One year after running unsuccessfully for the Michigan Student Assembly presidency, LSA junior Maricruz Lopez is back in the race – this time as the Defend Affirmative Action Party’s vice presidential candidate.
Lopez and Rackham student Kate Stenvig, the party’s presidential candidate, hope to take charge of the assembly, which has been mired in scandal for the last year under the control of the Michigan Action Party.
Although MAP convincingly defeated DAAP’s candidates last year, winning about 75 percent of the vote, Lopez isn’t ready to give up.
She said a line from one of her favorite movies, “The Salt of the Earth” – a film about prejudice toward Mexican-American workers in the 1950s – best describes her attitude toward a second run.
“I don’t want to go down fighting,” Lopez said. “I want to win. It’s one of my favorite quotes because it just kind of expresses the way I feel about fighting racism and discrimination in general.”
Lopez, co-chair of the University’s chapter of the controversial pro-affirmative action group By Any Means Necessary, is no stranger to fighting for racial integration and the use of affirmative action.
Since she became involved with BAMN during her high school years at Detroit’s Cass Technical High School, she’s supported everything from ending the war in Iraq to the Graduate Employees’ Organization in its negotiations with the University.
Most notably, though, she has wholeheartedly supported affirmative action through BAMN and DAAP.
Lopez is currently a plaintiff in a case looking to strike down Proposal 2, which banned the use of race- and gender-based affirmative action at public institutions in the state of Michigan in Nov. 2006.
Lopez, who immigrated to Detroit from Mexico at age 4 with her parents, said her high school years made her a strong proponent of racial integration. Because she rarely left the heavily-Latino southwest side of Detroit as a child, she thought most Detroit residents were Latino.
When she first entered Cass Tech, a predominantly black school, she was in shock.
“My peers had the stereotype that I was in a gang, and for them I had the stereotype that I’d get mugged after class, so I’d make sure I would have my money in my shoes,” she said. “My being there, I got to defy the stereotypes about Latinos, and also I got proven wrong with many of the stereotypes I thought about black people – that’s why I fight for the defense of affirmative action and integration.”
Running in the first election after a scandal that led to the resignation of former MSA President Zack Yost, a member of MAP, Lopez said she sees potential for change in the assembly
“Right now there are so many things that MSA could be doing in the interest of students that it doesn’t,” she said.
Lopez said many current MSA representatives are too linked with the administration and don’t challenge the University enough to take steps that will benefit students.
Lopez said if elected she would petition the University administration to increase underrepresented minority enrollment on campus and eliminate the need for high school students to take standardized tests to gain admission into the University. Lopez said she thinks the tests were biased against minorities and women.
As vice president Lopez said she would work to make MSA more accessible to students by holding town hall-style meetings for students address their concerns to the assembly.
Lopez criticized MSA’s current “community concerns” time, which allows students a five-minute time limit to voice their concerns to MSA representatives and executive board members. She said the opportunity also isn’t sufficiently publicized.
Stenvig said she believed Lopez would make a good vice president because of her ability to unite different groups for a single cause.
“She’s a good organizer, and she’s had a lot of experience working with many different groups on campus and other national organizations,” she said. “I think she’s really effective at bringing people together.”
Art and Design School junior Liana Mulholland, an MSA representative and BAMN co-chair, said Stenvig and Lopez are the best people for the presidency and vice presidency.
“If Mari were to get elected along with Kate, that would be a really good and positive change for the student assembly,” she said. “Having served on the assembly for this past year, I’ve been very frustrated with just a certain level of incompetence and corruption among the current regime, and I’d like to see a regime change.”