Students 4 Michigan
If Nicole Stallings were a Barbie doll, she would be named Career Barbie.
Stallings – who is running for Michigan Student Assembly president on the Students 4 Michigan ticket – looks like the perfect package.
An organizational studies major, Stallings is a member of Phi Alpha Delta, a pre-law fraternity.
The LSA junior is pretty and well-dressed. Like many in her party, she wears a bright blue S4M t-shirt in her Facebook photo, but hers is fashioned into a makeshift halter top. She has coffee-colored eyes and an easy smile. She’s smart and she’s well-spoken.
Stallings joined MSA second semester last year as a sophomore. She served as vice chair of the influential Budget Priorities Committee. She was also appointed vice president of the assembly after Alicia Benavides resigned from the position earlier this year.
Despite her sparkling resume, opponents have questioned Stallings’ qualifications for MSA president.
“Unfortunately, Nicole has not provided any direction to the assembly,” said Walter Nowinski, Michigan Progressive Party vice presidential candidate. “She rarely says anything of substance during her officer reports and she has a habit of abstaining on most roll-call votes.”
He said Stallings’s ability to lead has been undermined by Levine on several occasions.
Levine has asked MSA General Counsel Russ Garber, not Stallings, to lead at least one meeting in his absence. Levine, though, has also passed the gavel to Stallings.
But S4M party chair Robbie O’Brien was quick to come to Stallings’s defense, saying doubts of her leadership abilities are “absolutely ludicrous.”
As proof, O’Brien rattled off a list of her achievements, including her work to improve campus safety and her emphasis on MSA student outreach.
While Levine attests that Stallings was qualified to succeed Benavides because of her work on the budget committee, Stallings had no student government experience prior to her sophomore year – not even in high school.
To focus on her late start with the assembly is to ignore the work she’s put in since this fall, she said.
Stallings noted her “Diag Day” event this past fall to introduce herself, MSA and its resources to University students. She added that her biggest goal this past year has been student outreach.
O’Brien and Levine have more to say about Stallings’s accomplishments than she does. O’Brien talked about Stallings’s involvement with MSA’s housing website and her work promoting an ordinance to push back lease dates that the City Council is voting on tonight.
Stallings is vague about her agenda if she becomes president – she offers ideas but avoids specifics.
O’Brien said with the state-wide vote on November’s ballot initiative to ban some affirmative action programs in Michigan, it would make a statement if the student body president at the most prominent university in the state is a black female.
Stallings said that despite her belief that the race and gender of the MSA president should not be a factor, her identity would make groups feel less excluded from and better represented by MSA.
Outside of MSA, Stallings busies herself with her pre-law fraternity and is involved in the campus chapter of the NAACP and Black Student Union.
While it looks like she’s got it all together, Stallings and S4M will face a tough challenge from MPP and the two other groups during this week’s MSA elections. Some say Stallings is the prettiest face in S4M, but it looks like the election could be an ugly fight.
– Current MSA vice president
– Major: Organizational Studies
– Greek affiliation: Phi Alpha Delta (pre-law fraternity)
– Campaign promises: Reach out to students; create programs that bridge gaps between student groups.
Michigan Progressive Party
On her first day of orientation, Rese Fox – the Michigan Student Assembly presidential candidate who is running on the Michigan Progressive Party ticket – realized she had a problem with her name.
Her given name, Brittany Therese, seemed synonymous with school-girl pop and scandalous award-show performances.
“I was very sick of Britney Spears jokes and I just wanted to overcome that sort of stigma with Britney: ditzy,” Fox said.
Her solution was to cut “Brittany Therese” down to a four-letter nickname: Rese.
“I also liked the idea of having an original name that no one had in my classes,” she added.
In person, Fox is bubbly, whether talking about MSA or her volunteer work with mentorship programs. She laughs often. Her high, clear voice is imbued with exploding champagne-cork enthusiasm. She is a sister in Pi Beta Phi, recognized as one of the oldest sororities in the nation.
Make no mistake, Fox is a nice girl, but she’s also a tough, articulate politician. Her answers are well-prepared as she strongly emphasizes a need for change in MSA and sticks by the MPP platform – something she says her main opponents, Students 4 Michigan, lack.
Fox has not always opposed S4M; she used to be one of its representatives. Back when the party first started, Fox was a prominent member of S4M’s progressive wing. Then, she offered to jump ship when she heard that Nowinski had started MPP.
“Since being with Students 4 Michigan, I’ve really liked a lot of the things that Wally (Nowinski) has been about, and I really like the idea of having a platform. I like the idea of accountability,” Fox
said, explaining why she switched to MPP.
Nowinski jumped in to finish answering the question. During their joint interview, he interjected often. The pair answered questions like an old married couple recounting their first date.
“I co-founded the party in November or December just kind of on the feeling that MSA parties, they should be parties and have a platform,” Nowinski said.
So far, MPP has voiced objections to MSA’s alleged mishandling of November’s Ludacris concert. The progressive party’s campaign includes promises of cheaper textbooks and improved housing.
However, S4M’s vice presidential nominee, Justin Paul, has other theories about Fox’s defection.
“She didn’t like the inclusiveness and democratic style of Students 4 Michigan,” he said. “She decided to do what she has done the entire time on MSA, which is to create a way to support her own agenda.”
Paul said one of Fox’s faults is that she comes to the assembly with a predefined agenda.
“With (MPP), she has found her ultimate source of support by filling the slate with people that follow her ideology,” he said.
Fox clearly has specific goals.
“We plan on being the Michigan Progressive Party not just in March and not just in November, when the elections are going on,” said Fox. “We plan on sitting down with our candidates and saying this is the progress we’ve made on our platform, this is how we’re doing in our timeline, this is how we can be doing better, this is what we’re doing great right now … making sure everyone knows their resources.”
Nowinski said Fox is one of a small number of assembly members who shoulder most of the workload. He said she is one of about 10 students on the assembly who “do about 80 percent of the work.”
– Current MSA representative (LSA)
– Major: Economics, Program in the Environment (5-year public policy program)
– Greek affiliation: Pi Beta Phi
– Campaign promises: Get profs to release textbooks early; fund student groups that lobby.