Defend Affirmative Action Party
By Dave Mekelburg, Daily Staff Reporter
Not currently involved in MSA
Favorite book: Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto”
Campaign promise: Fight the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
The chants were echoing in the courtroom. The signs were hung out the window. Protesters brandished slogans on poster boards: “Save Brown v. Board of Education” and “Don’t turn back the clock.”
And Monica Smith, now the Michigan Student Assembly presidential candidate running on the Defend Affirmative Action Party ticket, was there.
On April 1, 2003, thousands of affirmative action supporters gathered on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court Building and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. They were there to support the University as it faced the Supreme Court and a lawsuit that threatened its use of affirmative action in admissions. Smith was with them.
Smith wasn’t always politically active. In high school, she captained the softball team. She said she was curious about politics in high school, but remained uninvolved.
Smith grew up in western Detroit. She attended Lewis Cass Technical High School, which is 96-percent black, and said she never realized the rest of the world wasn’t like her high school. That, she said, was why she wanted to come to the University: to see what the world was like outside of her bubble.
After 12 years of schooling with a homogenous student body, the culture shock of coming to the predominantly white University was inevitable. Smith describes the beginning of her time here as lonely. She had trouble finding her own campus niche.
Until April 1, 2003.
Before that day, she had attended a few meetings of the pro-affirmative action group BAMN, but she wasn’t completely sure she was ready to commit.
“It’s radical to join such a movement,” she said, “To dedicate your life to it, you have to be sure it’s the real thing.”
And on April 1, 2003, amid the cheers, the speeches, and the march, Smith was sure she was part of something special.
“It made me feel like I was part of a well-organized movement,” she said.
In coordination with her party and the campus chapter of BAMN, she has devoted herself to supporting affirmative action. Recently, she attempted to mobilize action against the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, a proposal that, if passed, would end some affirmative action programs in Michigan. DAAP has been circulating a petition against MCRI, and Smith has been speaking out against the initiative anywhere people will listen.
On her days off from classes at the University, she speaks in high schools around Detroit about the issues facing minorities today in America. Her schedule on these days runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. She has prepared presentations about the fight for affirmative action and gives them in class after class until the school day has finished.
Fighting for civil rights is more than just a passing phase for Smith. She is majoring in sociology, which she said helps her see where social problems come from so she can work to fix them. Following graduation, she plans to become a lawyer and to focus on protecting civil rights.
That DAAP is running primarily on a single-issue platform has been the subject of criticism.
“It is a danger that DAAP is only running on this one issue,” said Robbie O’Brien, party chair of Students 4 Michigan, “Most of our candidates are opposed to the MCRI, but we realize that there are many other issues that concern campus.”
Smith said she will keep fighting for what she believes in.
“For three years, I’ve been a civil rights leader here on campus,” she said. “That has been the center of my life, and it will continue to be forever.”
Student Conservative Party
By Caitlin Cowan, Daily Staff Reporter
Not currently involved in MSA
Majors: Political science, criminal justice
Greek affiliation: Pledging Phi Alpha Delta (pre-law fraternity)
Campaign promise: Bring Coke back to campus
Ryan Fantuzzi deals with a lot of hot issues. But what are his thoughts on arguably the most ferocious debate on campus?
“It is pop!” the Sterling Heights native said when asked about the eternal soda vs. pop debate. “It is pop, it is pop, it is pop!”
Fantuzzi’s booming voice has a resonant power. He argues about all issues with equal relish: from the minutiae of pop culture to political issues and back again.
The lively Student Conservative Party presidential candidate, who makes a habit of speaking bluntly and had all the most memorable lines of Sunday’s presidential debate, realized the transformative power of pop early last year while writing a paper.
“I was filled with four liters of Mountain Dew,” he said. “And I think that’s the secret to success: Johnny Cash and Mountain Dew.”
Pausing a moment, he smiled and said, “No, make those four liters of Coke.”
Bringing Coca-Cola products back to campus is just one of many goals on Fantuzzi’s and SCP’s platform.
“It’s about student choice,” he said of the Coke contract debate. “Whether Coke is guilty or not, that’s up for debate. But it’s about student choice.”
Members of the Coalition to Cut the Contract with Coca-Cola have dismissed SCP’s promise to bring Coke back to campus. RC senior Clara Hardie, a campus activist who has been heavily involved in the campaign, said Fantuzzi’s claim that only a small minority of students wanted the Coke contracts suspended is laughable.
“He obviously doesn’t understand that there’s a coalition of over 5,000 students at the University who are working with thousands of students at hundreds of schools across the country,” Hardie said.
Fantuzzi, however, passionately voices his support for his party’s promise.
“I would like (MSA) to get out of students’ business,” he said. “Just leave me alone. Let me party on the weekends and study for school. Give me my Coke.”
He didn’t stop there.
“Don’t speak for me on political issues,” he said. “What do you know? But (MSA doesn’t) want to be told this. That’s why I ran.”
First and foremost, Fantuzzi sees his family and hometown as integral to who he is and what he does.
“If you want to know about me, you really have to know a lot about my family,” he said, “because they’re a very important part of my life.”
Born in Royal Oak and raised in Sterling Heights, Fantuzzi’s father and most of his father’s friends are union workers. Almost everyone he knows from home works for the Big Three auto companies.
He doesn’t drive a car on campus, but Fantuzzi, a metro Detroiter, was surprised by the types of automobiles prevalent on campus.
“Back home, you will not find people driving foreign cars,” he said. “But then I come here and I go, ‘What’s a Subaru?’ Half these car companies I didn’t even know existed. ‘What is this? Toyota?’ “
Fantuzzi said the word “conservative” isn’t as useful for defining him and his party’s politics as it once was.
“I think the word is often perverted, especially in recent times,” he said. “A lot of people think we’re going to get rid of condoms at (University Health Services) or something like that, and that’s just not the case. It’s not that great of a word anymore.”
Though his party calls itself conservative, Fantuzzi said SCP represents an overarching common-sense viewpoint.
Ideally, he would like students to understand the word “conservative” to mean a doctrine of small, limited government.
“Government is best when it governs least. That’s the type of conservatives we are,” he said of SCP.
For Fantuzzi, the idea of limited government means a few things, one of which is that MSA should cut its discretionary spending.
He even tried to solicit game show host Bob Barker to help him make this last point.
“I wrote (him) a couple months ago. We were going have something called ‘The Price is Wrong,’ and it was going to be about how MSA wastes our money. I thought it was a great idea.”
Unfortunately, Barker didn’t come through the way Fantuzzi had hoped.
“But he sent me an autographed picture,” he said.