The University’s student government is a broken system.
Ask any student and they’ll most likely say the Michigan Student Assembly’s role in campus life is unclear. Its structures are unfamiliar to students and convoluted. Nobody seems to know what it does, what it’s supposed to do or what it can’t do.
Students will say that MSA is unfair. Graduate and professional students are underrepresented. Students believe they have little recourse if an MSA policy or fee is not in their interest. MSA seems like a club — people in the know get what they want and everyone else is on their own.
Most significantly, students may say student government is not invested in them and that it doesn’t affect their lives. That’s why students don’t invest in student government — just one in nine of us voted in the last MSA presidential election.
As the Vice President of MSA, I have tried to address these issues and improve the efficiency of students by working within the system. While we have been able to improve the accountability and transparency of the inner workings of government, the system inherently limits the ability of elected officials to enact change on campus.
Students face a decentralized and complicated student government structure that is nearly impossible to navigate. Coordinating campus-wide initiatives is extremely difficult — limiting the ability for students to effectively organize.
A campus organization, Students for Progressive Governance, has begun confronting these challenges. I serve as chair of S4PG because I believe student government must be rebuilt from the ground up. That’s why S4PG has begun drafting a new student constitution that will be clearer, fairer and more invested in students.
The new constitution composed by S4PG proposes to divide the basic powers of student government among the executive, legislative and judicial branches. These branches will replace MSA’s overlapping duties and authorities with checks and balances and clear lines of accountability.
S4PG also proposes to make government more democratic by including the college, housing and organization governments that are a vital voice in campus conversation. Students will be able to solve local problems locally and gain greater access to shared resources.
Finally, we are proposing new ways to engage students. We want to make meetings, records, elections and judicial opinions more available to students. We are committed to ensuring students know their rights and responsibilities and can act upon both.
The structural and functional changes we have designed will make student government more efficient and effective. But no government is an end in itself.
Instead, government is about movement. Movement from insularity to collaboration, from diffusion to concentration, from a disparate collection of our diverse interests and abilities to one community.
These are heady ideals. I bet many students will claim we are overreaching, and that student government — however constituted — can’t reach their day-to-day lives. This reaction is rooted in hard experience: student government is too far removed from its constituents. And students are too far removed from each other.
We want to change this, but we cannot accomplish our goals without you. We need your ideas, your vision and your passion. Please visit our website, www.S4PG.info, and let us know you want to get involved. Or better yet, come meet with us today at 7:00 p.m. in room 2105A in the Michigan Union.
It’s a chance to take charge of your own education and help move Michigan toward genuine community.
Mike Rorro is the Vice President of the Michigan Student Assembly and chair of Students for Progressive Governance.