Last spring, MForward emerged as a group of dedicated individuals united by a common aspiration to improve student governance on campus and commitment to making the Michigan Student Assembly a true advocate for students of this university. This spring, we’re reaffirming our values with a new slate of individuals determined to advance the MForward agenda of ideas, action and community.
This is why I have decided to run for president with MForward, along with LSA Junior Brendan Campbell as my running mate and a phenomenal ticket of student leaders from across every section of campus. Collectively, we share the goal of re-energizing student participation in governance as a means of affecting change with benefits that will reach every corner of our campus community.
Our work begins with establishing new forums for exchanging ideas. As a whole, we hope to create a more accessible, transparent and efficient coalition of student representatives. In order to better communicate with and assess the needs of our peers, we plan to broadcast MSA meetings, hold monthly presidential addresses and host frequent town hall gatherings that connect students with University administrators. In these settings, we can both express our ideas so that they may fall subject to discussion and debate among the community, as well as elicit feedback and suggestions from those whose interests we’re striving to serve.
We also would like to emphasize our relationship with other student-led organizations, as we consider them vital to the vibrancy of our campus fabric. By introducing rolling funding opportunities and holding office hours in multiple locations around campus, organizations will have increased access to our resources. Furthermore, we intend to open our legislative process to student groups by creating a system that allows student organizations to pass resolutions through MSA.
Once we have implemented these tools for increasing our engagement with the student body, we will actively fight to enhance the campus community through our commitment to improving accessibility and affordability. Alongside student organizations, we intend to create new programming and outreach initiatives to connect with communities currently underrepresented at the University.
By reaching out to high schools across the state, we will unify the voices of students to establish networks of peer support. Such dialogue, coupled with advocacy for more education grants for students of different minority groups, has the potential to diminish the gap between high school and college that can become insurmountable to so many of our state’s youth. In our actions, we hope not only to create opportunities of higher education that previously didn’t exist but also seek to diversify and enrich our campus culture.
In terms of affordability, cuts to funding higher education have led to tuition hikes that hurt students across every demographic. Because the members of MForward believe so passionately in fighting for the needs of the students we represent, we see it as our responsibility to lead the effort of keeping these trends in check. While we will strive to use our institutional resources for the benefit of our peers, we also will not hesitate to take a stand against these institutions when students’ academic careers become jeopardized by financial constraints.
Finally, the overarching aspiration of MForward is to build a better and more cohesive campus community. All students deserve to feel included in the dynamic academic, extracurricular and social environments around which our campus culture thrives. These initiatives begin with continuing MForward’s efforts to implement open housing.
While progress has been made on this issue in that transgender and gender non-conforming students will now be able to live in suites with other students of their choosing — regardless of gender — much work still remains in advocating for a full open housing program. In a similar vein, we also will seek to establish a more comprehensive system to address incidents of bias. We see it as critical that students’ safety and positive campus experiences aren’t threatened by intolerant attitudes toward different social identities.
As part of the largest governing entity on campus, MForward members feel a compelling responsibility to use MSA resources only in ways that serve to unite students with each other, with their campus environment, with their communities and with the tools they require for accomplishing their goals. By opening up waves of communication between students, student-led organizations and the administration, we have the unique potential to facilitate connections with new and enhanced educational and organizational opportunities.
This is why Brendan Campbell, myself and all the MForward candidates have decided to seek positions on MSA this year. We’re students, seeking the support of students, and promising to strengthen the student body. If we all work together as a united force, we can further define and embody the phrase “Leaders and the Best” — that ever-present classification to which we so firmly subscribe.
DeAndree Watson is the MForward presidential candidate. He is an LSA junior.