by presidential candidate Abhishek Mahanti and vice-presidential candidate Mike Rorro, prides itself on having sought student feedback around campus. Though the repetition of this “vision” theme is slightly tiresome, it’s certainly true that MVP has put in the time and effort to reach out to students, swarming the Diag for days straight and interacting with other student groups. It’s unclear, however, if Mahanti and Rorro know what to do with that input.
This is partly because Mahanti and Rorro don’t have the experience working with the University administration that reMICHIGAN does. This makes it difficult to determine how effectively they could advocate student concerns to University officials. It also seems like they might struggle to navigate the University bureaucracy — a necessary component of the job if they want to accomplish their goals.
But despite these struggles, MVP has put forward a set of goals that, while seemingly small, have a good chance of coming to fruition. In recent years, MSA has seemed incapable of implementing the things students most want to see — like a working website. Though MVP aims small, it has proposed goals that it could reasonably meet. These include installing LCD screens in buildings to let students know when the next bus is coming, holding more workshops on how to apply for financial aid and reaching out to student groups to offer them more funding.
MVP wants MSA to do a better job of reaching out to students, and it plans to do this by holding office hours and by sending representatives to the meetings of student groups. While reMICHIGAN has made similar promises, MVP has better credibility here because of the substantial outreach effort that Mahanti and Rorro made during the campaign.
Mahanti and Rorro have also expressed their unhappiness with the current structure of MSA and seemed enthusiastic and ready to encourage the necessary cultural changes to the institution that could lead to an effective student government. Reorganizing the Steering Committee in order to prevent certain resolutions from ever making it into the MSA agenda is a major priority of both parties, but MVP’s eagerness to restructure MSA is decidedly more genuine.
But the reMICHIGAN Campaign also has a lot to offer students. Though the decision to call the new party a “campaign” is gimmicky, reMICHIGAN presents students with a more knowledgeable choice. Presidential candidate Gibran Baydoun has a better idea of how to work with the University administration than MVP does. A three-year member of MSA, Baydoun is responsible for the recent resurrection of Homecoming, which required a significant amount of collaboration and negotiation with University officials.
Baydoun demonstrated he was someone who administrators would take seriously but he didn’t prove that he would be able to convince them to heed student’s concerns on issues like tuition. While his inside knowledge and history of working with the administration shows promise, his comparative lack of genuine dedication to students is troubling. It’s easier to imagine reMICHIGAN degenerating into another MAP than it is to picture MVP doing so.
Though institutional savvy seems to be reMICHIGAN’s strong suit, it isn’t enough to override the fact that students want a student government that’s motivated to fix things. While reMICHIGAN might know more about how to achieve this, MVP’s higher level of motivation is enough to somewhat overcome its comparative inexperience. Both options certainly come with advantages and disadvantages, and picking MVP over reMICHIGAN is admittedly a tough call.
In addition, the long-shot Defend Affirmative Action Party is continuing its historically futile quest to win the presidency. Simply put, DAAP presidential candidate Kate Stenvig and vice-presidential candidate Alanna Owagbemi have no grasp of what student government’s role is. Their unnecessarily ideological arguments were a distraction this year at MSA. There is every reason to believe that, under DAAP’s leadership, issues that distract from the campus agenda would be even more widespread.
LSA student government might not get as much press as MSA, but this year it did make the news when representatives decided to run for seats without party affiliations. Despite this change, the LSA-SG presidential election is once again uncontested. Christine Schepeler and Jeffrey Wojcik are running for the presidential and vice presidential seats, respectively.
Though a contested election would have been ideal, Schepeler and Wojcik are undeniably qualified candidates. Wojcik, current LSA-SG Treasurer, was involved in cutting administrative spending. This allowed LSA-SG to fund more student groups this year. Schepeler, chair of the Communications Committee, worked with committees in MSA to improve synergy and created what she has dubbed the LSA Pride Campaign, which has worked toward a comfortable community in the college. The campaign aims to reach out to freshmen at convocation and includes a Senior Send-Off party.
And the pair’s apparent dedication to LSA-SG and their constituents is encouraging. Schepeler and Wojcik have focused on supporting student groups rather than stepping on their toes. They outlined plans to address the rising cost of bike registration on campus and to work with academic departments to create more minors by providing concrete evidence for why departments should make the switch. They even demonstrated viable plans to tackle bigger projects that MSA seems incapable of making progress on — like the ever-popular challenge of improving campus lighting.
Despite the fact that Schepeler and Wojcik are running unopposed, they have a history of dedication to the student body and possess innovative solutions. As was the case last year, MSA would benefit from emulating LSA-SG’s practical approach to improving academic life, one small project at a time.
The Daily’s Editorial Board endorses ABHISHEK MAHANTI and MIKE RORRO for MSA president and vice president. We also endorse CHRISTINE SCHEPELER and JEFFREY WOJCIK for LSA-SG president and vice president.