With the polls for Michigan Student Assembly elections open tonight at midnight, assembly members say they hope to fill current vacancies in the student government.

The vacant seats this semester have resulted from representatives from several schools and colleges not being elected, resigning or being dismissed because of multiple absences from MSA meetings. However, of the three schools that did not elect MSA representatives in March — the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, Medical School and School of Social Work — only the School of Social Work has a candidate running in the election.

Additionally, until three weeks ago, Rackham Graduate School had not been represented at an assembly meeting this semester. Since then, two Rackham representatives have attended the two most recent meetings.

MSA President DeAndree Watson said the assembly is reaching out to organizations like the Graduate Employees’ Organization to foster a better relationship with graduate students. Watson also said he would like to see more involvement from graduate students.

“There is this self-perpetuating dilemma where graduate students look at MSA and say we don’t address graduate student issues, but part of the reason why that perception exists … is because we don’t have graduate student representation to bring up the issues,” Watson said. “We need to figure out a way to stop that cycle from spinning itself out of control.”

Watson said one way to do this is by implementing more lenient attendance policies to entice graduate students who may be too busy to act as MSA representatives. He added that graduate students should have “more flexibility” in their involvement in the student government. However, the idea has not been addressed during an assembly meeting.

There are 10 open Rackham student seats on the assembly for this election. Watson said he expects the two current Rackham representatives to retain their seats as write-ins. Patrick O’Mahen, a member of GEO and a former columnist for The Michigan Daily, is the only Rackham student running in the upcoming election.

O’Mahen wrote in an e-mail interview that graduate students don’t typically participate in MSA because of their demanding academic schedules and different lifestyles from undergraduate students.

“We’re at a different point in our lives than undergrads,” he wrote. “Many of us are married and have children.”

Still, O’Mahen wrote that MSA can positively affect graduate students.

“MSA has an ability to lobby University administrators to better the University community,” O’Mahen wrote. “I’m looking forward to working with MSA to make sure that administrators respect the rights of graduate student research assistants.”

MSA passed a resolution at its meeting last Tuesday in support of GSRAs’ right to hold a vote to determine their unionization status.

Another issue that graduate students currently face, O’Mahen wrote, is attaining subsidies for child care for students who have children.

Watson said he would like to see more than 4,000 students come out to the polls, achieving a “minimum threshold” of a 10-percent student voter turnout. There was an 11-percent voter turnout for the student government elections in March.

The candidates come from MForward, the Defend Affirmative Party and the Michigan Vision Party. The polls close Thursday night at midnight.

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