Tuesday’s campus-wide e-mail offering instructions for voting in Michigan’s presidential primary election from the newly-inaugurated Michigan Student Assembly President Mohammad Dar could not have been any more appropriately timed. It appeared in my inbox at 9:27 p.m., exactly 87 minutes after my precinct’s polling site closed for the night. Sure, the e-mail added insult to the already injurious voter turnout in Michigan by arriving so late. But more than anything, it underscored how hilariously offbeat student participation in adult matters can be at times.
I will give Dar the benefit of the doubt. I’m nearly positive the timing of the e-mail was a fluke. It was probably meant to appear in my inbox several hours earlier, especially given that the e-mail promoted an MSA event that had occurred four hours before I received the e-mail. Besides, I don’t think Dar would have botched a self-promotion opportunity on purpose.
However unintentionally late the e-mail was, it’s hard to not see the irony of the situation. The spoiled e-mail, which was Dar’s first campus-wide message and first impression, comes at a time when MSA drama – not “scandal,” which would sound more serious – is still fresh in our minds. This is the drama that threw MSA’s credibility and relevance on campus into question. It is also the drama that Dar is supposed to quell.
Anyone even slightly conscious of campus affairs doesn’t need a refresher of the MSA drama. But since the trifecta of problems that have occurred gets more entertaining every time I explain it, I’ll summarize. First, there was former Rep. Kenneth Baker’s resignation following threats from LSA Student Government after he made public his and then-MSA President Zack Yost’s involvement in an offensive Facebook group. Then came Yost’s resignation, after the criticism of his membership in the Facebook group became too overwhelming.
Most recently, former MSA Rep. Anton Vuljaj resigned after pleading guilty to two felony convictions in Washtenaw County Circuit Court. His felonies were tied to unlawful MSA activity.
Try taking a step back from your opinion of this drama and consider having to explain the situations to your parents or non-University friends? Doesn’t it all just reduce to a level of inanity and childishness?
I tried to do that over winter break, and was met with confused head tilts and half-hearted follow-up questions. Nobody seemed interested. In the grand scheme of things, yes, Baker and Yost offended a disabled person and, yes, Vuljaj broke the law and will never be able to get a good job without having to explain his criminal record. But the drama doesn’t extend far beyond the walls of the University (or the walls of MSA’s chambers, for that matter). The energy surrounding this drama just represents how much attention we pay to insignificant issues, which don’t really end up accomplishing anything meaningful. That is, unless getting a couple of MSA members to step down is meaningful, since it won’t result in any more productivity from MSA.
This energy also speaks to the large issue of what we as University students (and The Michigan Daily) prioritize. Our prioritization exposes just how out of sync college students’ lifestyles and attitudes can be with the real world.
Take for example the juxtaposition of Monday and Wednesday’s student forums on the location of the 2008 Spring Commencement and Tuesday’s presidential primary. Angell Hall Auditorium B was full of students Monday crying about how, because they “bleed maize and blue,” they must graduate in the Big House. Polling places on Tuesday, meanwhile, were desperate for voters. When I got to my precinct’s polling place Tuesday afternoon, people were arriving at a steady pace of one voter per 40 minutes. The student forums had to change locations to accommodate the crowd.
This juxtaposition follows the idea that students are more focused on trivial and relatively inconsequential issues than issues that are more distant and less scandalous. It also emphasizes that we want to be treated like adults, wanting the University to take us seriously, but are unwilling to do adult work like voting or acting like adults. The only way we’re ever going to get the University and presidential candidates to respect our desires is to start taking important issues more seriously.
In the meantime, I’m going to continue wishing that Tuesday’s presidential primary had been as big on campus as graduation or MSA drama. Maybe if Dar’s e-mail had been on time .
Theresa Kennellyis an associate editorial page editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.