If this fall’s candidates for election to the Michigan Student Assembly and other campus governing bodies are doing a halfway decent job, you probably already know that student government elections start Thursday of this week. In case you don’t already know, to vote in MSA elections and other elections, go to vote.www.umich.edu or do so through the web portal of a campus political party. In the spirit of the election, I have prepared a wish list for the election and for the next semester.
Fellow students, the first two requests go out to you. Most important, you must vote. Unfortunately for us, from a utility-maximizing perspective, MSA elections are the most sensible election to vote in because costs are next to nil. Assuming you are a current University student, there is no registration required and you can vote from any Internet-enabled computer. Voting in the election literally requires about a 15-click diversion from normal Facebooking activities.
Because the number of voters is so low, there is a relatively high probability that your vote will affect the outcome of the election. On top of that, it’s plausible that you’ll be able to make an educated vote because one of the candidates might be your buddy from freshman year or the girl who you sat next to in Spanish class. We have an obligation to vote in these elections, not because MSA elections are particularly compelling, but because it’s so damn easy.
Our next responsibility is to put candidates on the hot seat. Many if not all of the candidates for student government will be around campus campaigning, and they’ll probably hand you a flyer with a three-bullet-point summary of their “platform.” Please, grill them with questions. They’re practically begging to be interrogated, and it’s so hilarious to hear their party-polished responses.
If candidates’ platforms include lowering textbook prices, drill them with questions about how, when and exactly why. They’ll probably give you a canned speech. After they finish, ask them harder questions. Just in case election time is the only time a member of student government ever takes your opinion seriously, make it count. Don’t let them dupe you: Make candidates earn your vote.
Candidates, the next two requests go to you. First of all, for Pete’s sake, recycle. Your flyers are everywhere and it’s a disgusting waste. During the election, you litter lecture halls, the library and even my house. As a cohort, you must use thousands of sheets of paper during the election. Not only will you go overboard on flyers, but you’ll spam my inbox and overload my Facebook feed. You might even engage in semi-sketchy campaign techniques by canvassing at Greek houses or sending a friend to do the task. The least you can do is keep our campus green and free of litter while you do it.
Next, all you candidates must hold yourself accountable for results. Textbook prices have been a student issue at least since Charles Woodson was a Heisman Trophy winner. Finish the job and keep us in the loop about what your accomplishments and objectives are. At the beginning of every semester I would like to see a results report from each committee and executive officer posted on your respective websites. This document should include a list of current projects and accomplishments from the last semester and also a list of objectives for the next semester. I sympathize with you all when you say that nobody knows what student government does. Take one hour and prepare such a document once a semester, because it will help you lay out your goals and it will keep external stakeholders a little more involved in what you’re doing. It’s a win-win.
Because I have about 75 words left, I will try to use the space to advocate for an unofficial proposal. Maize-outs at the Big House are super fun. Since football season is now over, let’s make Fridays unofficial maize-and-blue days. It would be cheery during the winter months to see those two lovely colors, and it’ll show campus day visitors – who often tour on Fridays – that being a Wolverine is something to be proud of. We all already have the hoodies – it’s just a matter of wearing them at the same time.
MSA elections in the past may have been anything from unproductive to complete disasters, but if we all do our part, we can change that this time around.
Neil Tambe can be reached at email@example.com.