With DeAndree Watson’s institutional knowledge of the Michigan Student Assembly and Brendan Campbell’s fresh view of the assembly, the LSA juniors are hoping to capitalize on this combination to win the spots of MSA president and vice president in the student government election next month.

Representing the MForward party, Watson and Campbell hope to succeed outgoing MSA President Chris Armstrong and Vice President Jason Raymond, who are also MForward members. The candidates said if elected, they plan to strengthen the assembly through several initiatives such as increasing MSA transparency and expanding the advocacy role of the assembly on campus.

Watson is the current speaker of the assembly. Campbell isn’t currently on MSA but is chair of the University’s chapter of College Democrats. MForward officially nominated Watson and Campbell on Feb. 4. Other MSA parties have not yet announced their presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Watson said primary issues on his campaign platform are to fight student apathy toward MSA and to use the assembly to advocate for student interests as effectively as possible. To do this, Watson said he plans to work on increasing collaboration with the state government.

“We want to just really get students engaged in student government and to use that engagement to lobby the state Legislature and whoever else we need to make sure we represent all students,” Watson said.

Watson was elected to the assembly in November 2009 and served as the founding chair of the Diversity Affairs Commission. This semester, as speaker of the assembly, Watson has been involved with drafting MSA’s new constitution.

Watson said if elected president, he wants to be personally accessible to students. He said he doesn’t feel the current assembly made it a priority as much as it should have to consider the student perspective.

“One of the things that I want to do differently as president is to make myself more available,” Watson said. “I think going into the community and talking to students will increase transparency. I don’t think MSA has done enough to advocate for students this term.”

Though Campbell has had no official affiliation with student government at the University, he has worked with MSA leaders on a variety of issues like the Open Housing Initiative.

Campbell said Watson’s experience working within the assembly and his own lobbying and advocacy work with the College Democrats will make them effective student leaders.

“There’s no one who knows more about how MSA works and has been a more effective advocate for MSA (than Watson),” Campbell said. “I’m someone who doesn’t know as much about how MSA works, but has a different perspective, and is hopefully able to bring some outside knowledge of how other things work.”

Many students and even some MSA representatives have, in the past, underestimated the leverage MSA has with the University administration, Campbell said. He said he hopes to use the assembly as a catalyst to deal with major University issues.

“One of the things I’ve really seen working with MSA over the past couple of years is the access it has (and) the influence that MSA can have,” Campbell said. “I think that a lot of members of MSA don’t necessarily understand how powerful MSA can be.”

Watson and Campbell said they want to work specifically on making the University more accessible for current and potential minority students. Watson said he hopes to work with a variety of communities on campus to ensure students from a multitude of backgrounds are receiving the help they need to be accepted to the University and succeed once they arrive on campus.

“If MSA, as the central government, can gather all those student organizations together and create a unified campus commitment to increase that diversity, that’s something amazing,” Watson said.

To make the University a more welcoming and diverse place, Watson said he will continue fighting hate crimes on campus. Additionally, he said, if elected, he plans to encourage dialogue with student groups and individuals about what can be done to help the transition from high school to college.

The candidates also want to make MSA more useful to student organizations by creating a process in which campus groups can directly propose MSA resolutions without the sponsorship of an assembly representative. Campbell said he would like MSA to distribute funds to student organizations on a rolling basis, so that the groups can make programming decisions without waiting for the assembly’s next funding cycle and won’t have to float money MSA might not reimburse.

If elected, Watson and Campbell said they also have ideas for improving MSA’s efficiency and transparency like posting the MSA budget with line-item breakdowns online.

“Students should know exactly where the money is going and how it’s being spent,” Watson said. “If students don’t like how their money is being spent it will be a motivation to come to student government and talk about some things, maybe discuss some changes.”

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