When MForward began nearly a year ago, the promise of ideas, action and community truly resonated with me as a student leader, as it did with all those who decided to run for positions on the Michigan Student Assembly on the MForward ticket. Although we all knew it would be an uphill battle, we didn’t let these odds discourage us from setting in motion a new approach to student governance. As a result, this first year has not only yielded many improvements to campus but, perhaps most importantly, it has created a new tone for leadership and new foundation off of which future representatives can base their work in years to come.
The mission of MForward includes an emphasis on increasing the extent to which student organizations can access MSA resources. By working with Student Parking and Transportation Services, we were able to create a $5,000 budget to fund groups that require vehicles to carry out their service-based initiatives. We also launched the “Get Involved Campaign,” which started activities like Diag Days dedicated to promoting our many wonderful arts and service organizations and events like Explorth to bring information about these opportunities to North Campus.
To continue these efforts, current MForward representatives are meeting with University administrators to improve Festifall by making it more environmentally friendly, easier to navigate and more accessible for students with disabilities. MForward representatives are partnering with the Office of New Student Programs and Student Activities and Leadership to institute a panel at orientation which student leaders can share with incoming students the importance of involvement. This program will begin this June.
Another cornerstone of the MForward philosophy is to improve and publicize our internal activities as means to hold representatives more accountable to the student body. Our new website, which we created without spending any student tuition dollars, now contains information about voting records, attendance, meeting minutes, agendas and resolutions.
Furthermore, the new MSA Constitution, initiated by the MForward leadership, is nearing the end of its transitional period. The contents of this document will establish a better system of checks and balances through the creation of different branches of government. One of the new positions it defines, chief programming officer, has already helped the University produce several campus-wide events, and the implementation of a University Council will facilitate greater communication between different bodies of student governance.
In terms of advocacy, MForward has long held the belief that student government should both reflect and defend the needs of all those who it represents, especially for communities whose members constantly suffer the injustices of certain University standards. We feel that advocacy includes everything from introducing new areas of CAEN printing and workspace on Central Campus to lobbying at our nation’s capitol among other in-state and Big Ten university leaders for increased access to and affordability of higher education.
Among the accomplishments of MSA under MForward leadership in the past year, our advances in implementing the open housing policy ranks near the top of the list. Because of our tireless work among a coalition of supportive organizations, transgender and gender non-conforming students now have the opportunity to room with another student regardless of their gender. Although we still have a long way to go, we have made great strides toward our goal of establishing a completely comprehensive policy that will eliminate housing discrimination on the basis of gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.
These are just some of the many examples of the direction in which MForward has moved student governance. Not only will the members of its ticket continue the incredible work their predecessors have begun, but they will also have a better space in which to introduce new initiatives in the name of ideas, action and community. Not once have I regretted my own participation in this vision, and not for a second do I doubt the integrity and philosophy of those who hope to form the next generation of the MForward leadership.
Allison Horky is an MForward Representative. She is a School of Social Work student.