The greatest shock to LSA sophomore Ryan Werder on Nov. 3 was not that President Bush was re-elected. Instead, he said he was more surprised about the 11 states that passed laws to legally define marriage exclusively between a man and a woman.
“I couldn’t believe how these states enshrined incredible prejudice into their laws instead of seeking to remove (prejudice) from them,” Werder said.
The passage of Proposal 2 encouraged Werder to look into creating a student publication that could be a forum for leftist student voices at the University. He said he was inspired by events in history where college students had the genuine ability to influence the world around them through activism and the written word.
Werder received a $1,500 grant from Campus Progress, an organization that seeks to represent progressive views on college campuses, for the publication of a new student magazine called The Michigan Independent. Campus Progress is a project of the Center for American Progress, a research and educational institute that strives to solve problems through progressive ideas and policy proposals.
President and chief executive officer of the Center, John Podesta, served as chief of staff to former president Bill Clinton. Werder, founder of The Michigan Independent, said the publication will be a monthly, nonpartisan magazine that will feature submissions that reflect progressive ideals — nonpartisan in the sense that it will not be specific to Democrats and Republicans but will accept submissions from anyone who holds a progressive ideology on any topic, he says.
“The broad purpose of this publication is to provide a strong and unified medium through which all progressive-minded students can put their ideas into circulation. There is no current student publication that offers us this opportunity,” he said.
Werder said the progressive cause transcends partisan politics.
“To be a progressive is to be an optimist and an advocate for beneficial changes which would bring about greater security, comfort and equality to our society,” Werder said.
He added that the pro-choice movement, the search for alternative sources of energy and affirmative action are all progressive causes.
College Republicans chair and LSA sophomore Alison Jacobs disagreed with Werder’s definition of “progressive.”
She said it seems Campus Progress is substituting “progressive” for the term “liberal.” President Bush frequently derided Sen. John Kerry as a “liberal” during the 2004 presidential campaign.
“I see the term ‘progressive’ as misleading because of how it seems positive. I don’t believe that pro-choice and affirmative-action programs are progressive. I see them as restrictive to people’s rights to life, liberty and equality,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said that the magazine is nonpartisan in that it is not affiliated with any political party. But she said the articles that will be printed will mostly adhere to the ideologies of the parties on the left of the political spectrum.
To foster widespread student participation, Werder said most of the published articles will come from random student submissions and not the skeletal staff. Both contributors and staffers must be undergraduates. Werder said he hopes to encourage students from all political backgrounds to submit their writings.
Jacobs said it is possible some of the ideas might resonate with individual conservatives.
“The possibility exists that someone who identifies themselves as a Republican can accept one or two ideas that could be featured in The Michigan Independent. However, the Republican Party as a whole does not accept these ideas,” she said.
College Democrats chair Ramya Raghavan said The Michigan Independent — unlike other major student publications — will represent the leftist organizations on campus.
“(The Independent) will represent anyone from socialists to Democrats to the Green Party and everything in between,” she said. “We are trying to assemble a collection of different authentic voices because it is difficult to present so many different ideologies in one cohesive way. The Independent seeks to bridge some of the gaps in the progressive community.”
Werder said one of the reasons The Michigan Independent receives funding from Campus Progress is so that it can remain independent of the University.
But he said Campus Progress will have a minimal role in controlling the content of The Michigan Independent.
“Campus Progress is only interested in the fact that we exist and help circulate progressive ideas and counter conservative ones,” Werder said.
He said The Independent can use many resources of Campus Progress — including conference calls with political officials and blog space for editors to compare notes with students that share similar goals.
Werder said the inaugural publication date has not been set. In the meantime, the founders are working on bringing together all progressive groups on campus.
This grant money will be enough to fund approximately 5,000 copies of two full issues printed in color as well as a website, Werder said.
He added that a mass meeting will be held to recruit staffers and writers the week after spring break.