The Michigan Student Assembly has gotten off to a very successful start this year. With MSA elections this Wednesday and Thursday, now is a great time to learn about what MSA has been doing on campus. Prior to last year, MSA had been inefficient and slow to respond to student needs, in part because MSA members were concerned with political posturing. Last year, then MSA President Chris Armstrong demanded more from the assembly and began the process of making MSA more relevant to students’ lives. Many members of MForward, a student advocacy group on campus and an MSA party, supported Armstrong’s initiatives.
I joined MForward the semester after Armstrong was elected. I was drawn to it because it had already begun to produce the results that it had promised, and I wanted to contribute. Under MForward’s lead, MSA helped secure Saturday night dining in residence halls, held a massive Lupe Fiasco benefit concert and began the process of having regular Farmers’ Markets in the Michigan Union. MSA also won a more inclusive University Housing roommate policy that is fairer for transgender and gender non-conforming students and has already been implemented.
This year, I have been pleased to see MForward continue to improve MSA under President DeAndree Watson. Watson and his team hosted a tailgate before the Notre Dame night game and provided food and fun to more than 8,000 students. Under his leadership, MForward members have hosted many other student service events on campus such as a housing rights awareness week and a fair trade awareness week. MForward supporters, including myself, have also worked to reduce the internal costs of MSA so that we can redirect more money to fund student organizations. Some of us have renewed lobbying efforts at the state and local levels by working with the city of Ann Arbor to maintain its pedestrian protection laws and by lobbying the state to pass anti-bullying legislation and provide more money for higher education.
MForward can achieve these great things because, unlike other parties before us, we work together on a daily basis to improve student life. When I want to initiate a project, I know I can count on my fellow MForward members to assist me in those endeavors. This semester, MForward is running an exciting group of students who I not only look forward to working with, but also know will serve the campus well in continuing the progress that MForward has already started. They have already affirmed their commitment to providing transparency and advocating for student needs and are full of ideas on how to make the University a better place.
The MForward candidates in this election have excellent goals, both large and small. For example, DPS Oversight Committee candidate Freshman Lucy Zhao will work with the Department of Public Safety to ensure that crime alerts are consistently sent out in a timely manner to promote student safety and awareness on campus. LSA candidate Freshman Angela Jung will strive to better the relationship between MSA and students by ensuring that there is a larger student government presence at events across campus. Finally, Engineering candidates Freshman Andy Modell and Freshman Saketh Samaymantri will work collaboratively to improve the bus system and ensure that Parking and Transportation Services has student input when making decisions. These are just a few examples of the numerous projects the current MForward candidates hope to work on in the coming semester.
I encourage you to vote in the upcoming MSA elections tomorrow and Thursday. I cannot overstate the importance of your participation. MSA works with the University all year on your behalf, so we need to hear your voice as students. Voting is also easy — just go to vote.umich.edu to cast your vote tomorrow. I also encourage you to go to MForward.org, where you can find the extended platforms and bios of the candidates that have joined MForward this semester.
Louis Mirante is a sophomore in LSA, an MSA representative and a member of MForward.