With all the controversy surrounding the Michigan Student Assembly, it’s easy for students to just tune out and ignore the assembly completely. But aside from the $7.19 you contribute to it every semester, MSA should matter to students because it is their collective voice. MSA has worked on several issues that affect students directly, like the leasing ordinance and textbooks. Sure, progress has been slow, but students must share the blame. How many were even aware that there was an MSA election last week? How many of you voted? As deplorable as the assembly’s recent scandals are, its problems go beyond that, and they will never be rectified if students don’t get involved in their government.
Out of those eligible to vote, only about one out of 20 students (5.3 percent) voted. Even that number is deceptively high in gauging meaningful turnout, because there were numerous joke write-in votes like “Santa Clause,” “Mmm Chicken Nuggets” and “My Dog’s Bunghole.” If our student government lacks organization, authority and accountability, it’s entirely the fault of the students who either do not vote, or worse, contribute to making the whole process a joke.
Democratic representatives at all levels have a strong incentive to only listen to those constituents who are most likely to speak up and raise hell. MSA, of course, is no different. It is a large group, and it deals with countless student groups about just about every activity and issue imaginable. Unless students make their presence felt in elections, during campaigns and at weekly MSA meetings, their interests will probably be ignored by their student representatives – out of sheer lack of knowledge about what students want, if nothing more destructive.
Voting in MSA elections is incredibly easy. There is no registering, and you don’t even have to leave your chair. Voting via any computer takes 10 minutes at most, and that’s if you decide to read over the candidates’ platforms (conveniently included on the voting website). If students were to take the time to read over these platforms, most of the problems with MSA would become far clearer than any editorial could make them.
From lofty campaign promises with no basis in the terrestrial to recycled proposals that sound good but won’t get anywhere, candidates for MSA get away with a lot of fluff while seeking election. Once they are on the assembly, they become part of a body that is supposed to be a public representation of the students but is more often an exclusive club of inaction and complete isolation from the student base. There are good representatives and leaders on MSA, of course, but they should not be the few exceptions.
Students should attend MSA meetings on Tuesday nights at 7:30 p.m. in MSA Chambers on the third floor of the Michigan Union. Going to MSA meetings should be a regular activity for students who care about campus. Knowing that the students are directly watching their every move, MSA representatives will think twice about how they can best serve the student body through thoughtful leadership.
If students were more involved in MSA, it would have more incentive to represent the student body well. Contrary to popular belief, MSA is important, and it does take action to help students. How much it helps students, though, is not only up to the assembly – it’s also up to you.