As recently reported in the Daily, the Michigan Student Assembly is preparing to hold a constitutional convention to rewrite the document that governs the operations of MSA, student organizations and to an extent, the student body (MSA invites students to revise student constitution, 10/12/2009). While on the surface this seems like another useless endeavor by MSA, the current all-campus constitution, written 23 years ago, does not meet the needs of a 21st century student body. A rewrite is imperative to modernize the governance of the students of this campus for today and for the future.
While many students see the value and importance of modernizing our constitution, there remain individuals, some of whom sit on MSA, trying to undermine this convention in an effort to further their own political agendas. They question the legitimacy of this convention by calling it undemocratic and charging that it will suppress the views of minorities.
Racializing this issue and labeling it an attack on democratic rights is a sideshow and undermines the very democratic principles these individuals claim to protect. The true attack on the democratic rights of the student body do not stem from the constitutional convention, but rather from those trying to block the actions of the democratically elected student assembly.
Earlier this semester, the assembly unanimously approved the selection procedure for delegates to the convention. The procedure called for the democratically elected MSA president to appoint delegates to this convention. Is it undemocratic when people voice their will through elections? Every representative who approved this procedure, as well as the president tasked with carrying it out, was elected by the student body. This process gives MSA the ability to make decisions such as who should serve as a delegate to the convention and how these delegates are selected. What’s even more interesting about this debate is that the individuals who claim this process to be undemocratic had a chance to voice their opinion, but they chose not to when they had the chance to object. To raise these objections now is simply irresponsible.
Furthermore, the delegates selected for this convention represent a cross-section of the student body. It is a diverse group, representing different parts of campus, student organizations, backgrounds, races and ideologies. One would be hard-pressed to find a more diverse group of students to rewrite this important document. To frame the diversity argument solely on race ignores the numerous other forms of diversity that are present on this campus. Each of these should have and do have a voice at the convention.
Finally, for those who still believe that this process is undemocratic, let us not forget that the delegates who wrote our country’s great Constitution were also not elected. Last I checked, those delegates did a pretty good job preserving democratic ideals.
As MSA prepares for this important constitutional convention, it is important that it remains focused on its task of serving the students. It’s time for everyone to set aside their own personal agendas and work together toward writing an important document for the students of the University.
LSA representative to MSA