In a contentious close vote last night, the Michigan Student Assembly passed a resolution in a 13-7 vote to improve student relations and combat feelings of apathy toward the student body.
Engineering junior DeAndree Watson, MSA interim speaker, opened last night’s meeting in MSA Chambers in the Michigan Union with a speech urging assembly members to reach out to their constituents and fight student indifference about student government this semester. LSA sophomore and MSA interim vice speaker Sean Walser, MSA President Chris Armstrong and MSA Vice President Jason Raymond, echoed Watson’s call to action in their executive reports at the meeting.
Watson referred assembly members to the list of member obligations in MSA’s Standing Rules, one of which is “Constituent Contact.” The Standing Rules, which are the bylaws of the assembly, state that “members must contact constituents on a regular basis” and clarifies that “an informal discussion with friends is not a form of constituent contact.”
Watson cited low turnout at MSA elections this fall, in which only 10.2 percent of the University students voted, as an example of the student body’s lack of interest in MSA.
“At the end of the day, there is still a significant number of people on campus who aren’t voting, and a significant number of people on campus don’t care,” Watson said. “I am saying this because I want you to understand the campus apathy.”
Watson urged assembly members to reach out to the students they represent to listen to their concerns and raise awareness about MSA’s accomplishments and goals.
“This assembly has the manpower, the enthusiasm and really the responsibility to change these students’ hearts and change these students’ minds,” Watson said. “What I am asking you to do is get out there and engage the community that we represent.”
In an interview after the meeting, Watson cited the MSA airBus, MSA’s funding of student organizations and the assembly’s recent work in assisting the Open Housing Initiative as important projects that University students should know about.
“The Michigan Student Assembly is there for a reason, and that reason is relevant today,” Watson said.
The assembly also passed a resolution at last night’s meeting to create a program, called MSA Represent, which would require assembly members to “begin communication and correspondence” with two student organizations that will be assigned to the representatives, according to the resolution.
“What this does is require MSA representatives to take a little more time out of their busy schedules, and they are very busy, to talk to their constituents,” Public Policy Rep. Steve Zuckerman, the author of the resolution, said at the meeting. “I think this kind of gets us back to the core of what we really wanted to do when we started running in the first place.”
Law School Rep. Michael Wagner and other representatives expressed concern about the MSA Represent program. Addressing the assembly, Wagner said he was worried that he would have to interact with an organization that isn’t part of his constituency because there is a wide variety of student groups and organizations on campus.