With the mid-term elections for the
Michigan Student Assembly approaching completion, perhaps
it’s time for a brief history of campus politics and our
illustrious student government.

Kate Green

March 2000. Hideki Tsutsumi, a student whose
communications skills are otherwise less than stellar, campaigns
for an entire year wearing a sandwich board and is elected MSA
president. He is unable to control the raucous assembly meetings
and frequently turns the gavel over to his vice president.

March 2001. Matt Nolan, a smooth-talking conservative
masquerading as a center leftist, leads the Blue Party to a
short-lived dominance on MSA and is elected president. As the
public face of the student body, he speaks in support of
affirmative action and works with the University to post signs at
bus stops complete with maps of the various bus routes.

March 2002. Sarah Boot leads an anti-Blue coalition known
as the Students First Party, composed of campus leftist as well as
right-wingers disgusted with Nolan’s wishy washiness on
social issues. As MSA president, Boot helps establish the airBus
shuttle to Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

March 2003. Students First continues its dominance of
MSA, this year with Angela Galardi as the elected leader. Galardi
undergoes media training provided by the University and gives
semi-impressive soundbytes to national media on the Diag when the
U.S. Supreme Court rules in the affirmative action cases. AirBus
continues its service.

Impressive, eh?

OK, maybe not.

Don’t get me wrong, MSA does do some things. One area in
which it has performed admirably is the allocation of money to
student groups, with virtually no controversy surrounding the
$400,000 yearly appropriations to the groups.

Though often criticized or its long debates on
“meaningless resolutions,” it’s hard to argue
that a student assembly shouldn’t be voicing its sentiments
on “non-student” issues, because, yes, even wars affect
students.

But it could do more.

MSA’s problem, in fact, is it does small things and then
touts them as huge achievements.

When he discovered that several seats were vacant on the Central
Student Judiciary, there was the “student general
counsel,” Jason Mironov, firing off a press release as if
he’d struck oil in the Frieze Building. (Don’t worry,
the vacancies have been filled and there’s more than enough
“justices” for a quorum. And that means … I
don’t know. Fair elections, maybe.)

But when the University decides to raise tuition by 6.5 percent
— 3.5 percentage points higher than the inflation rate
— do MSA representatives say anything? Nope. Not a peep.

It could establish a committee to analyze Mary Sue
Coleman’s budget and look at the tuition increases, maybe
invite University to officials testify why program X had to be cut,
why the useless program Y saw its budget doubled, etc. Or maybe
that’s too difficult.

Or when our oh-so-benevolent University revises the Statement of
Student Rights and Responsibilities (I still call it “the
Code”), saying it has granted students the right to legal
representation at Code infraction hearings, just maybe MSA could
pass a resolution blasting the University and then organize some
sort of protest. At least MSA could do more than leave it to a
former chair of the Student Rights Commission to speak up and say,
well, it’s just not real legal representation when the lawyer
can’t speak at the hearing — and then leave it at
that.

Maybe rather than just sitting on search committees for new
deans and appearing publicly with University officials to
legitimize their actions, maybe MSA officials could make some noise
once in a while and, dare I say, complain.

While cheap transportation to the airport is no doubt important
to most out-of-state students, it’s hard to believe that
running the airBus is all MSA is capable of.

Meizlish can be reached at
“mailto:meizlish@umich.edu”>meizlish@umich.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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