Each time I hear the Michigan Student Assembly mentioned, the words “Gaza,” “apartheid” and “gag rule” are sure to follow. If you believe the propaganda disseminated in anti-Israel groups, there is a mass conspiracy to stifle debate and clandestinely support the racist, genocidal actions of the Israeli Empire. In fact, there may be good reason to believe that MSA leaders are engaged in a covert operation with the Israeli Mossad, in which MSA silences Palestinian supporters in exchange for a lifetime supply of hummus. Israel understands that nothing poses a greater threat to its stability than the army of anonymous Internet activists leaving anti-Israel comments all over The Michigan Daily’s website.
Give me a break.
MSA has a reason for trying to avoid getting dragged back into this debate. The last time they tried to interject themselves into this conflict, it was a disaster. After spending hours debating the topic over the course of two meetings, they finally passed a resolution suggesting that the two opposing advocacy groups, American Movement for Israel and Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, come together in unity to watch a movie. MSA knows what must be done to establish peace across the region — Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu, leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Israel respectively, must grab their Snuggies, pop some popcorn and put aside their differences with the power of film.
Maybe I’m just a naïve freshman, but I think a student government should be concentrating on things that affect students, not weighing in on foreign affairs over which they have no influence. MSA is not the United Nations — and even the UN has proved itself entirely impotent in solving this problem. They have absolutely no power whatsoever to do anything but say, “Boooo! We don’t like you!” And, even though I passionately disagree with such action, they couldn’t even do that — they suggested we watch a movie. Demanding that MSA promulgate foreign policy is only going to delude representatives into thinking that they’re actually part of something more than a glorified middle school student council with fancy websites.
Let’s not kid ourselves. There’s a reason MSA celebrates when turnout exceeds 5 percent — no one cares. The low turnout is a sign that the organization is already seen as irrelevant by the student body. We have our choice between the Michigan Vision Party, a bunch of “independents who collectively express opinions” (in other words, a party) and the Defend Affirmative Action Party. I think they are all terrible choices for various reasons — repeating the word “vision” over and over doesn’t qualify you for office, the independents are just like those emo kids in high school that told you they don’t have a label and DAAP representatives actually encourage the Gaza resolution madness. But mainly, it’s because I have trouble supporting an institution — and by extension its members — that broke state law. MSA did this by appointing—not electing, as the law stipulates—members to the Department of Public Safety Oversight Committee. Then, they denied it and reversed course when people found out. It gives me flashbacks of the lies and deceit of the Bush years.
If MSA ever wants their representatives to draw more votes than my high school class president did, they need to start making themselves more relevant to the lives of the student body. It started with ensuring that only those with a valid MCard, i.e. only people actually affiliated with the University, have the right to speak to them without prior clearance. The “gag rule” so condemned by the activists it targeted was a positive step toward concentrating MSA’s time on issues they have the power to affect.
MVP — you want my vision? Here it is: Lobby for policies that will positively affect the lives of your constituents. MSA has been doing a great job at helping to push through the “Good Samaritan” law, ensuring that students won’t be afraid to call an ambulance to help a friend in trouble. I’d like to see more things like that. Advocate for additional, more frequent and later-running bus schedules on nights and weekends so my North Campus friends stop spending every Saturday night on my futon. Work with the University administration to find ways to lower the costs of education for students. And for crying out loud, get us a theater on campus that shows new movies.
Alex Schiff is an LSA freshman.