For years, the Michigan Student Assembly has faced a crisis of relevancy. When students look at MSA, they see a group of elected peers that fails to engage with the campus and live up to campaign promises. Students remember the $7.19 MSA fee they pay each semester, but can’t call to mind any substantial action the assembly has taken to better their lives. The 2010 MSA election will be a decisive moment to do away with business as usual in the assembly and bring relevancy back to MSA.

MForward is a group of student leaders who have joined together to meet this challenge with fresh ideas, bold action and commitment to a student-oriented community. Under the banner of “Ideas, Action, Community,” MForward seeks to transform MSA from a stagnant, self-interested body into a vibrant forum where inter-student dialogue is encouraged and facilitated.

MForward will be led by proven, experienced and energized students from a broad coalition of student organizations and communities. Our candidate for MSA president, LSA junior Chris Armstrong, has proven himself a leader in the LGBT community as Chair of the assembly’s LGBT Commission. Armstrong has a track record of being a powerful advocate and a tenacious leader. Over the past year, Armstrong has successfully worked to bring the 2011 Midwest LGBT conference to campus, increasing the University’s stature in the national LGBT community. Our candidate for vice president, Business junior Jason Raymond, has been the student body’s greatest defender on the assembly, leading efforts to stave off tuition increases through the Stop the Hike campaign.

Armstrong and Raymond, as well as our growing slate of representative candidates, have records of being inclusive, progressive and engaged leaders in every facet of the University community.

MForward will harness the drive of our candidates into an idea-focused assembly that pulls from the best that the University of Michigan offers. Our assembly must be a strong voice advocating on behalf of students. Over the past year, we have heard almost nothing from the MSA leadership on the issues — big or small — that are most relevant to students. MForward is committed to holding town hall meetings with the student body and student groups to build a voice that speaks for Michigan students.

We will immediately take action to make MSA a better body for students. We will transform the much criticized student organization funding process by integrating organization treasurers, making the process more accessible and transparent. Our pledge is to roll out this new and improved funding process next fall. Furthermore, we will deliver on the promise to streamline the MSA website and make it a community building tool for students. Most importantly, we will continually engage all parts of campus in a dialogue regarding student priorities and creative ways to maximize MSA resources.

MForward promises to hold the administration accountable. We will ensure that the administration is in constant consultation with the students on issues that affect them. The student body isn’t represented well when its elected representatives fail to consistently engage the administration as independent, equal partners. We seek to form a broader coalition of representatives across majors, student organizations and communities to show that the student body is engaged and will not be silenced.

The MForward mass meeting will be held this Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Henderson Room of the Michigan League. We are seeking passionate campus leaders, especially from under-engaged communities like the Dental and Nursing Schools, among others, to join our effort.

We strongly believe that the success of the Michigan Student Assembly is dependent on the excitement and passion its representatives bring to the body.

This viewpoint was written by Chris Armstrong and Jason Raymond on behalf of MForward.

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