With two days remaining before the filing deadline for next month’s Michigan Student Assembly presidential elections, MSA Student General Counsel Jesse Levine confirmed yesterday that he will file as a candidate for MSA president on the Students 4 Michigan Party ticket.
Levine’s running mate will be Alicia Benavides, co-chair of MSA’s Minority Affairs Commission and a leader of La Voz Latina.
The announcement came as no surprise to other MSA representatives. If elected, Levine would follow current MSA President Jason Mironov as the second consecutive student general counsel to be elected MSA president.
Following the dissolution of last year’s dominant party, Students First, and the demise of the University Party last year, Students 4 Michigan — a party consisting largely of former members of Students First — may face little opposition in this year’s election. Although Defend Affirmative Action Party campaign manager Kate Stenvig is expected to file as a presidential candidate for the third year in a row, no independent presidential candidates have yet emerged.
Levine said he will run on a platform of “protecting the interests of all students at the University,” specifically naming tenants’ rights as a top priority. After MSA passed Levine’s resolution Tuesday recommending that the University use a $1.25 increase in student fees to hire a housing attorney for Student Legal Services, Levine said he now plans to work on educating students about their rights as tenants.
If the plan is approved by the University Board of Regents, the SLS housing attorney would implement MSA’s proposed Housing Legal Reform Project, which would provide legal advice to students on housing issues, litigate for students in tenant-landlord disputes and lobby the city government to pass ordinances favorable to student tenants.
Levine said he now intends to coordinate with SLS and the Residence Halls Association to organize a lease-signing workshop in each of the University’s 15 residence halls for next fall.
Despite some speculation that Levine will be challenged by a candidate supported by MSA’s Peace and Justice Commission — a left-leaning wing of MSA that has traditionally supported controversial causes such as divestment from Israel and the campaign against the Coca-Cola Company for alleged human-rights violations — commission members reached yesterday said they were supportive of Levine’s candidacy.
Peace and Justice Co-chair Ryan Bates expressed support for the Students 4 Michigan slate of candidates, singling out Benavides, who is a member of the Coke-Campaign Coalition and was part of Student Voices in Action, for praise.
Still, there was some tension between the Students 4 Michigan leadership and Peace and Justice. Bates said he was “personally disappointed” with Mironov for his “last-minute parliamentary moves” in Tuesday’s MSA meeting, where Mironov passed an amendment that weakened the language of a resolution that would have urged the University to cut its contracts with Coke. The version that passed only praised the Coke-Campaign Coalition for its work.
Matt Hollerbach, an MSA representative and former co-chair of the Peace and Justice Commission, had measured praise for Levine.
“I don’t want to sound like it’s an endorsement, but I can’t think of anyone else currently in MSA that is more qualified to run,” Hollerbach said. “I think he does his job with caution, and I think it’s due caution. The system is set up in a way that it occasionally pits him against things that I’m fighting for, and that to me just means that the system is working.”