LSA junior Chris Armstrong said he wants to become president of the Michigan Student Assembly to stimulate a sense of community across campus and make MSA a “place to advocate for students.”
Armstrong, the chair of MSA’s LGBT Commission, is running as the presidential candidate for the MForward party. Business Rep. Jason Raymond is running on MForward’s slate for vice president.
Armstrong said he helped create MForward, MSA’s newest party, to bring different viewpoints to MSA, which many members thought the assembly was lacking. He added that he believes the current assembly “was irresponsible and uninspired in its approach to governing,” and a more diverse body of representatives would improve the effectiveness and relevance of MSA.
MForward plans to use its coalition of student leaders to make MSA a stronger, more productive advocate for the student body, Armstrong said.
Armstrong added that he is “frustrated” with the current state of the assembly and wants to see more transparency in MSA.
“Students think that MSA isn’t doing anything for them,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said building a sense of community is key for a successful representative body. He added that establishing better relationships between University students, the administration and the assembly would make MSA a more “potent power.”
With his two-year history as chair of MSA’s LGBT Commission, Armstrong, a sociology concentrator from Ridgefield, Conn., said he knows how to use collaboration to help specific communities grow.
“I have an experience of knowing how to build relationships within (the LGBT) community and organize that community to work toward a goal,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said he wants to “empower MSA with the little things” that would help build the campus community into a more proactive student body. He cited changes like wireless Internet in the Diag, an easier application process for intramural sports teams and a Saturday night meal option with Residential Dining Services.
Armstrong and Raymond are also working together to combat bigger problems on campus by making issues relevant to a broader range of students.
“If you build that sense of community, then one issue becomes everyone’s issue,” Armstrong said.
The Good Samaritan Law is one issue Armstrong and Raymond will lobby for if they are elected. This law, if passed in Lansing, will prohibit University campus police from issuing a Minor in Possession to an intoxicated student who calls an ambulance for an intoxicated friend.
“That is one of the biggest things on campus that prevents students from taking their friends in,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said his activism started during his freshman year when he attempted to bring the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Ally College Conference — a conference where LGBTA student leaders from across the Midwest come together to promote dialogue and mobilize students to action — to the University. Armstrong said the project failed because of the lack of communication among students.
He said that even after things didn’t work out, he rallied again for the conference and succeeded in getting it to come to campus the next year.
“That’s really important because students deserve to see someone that isn’t going to give up after one hiccup,” he said.
Throughout the year, Armstrong has advocated for University Housing to adopt a gender-neutral housing option. He said that by bringing the gender-neutral housing issue “into the forefront of campus,” he has tried to make students understand that gender-neutral housing is relevant to everyone, and not just one group of students.
Armstrong said awareness of student issues would move MSA forward to solve student concerns. He added that pushing MSA advocacy with more force would make MSA more relevant in the minds of students.
Armstrong said he also wants to encourage MSA to get involved with issues that have an impact beyond campus. For example, Armstrong said he wants to work with the Michigan Legislature and Ann Arbor City Council on issues that make students feel “complacent,” especially when it comes to tuition increases.
“A lot of students are being forced to reconsider every year because they can’t afford being here, which is something I do not feel comfortable with,” he said.
Armstrong said his passion and determination would help him to make the issues he tackles on MSA relevant to all students.
“I really have a certain sense of purpose and drive toward voicing student concerns on this campus and pushing for a broader sense of community,” he said.