Several members of the Michigan Student Assembly announced the formation of MForward, a new MSA political party, in a press release distributed Sunday.
“More so than any previous MSA party, MForward brings together a diverse slate of student candidates spanning across majors, students organizations, and campus communities,” party officials said in the release.
LSA juniors Chris Armstrong and Jason Raymond will run for MSA president and vice president, respectively, on the MForward ticket this spring. Currently, Armstrong serves as chair of MSA’s LGBT commission and Raymond is chair of MSA’s external relations committee.
“Over the past year, a lot of us felt that the assembly wasn’t doing everything that it can for students,” Armstrong said in an interview last night. “It didn’t really connect student government to the student body at large, and it didn’t really lobby on their behalf in a substantial way. This party is an effort to change that.”
Though Raymond praised MSA’s events and programming in the last year, he said the assembly has more improvements to make in terms of functioning as an actual student government.
“We want to give students another, better choice in the March elections, and what that means is focusing on advocacy and representation,” he said. “It means more work on tuition, the Good Samaritan policy, gender-neutral housing — the issues that need to be addressed and need to be addressed soon.”
According to the press release, the party’s members plan to announce their slate in a mass meeting this Wednesday night.
Ambreen Sayed, MSA chief of staff, insisted the combined experience of its members distinguishes MForward from current and former party initiatives in MSA.
“The group we’ve composed has seen the best and the worst of MSA,” said Sayed, who will run for re-election as an Engineering representative in March. “Our in depth knowledge will help us to be effective and more responsive to the student body.”
LSA junior Chris Dietzel, who is also running for representative as a part of MForward, said the desire for more thorough communication with students was a primary reason for the party’s formation.
“Having experience with groups on campus, I know that students have a lot to say but don’t always realize how they can voice their opinions,” said Dietzel, who is also president of the campus group Do Random Acts of Kindness.
“My hope is that I can serve the organizations I’m a part of through MSA, and that I can bring student voices to the assembly and make sure that they’re heard,” he said.
According to the press release, MForward will comprise leaders from organizations like Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success, the Indian American Student Association, Dance Marathon at the University of Michigan and the Student Athlete Advisory Council, in addition to DoRAK.
“We think diversity of the organizations we represent is as important as the diversity of our members,” Armstrong said.
He added that he and fellow party members intend to work more closely with the Student Association of Michigan, a collection of student governments from campuses across the state.
Armstrong said that the party intends to pursue legislative goals, like reforming MSA’s funding process, in addition to channeling student voices into new legislation.
“We’re hoping to work with the treasurers from different student and administrative organizations to figure out how we can fix our funding,” he said. “We know we can streamline a lot of the money we receive in order to use it more effectively.”
Sayed said she was confident that if elected, the party will make effective and meaningful changes no matter what the specific legislation is.
“We have a hard-working group of people who like to think big, yet be very pragmatic with the solutions we create,” she said. “I think we’re going to set and keep the bar high with whatever comes our way.”
According to Armstrong, because elections will be held in March, the next several weeks will be critical to MForward’s efforts to make its presence known and garner support from the student body.
“The campaign leading up to the election is a way for us to connect with leaders and students on campus,” he added. “We want to foster an environment that will aid MSA in the years to come.”