Under criticism for a lack of professionalism, the Michigan Student Assembly is trying to improve its image.
At last week’s meeting, MSA executive board members suggested that the assembly shape up by wearing business-casual clothes.
MSA has come under fire lately for a perceived lack of professionalism, especially after the alleged mishandling of the Ludacris concert, which cost the assembly about $20,000.
Drawing a correlation between professionalism and efficiency, the executive board suggested last week that all MSA members dress business casual for their weekly meetings.
But as assembly members trickled into MSA chambers last night, business casual wasn’t exactly the trend.
Wearing North Face fleeces, Nikes, hoodies and sweatpants, many MSA members ignored the executive board’s suggestion. One representative wore a suit and tie, but topped off the outfit with a hat reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss character. Another wore a safari hat.
All four executive board members followed their own suggestion.
MSA President Jesse Levine looked the part of a student body leader when he departed from his usual ensemble of a hooded sweatshirt with jeans to don a light blue button-down shirt, khakis, brown dress shoes and light-colored socks last night.
The dapper dress contrasted tabletops littered with Chinese take-out boxes, Wendy’s bags and empty latte cups.
MSA Vice President Nicole Stallings said executives were attempting to lead by example and to “set a good tone” for the assembly.
The executive board had hoped that other MSA members would follow suit, but it appeared that many have not responded to the suggestion. Little more than half of the assembly dressed up to the board’s standards.
MSA representative Laura Van Hyfte said that she supports the new precedent and thinks “it will encourage a professional attitude.”
“We’re working on making ourselves more serious and professional in general and this is just one part of that,” Vice President Stallings said.
Former MSA President Jason Mironov favored the business casual mode of dress during his tenure last year, on some occasions wearing a full suit.
Mironov credits Levine with continuously bringing more professionalism to MSA.
“Professionalism starts with a basic level of being dressed nice when interacting with colleagues, peers and administrators,” he said.
MSA Treasurer Devesh Senapati also emphasized the importance of appearance.
“The way that you dress is a reflection of your attitude towards your work,” he said.
But Walter Nowinski, who has recently established an opposition party to challenge the dominant Students 4 Michigan, is skeptical.
“This is papering over the bigger issue here, which is leadership,” said Nowinski, a former member of MSA’s Budget Priorities Committee.
Nowinski has been highly critical of the current leadership, mostly criticizing the Ludacris concert.
“MSA needs to be more professional but that isn’t going to come from dressing nice,” he said.
Executive board members said the purpose of suggesting a business casual dress code is meant to improve the body’s efficiency and professionalism, and not intended as a reaction to criticism of the assembly’s lack of seriousness.
Discussion at last week’s MSA meeting:
MSA VP Nicole Stallings: Sometimes we aren’t very serious about these meetings, so we’re thinking that we could dress business casual instead of casual. …Not jeans, not sweatshirts, not T-shirts. We’re not going to be going around checking, but it would be great to give this a try.
MSA Rep. Zach Yost: What happens if I don’t?
Stallings: Just wear it.