LSA sophomore Lena Cintron and I are running to become Michigan Student Assembly vice president and president for three reasons. First, we believe that the increased privatization of our University is distorting and deforming the experience of students on this campus and that the toll of the privatization effort is far greater than any of the short term benefits. The loss of affirmative action as a public mandate has paved the way for the unprecedented attack on public education that we are now facing. Over the past decade, the University has become increasingly reliant on private funds, which is stifling honest research, social criticism and academic freedom and creating a hostile campus climate for minority students. Cuts to funding for public universities, tuition hikes, and increasing reliance on private donors, in particular for minority scholarships, place us under more pressure to be educated. Public education is a fundamental democratic right; we should have the resources and opportunities to explore our many interests and talents and determine our own futures.

Second, we believe that only we as students can rescue, restore and revive our University’s traditions of academic independence, integration, diversity and accountability to the people of our state. We oppose the recent statement by University President Mary Sue Coleman that we’re prepared to share in the sacrifice for state budget cuts to education. We don’t have to accept the tuition hikes and budget cuts that fall on the backs of students and employees, while corporations are receiving tax cuts. Students are the most powerful force on this campus and should be determining the character and direction of our University, but we lack the leadership and organization needed for us to assert our will and power. The Defend Affirmative Action Party exists to provide that leadership.

Third, we want to make the University a more welcoming, more interesting, less lonely and less alienating campus. We believe that our University can be a place in which all students here feel supported and respected and are able to think critically, accept new challenges and grow as human beings. We believe that the much touted diversity of our campus, which few of us experience as a meaningful part of our lives, ought to challenge our prejudices, expose us to new ideas and cultures and deepen our understanding of our own humanity and potential. For this to occur, our campus would have to become far less segregated and stratified.

DAAP is the longest standing and only consistently progressive independent student political party at the University. Now more than ever we need a student party prepared to take on the bullies, cynics and liars and unite all the progressive forces on the campus against our common enemies. We pledge to make MSA an independent and strong advocate for student rights and for the kind of university that can allow each and every one of us to be ourselves and express and develop our special talents and gifts. We pledge to defend and further the University’s longstanding commitment to diversity and free speech by restoring the public character of our institution. We pledge to be the voice of minority, immigrant, international, poor and working class, inner city and rural and progressive students on campus. We pledge to women, LGBTQ, Muslim and other students who face harassment, threats and discrimination, date rape and other forms of physical attack that we will fight to improve our campus climate and conditions so that this campus is really your home. We pledge to immigrant students with and without papers that we will fight for the DREAM Act and to make our University a sanctuary campus. We pledge to all the campus unions and workers to raise your issues to MSA and to educate students on the significance of your issues so that greater unity between us all is possible.

If anyone can stop the runaway train of privatization, restore and revitalize public education, it’s us. Other campuses are organizing. We here at the University can lead, as we have so many times before, a powerful student movement for civil rights, public education, internationalism and progress.

Briana Hatcher is the DAAP presidential candidate. She is an LSA freshman.

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