For the past year, I have served as one of the few independent representatives on the Michigan Student Assembly. While there are certainly many good things that MSA does for students, like organizing Airbus and homecoming, it has become quite evident during my time on MSA that it has many issues that keep it from being as effective as it could be. Among these issues is a culture that is somewhat difficult for outsiders – like myself – to fit into.
Even as a representative, I have always felt like an outsider. While many representatives know each other from various groups outside of student government, I came to MSA on my own initiative as a student who cares for the rest of the student body at the University.
In addition to my general “outsider” status, I have a disability: Asperger’s syndrome. For these reasons, I came into MSA as a very different person than most. I act and think differently, which means that I generally have a difficult time associating with the social cliques, political parties and other groups surrounding (and within) MSA. This differing perspective, not surprisingly, has on occasion caused conflict between me and other MSA representatives regarding matters of general philosophy. It also has led to occasional prejudice against me as a result of both my mannerisms and differences of opinion.
Despite these issues, I do think that MSA has benefited from my presence, even though it still may have work to do. For one thing, I am happy that disability issues have finally been recognized by MSA as a legitimate concern through the Disability Issues Select Committee, even if it took too long for MSA to do so.
Also, while MSA’s culture of political and social cliques is still present, progress certainly has been made during my term towards making its culture less insular. MSA has improved its outreach in my time as a representative, and though it may not be perfect, I will say that what it has done is at least a start. Furthermore, although it has been difficult given my situation, I have been able to convince MSA – on occasion – to consider new ideas, such as my successful proposal to require individual representative votes be recorded and the aforementioned disability committee. Granted, MSA has remained firm in maintaining the party system, but such large changes certainly don’t happen overnight.
Owing to this, I have decided that it’s my duty to run for re-election as an LSA representative on MSA despite being a senior. I will help MSA continue to work towards the goal of making its culture more accepting of the wide variety of viewpoints and perspectives that make this university what it is. While I may be graduating in a few months, I do plan to stay at the University as a graduate student and want to continue serving the student body as an MSA representative. I hope you will vote in the election, which started at midnight today.
Tim Hull is an LSA senior and an independent candidate for MSA representative.