Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Download this Issue


Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

This collection, digitized in collaboration with the Michigan Daily and the Board for Student Publications, contains materials that are protected by copyright law. Access to these materials is provided for non-profit educational and research purposes. If you use an item from this collection, it is your responsibility to consider the work's copyright status and obtain any required permission.

March 26, 1971 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1971-03-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.






Broadening the,


The author was SGC administra-
live vice-president 1967-68, and an
SGC member at large the following
year. He is currently a doctoral
candidate in philosophy.
LIKE RELIGION, politics isn't
something most of us reflect
on daily.. We wait for the sabbath,
every seventh day in religion,
every campaign time in politics.
Wwith SGC elections approaching,
I find myself reflecting on student
government, the politician in me
stirring in preparation for the sac-
rament of voting. Not that I think
my vote-or even the whole elec-
tion-means much, only that it
means something, like going to a
religious service because the
night's clear and I need somewhere
to walk.
I'm writing down my reflections
because I think others might find
them useful, at least as a starting
point for their own.
What is student government?
There is, :of course, no student gov-
ernment, strictly speaking, on any
major campus in the country. What
we call "student government"
might more accurately be called

"representative organization". We
call our representative organiza-
tion a "government" in defiant
hope that it will some day actually
govern student affairs instead of
merely influencing those who do
I don't mean that student govern-
ment is necessarily powerless. It
isn't. It has power. But the only
substantial power it has is extra-
legal (non-govei'nmental), )ower
dependent on the inherent capacity
of human beings to combine them-
selves for action. The University
has tried to keep institutional pow-
er from students-and, for the most
part, it has succeeded.
To make use of the power of stu-
dent government, we must under-
stand the peculiar way in which
representative organization creates
power. Most organizations are not
representative (in my sense). They
begin by attracting people o like
mind. Their power comes from
bringing together those of like
mind for common action. The prin-
ciple is concentration of forces.
But student government (and all
other representative organizations)
begins by bringing together people

of unlike mind. The power conies
from changing the minds of people
once they are members. The prin-
ciple is creation of force by the
meeting of minds at the moment of
action. If a student government
has no minds to change among its
members (because all were agreed
to begin with), it's that much
Which brings me to the mean-
ing of "representative" - or how
a student government should be
many constitutions, but I don't be-
lieve that constitutions and i epre-
sentation have much to do with one
another. It seems to me that all
constitutional questions are set-
tled as soon as the government's
structure doesn't cut the govern-
ment off from its constituency or
prevent it from acting. Represen-
tation has to do with who's in the
government rather than how it's
A student government needs to
have a membership so varied that
every major interest in its con-
stituency can identify at least one
government member as its spokes-

man. There should be no perma-
nent majority-because the crea-
tion of a majority for a particular
purpose is the source of the spe-
cial power of student government.
Either a student government can
mobilize large numbers of students
when it needs to )r it's little more
than another student organization
(and a small one at that). The
special power of student govern-
ment to mobilize student, depends
on its relation to the major inter-
ests in its constituency. Each ma-
jor interest that feels itself more
or less present in the drama of de-
bate and voting will fbel itself
more or less bound by the resui-
ing decision. A major interest feels
itself present (that is, feels itself
represented) througii a member of
the government it identifies as its
Administration and faculty seem
to understand this process at least
dimly. They'll accuse a govern-
ment of being unrepresentative (no
matter its constitution) whenever
they don't hear all views they think
legitimate expressed within it.
They'll ignore the demands of any
government they believe unrepre-

for diversity

sentative. They'll change their
minds about the unrepresentative-
ness of any government that con-
sistently shows itself able to mo-
bilize great numbers of students to
back up its votes.
Administration and faculty will
succeed in ignoring any govern-
ment without sufficient diversity
of opinion. Which brings me to
HOW GOOD a student govern-
ment is SGC? There's no final ans-
wer to that question. Each elec-
tion changes SGC, and the ap-
proaching election may change it
more than any other recent one.
But this much is clear: SGC has
generally suffered these last three
years from lack of diversity.
There have been too many radi-
cals on SGC. And, just for that rea-
son, SGC has been useless to radi-
cals, except as a source of small
donations. Even as a means of
gaining publicity, SGC was more
valuable to radicals before they
had a majority.
Because the moderates and con-
servatives have found it increas-

ingly hard to identify anyone on
SGC as their representative, the
moderates and conservatives ha;.,e
been increasingly unavailable to
back up SGC action or even to sit
on SGC committees. The drama
has gone out of debate and vot-
ing, and the sense has departed
with the drama. (Council mem-
bers seldom have to think before
they vote, their intuitive views go-
ing unchallenged by a overwhelm-
ing majority that shares those
Since there's a radical majority
on almost every question before
debate begins, The Daily has little
interest in SGC. (The predictable
isn't news.) Since The Daily no
longer has to prod SGC by careful
coverage and fierce editorials be-
fore it takes some radical action,
SGC has lost much of its visibility.
With its visibility has gone much of
its ability to speak to the campus.
And with its ability to speak to the
campus has gone what little ability
it had to mobilize students.
It's not surprising, therefore, that
for the past two years administra-
tors and faculty have been able

ON THE EVE of Student Government Council
elections, questions are again being raised as
to SGC's role - whether it has accomplished or
can accomplish anything, whether it properly
represents students, what it should be, what it
should work toward.
To aid in focusing this dialogue, The Daily
has asked four individuals who have been active
in SGC for their views on what directions Coun-
cil should take. Their replies appear on this page.


suA'&r4& 4a
~4r t ti stzn Dff~
Eighty years of editorial freedom
Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

420 Maynord St., Ann Arbor, Mich

News Phone: 764-0552

Editorials printed in The Michiqan Daily express the individual opinions of staff writers
or the editors. Th)s must be noted in all reprints.



SGc: A needed voice?

An end
The author, a senior in LSA, was pens is t
SGC president 1969-70. the facu]
cal atro
A BALANCE sheet for Student bly's re
Government Council m i g h t vote ort
look like this: permito
ASSETS: money, notice taken racist a
of its existence by the adminis- SGC the
tration and faculty. tion thre
DEBITS: no organization, no eous con
mass participation, no student in- copy oft
terest, no real decision-making propriate
power, high membership turnov- in the ap
er, lack of energy and competence Perhap
on the part of Council members, quences4
inability to hold more than one demonsti
out of ten elections without foul- ing is tak
ing things up. more tha
For anyone who foolishly be- bers the:
lieves that the balance is posi- will ofc
tive, a look at what SGC normally tions. In
does should suffice.
SGC engages in four kinds of members
political activity, each one draw- of intesti
ing on a different resource. They up for tl
are: passing amusing paper mo- ity and
tions, appointing people to com- motions
mittees, giving money away to healthy
people who are doing the real po-
litical work on this campus, and the high
replacing Council members who lons if t
quit, which th
SGC PAPER MOTIONS can long sinc
perhaps qualify as an art form The bi

to ineffectual manuevering

own. Normally what hap-
hat the administration or
lty perpetrates some typi-
city like Senate Assem-
cent classified research
the Regents' decision to
on-campus recruiting by
and sexist corporations.
en passes a fiery resolu-
eatening all sorts of hid-
sequences, a n d sends a
the resolution to the ap-
group where it ends up
propriate wastebasket.
ps t h e hideous conse-
do come about, a n d a
ration occurs or a build-
ken over - will you find
an one or two SGC mem-
re? Not a chance. SGC
course support such ac-
dividually, however, SGC
suffer from a severe lack
nal fortitude. They make
his by displaying creativ-
inventiveness in writing
which would cause a
epidemic of apoplexy in
est administrative eche-
hey were ever read, but
he men at the top have
e learned to ignore.
ulk of council members'

time is spent serving on various
committees which the faculty and
administration set up and permit
SGC to -appoint token students
to. These committees are constit-
uted in such a way that students
never actually make decisions:
They advise officers of the Uni-
versity, or make recommendations,
or make decisions "subject to re-
view by the Regents." All this does
is contribute to the facade of stu-
dent participation in decision-
making which liberals like Flem-
ing, Knauss, and Weinberg like
to present.
THE ONLY indisputably pro-
ductive political activity of SGC
is at the same time an admission
of its political bankruptcy. SGC
appropriates a sizable sum of
money (say, 10-15 per cent of its
annual budget of $18,000) to var-
ious political campaigns like the
current one against war. research,
or last fall's womens liberation
child-care action group. This mon-
ey is spent by the people active in
the particular group to pay for
such things as leaflets, posters,
Daily ads, and meeting rooms, and
it does make the raising of many
political issues easier.
At the same time, funding this

activity is for SGC a substitute for
political activity in its own name
either as a student pressure group
or as a student government. SGC
cannot involve large numbers of
students in political struggle ev-
en to the extent that ad hoc coa-
litions or radicals have this year.
The last of SGC's political ac-
tivities is perhaps most illustra-
tive of its haplessness as an or-
ganization. Fewer than half of all
Councilmembers finish the terms
to which they are elected. This
means that Council must devote
much of its time to interviewing
and appointing replacements for
these people. As many as three or
four meetings a semester may be
completely taken up with this te-
dious process, humiliating for all
concerned, full of personal bitter-
ness, favortism and infighting.
MOST OF SGC's failure as a
student government is due to its
complete irrelevance to the life of
most students. SGC has little im-
pact on University decisions on al-
location of funds, apointment of
staff, academic standards and
rules, housing, transportation, or
any other area in which students
may be concerned.
Lacking influence, SGC has lit-
tle appeal to students who are

having difficulties with the Uni-
versity bureaucracy or who are
interested in any kind of progres-
sive change. SGC refuses to give
up the pretense that it is a real
student government and admit to
the fact that it does not and does
not want to govern or rule over
students - the faculty and ad-
ministrative have the ruling class
role in this institution sewed up
committees, reports, subgroups,
and other garbage and concentrate
on harrassing administration and
faculty from a position outside the
present University structure, not
subservient to it.- Student repre-
sentatives should be withdrawn
from the University Council, the
Committee on Communications,
the Committee on a Permanent
Judiciary, and all Senate Assemb-
ly and OSS committees.
These students are only fighting
a delaying action against repres-
sive a n d reactionary University
policies, and they are fighting in
a way that ensures that they will
lose. If SGC cannot fight political
battles effectively now, it should
dissolve itself or adopt another
strategy; it should not continue
to fight them ineffectively.



THE PROPER ROLE of student govern-
ment has been debated time and
again. But very rarely does the right of
a 'student government to exist at all come
under review. Yet it is conceivable, even in
this page of student activism and aware-
ness, that a university community could
function easily and well with no student
government at all. In this context it
seems wise to examine the role of our
Student Government Council, and -to
determine whether SGC does, in fact, fill
a legitimate need.
CURRENTLY, COUNCIL is limited both
externally and internally-externally by
the administration's unwillingness to con-
cede its right to a substantial share of
power; internally by Council members'
lack of energy, and additionally through
the prevailing mood of political inertia.
SGC has two clearly visible functions
-the dispersal of an annual budget ap-
proaching $20,000, and the appointment
of students to sit on various University
committees. But is this enough - does
SGC really serve and substantial purpose
for the student body?
For- one thing, the present scheme of
University governance requires that if
students be heard at all, they have a re-
presentative body to speak for them. Cer-
tainly there are flaws in the present
scheme. Yet, were SGC to be removed
from it, there would be a gaping hole.
THERE WOULD then be no generally
recognized voice to demand student
rights, .to speak to the faculty and Re-
gents on behalf of students - to press
for more student input into the Univer-
sity's governance through units like Uni-
versity Council.
Other units to which SGC appoints
members also relate directly to main-
taining within the University's struc-
ture an active exponent of student rights.
These include: the Office of Student
Services Policy Board, which in turn ap-
points 'students to its constituent agencies'
policy boards in housing, academic serv-
ices, and health care, Central Student
Judiciary, the Board of Directors of the
University Cellar.
As long as there is a division within
the University with an administration,
faculty-wide governing bodies, a board of
Regents, and students, there must be a
student government to effectively a n d
consistently champion student rights.
Sports S/aff
MORT NOVECK, Sports Editor

TN ALLOCATING money to v a r i o u s
student groups, it is clear that Coun-
cil makes politically-based decisions. It is
a matter of personal political interest
that students notice which Council mem-
bers support which organizations. In the
same way, appointments to the various
committees and policy boards throughout
the University are also made on a poli-
tical basis. That is, those students who
are thought to be best able to convey
to the rest of the university community
the political intent of the council are
appointed. Hence, a student. whose views
differ from those SGC wants to pro-
'mote as representing the student inter-
est would find it difficult to attain ap-
pointment to a unit such as University
Because SGC claims to represent t h e
student population it is called upon to
provide a student voice whenever the
University structure invites this partici-
pation. It has, of course, been argued that
SGC has no right to make purely politi-
cal decisions, to speak for the students on
moral or political issues, to pretend to
represent the entire student population.
Yet, if so few students do choose to
vote in SGC elections - roughly 10 per
cent voted last November - SGC has no
recourse but to view itself as a legitimate
representative of student interests. Those
who cry so loudly that SGC does not re-
present them might be heeded more were
they to vote. Not choosing is also a choice.
As for SGC's "proper" role in the poli-
tical arena, it is perhaps correct that a
student government should not involve
itself with partisan politics. Yet, by living
in a University community, we share the
Ann Arbor community, the society at
large. It is in our interest and the inter-
est of the community that we make our
stance on issues that affect the Univer-
sity community as well as on University
issues that confront the Ann Arbor com-
In that light, it is possible to defend
SOC contributions to particular political
groups, if those groups aim to achieve the
ends that SGC advocates. That is, if a
particular group intends to work for
programs that directly benefit students,
there is no harm in SGC supporting that
organization, financially and ideologi-
cally. In fact, SGC, as the student advo-
cate, should act directly in support of
such a group.
IF THERE is dissatisfaction with the
present council, let the dissidents be
open and active. There is no need for SGC
elections to, attract so few voters. There
is no good reason for a multitude of stu-
dents to view SGC as a group of scound-

Maintaining a strong political stance.

The author, a junior in LSA, is soon-to-be retiring
SGC executive vice-president.
SEVERAL YEARS AGO, Student Government
Council was concerned with Homecoming,
dances, perhaps a few student services and a
variety of advisory committees. There was no clear
analysis on council of whose interests the Univer-
sity was serving, nor any active concern over the
role students should have in University decision-
Then, in 1965 and 1966 began the student power
movement at Michigan, and SGC, reflecting
changing student opinion, began to realize that
the University was not an ivory tower isolated
from American society, but rather an arm of the
institutional structure that controlled that socie-
ty. SGC became involved in attempting to increase
student power and rights, realizing that faculty
and administrators were not the only ones affected
by the academic and nonacademic decisions made
by this University.
Students here still have very little formal in-
stitutional power. Therefore, Student Government
Council, though set up as a legislative-executive
body, must often act as a political interest group
to push for student rights and power and for certain
political ends.
Though SGC is the most legitimate focus of stu-

dent interests, it is most effective if Council's mem-
bers and officers use their positions to gain student
support for proposals and political demands.
THERE IS A definite need for some body that
represents and is essentially responsible to all stu-
dents. SGC is the only ongoing student govern-
ment consistently concerned with students' rights'
and interests on a University-wide basis. To dissolve
SGC would mean to allow the faculty and admin-
istration to completely control this institution and
the student lives within it without any persistent
It is imperative then, that those elected to SGC
have a certain political perspective. Council mem-
bers must always be concerned with protecting stu-
dent rights against the arbitrary and repressive ac-
tions of administrators and faculty. They must un-
derstand the institutions - business, government
and the military - that this University operates
for. They must be willing to fight those interests
and the racism and sexism that pervades this
University and this entire society. They must
be aware of the University's role in the community
and see the relationships between this institution
and the larger society. Above all, they must be com-
mitted to the goal of students making the decisions
that concern them, both academic and non-aca-
See KEEPING, Page 8

A bolition of SGG:


best alternative

The author was SGC executive vice-presi-
dent 1968-69. He is currently an employe
of University Hospital.
rfHE TIME has come for SGC to be
abolished. Such : an action has been
called for by various people from time to
time in the past, but the arguments in its
favor seem more persuasive now than ever
The most immediate issue is the quality,
of the three people running for president in
the current campaign. SGC elections have
often forced students to choose from a field
of rather unexceptional candidates, but this

Student interest and confidence in SGC
has reached its nadir, yet Scott wants an-
other try. There's got to be something
wrong with anyone who could possibly stand
being president of SGC for two years.
Bill Thee has probably been the most dis-
ruptive and recalcitrant member of Council
this year. He is opposed to anything pro-
gressive and his elevation to president
would bring about the complete breakdown
of communications between SGC and the
Left-responsible for much of the progress
in student life during the last few years.
Rebecca Schenk is te least known of the
three and appears to derive much of her

Most students view SGC as a distant body
indulging in silly, ego-gratifying sandbox
politics. As long as that image exists SGC
will have an immensely difficult time gen-
erating support for issues it sees as import-
ant. It is a vicious circle-SGC appears im-
potent because it has very little effect on
students' lives, yet it can't accomplish any-
thing of consequence because it's reputa-
tion precludes it from gaining mass support.
Structural factors enter this dynamic and
help perpetuate it. Members of Council have
no specific, identifiable constituency to
which they must feel responsible.

student government that is e t:e le
Much more could be acco ''.-i,e- if SGC
were simply to dissolve itse{.t Wld be
most interesting and instructive to observe
the campus and the student ;,iment for a
while in the absence of a dC i govrn-
The chances for coming ip w ,L , vpe
of restructuring that is optimally repre-
sentative, responsive, and relevant are much
better when nothing else exists to compli-
cate debate. The administration and faculty
would grow increasingly bold in trampling
student rights and interests, and in such a
context students would discover quite readi-


Back to Top

© 2023 Regents of the University of Michigan