The Michigan Daily-Thursday, September 10, 1981-Page 3--.
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till) striving to
a lvage reputation
MSA President John Feiger (left),
Vice-President Amy Hartmann
(right), the MSA chambers (below).
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By DAVID MEYER
The Michigan Student Assembly, the campus'
student government representing students from all
of the University's 17 schools and colleges, means
many things to many people - lobbying
organization, insurance .salesmen, supervisor 'of
student groups, official voice of the students. But,
then again, MSA means absolutely nothing to just as
many other people.
In fact, though the Assembly plays an important
role on campus in providing services to students, a
sizeable number of students have never heard. of
MSA nor can they tell you what it is or what it does.
MSA members are quick to admit that the Assembly
has a significant public relations problem with
students, and lack of student involvement in the
Assembly is an issue that crops up every spring
during the government's campaign season.
MSA'S CURRENT president, Jon Feiger, like his
predecessors, has sworn a commitment to attracting
more students to participate in MSA's many commit-
tees, which range from Minority Affairs, to the
Legislative Relations to Recreational Sports. But,.
with tapering student involvement in almost every
extracurricular activity on campus, Feiger's
prospect of. significantly bolstering student par-
ticipation look bleak.
MSA has two broad functions. 'One is to provide
needed services to students, the other is to serve as
the official representative of students to the ad-
ministration and faculty. For these services, studen-
ts must pay $3.90 per term in a mandatory
To fulfill its first responsibility, the Assembly of-
fers a number of services such as low-cost property
and health insurance, low-cost legal counsel, and
.twice a month the Assembly makes large allocations
to gelp fund student groups and organizations.
THE FULFILLMENT of its second responsibility
- to provide student input into the decision-making
that will affect students' educations is made more
difficult by the administration's general reluctance
to give students any binding position in ad-
Traditionally, the University administration,
arguing that students are transient and do not have
the expertise to make important decisions concer-
ning the University, have given students purely an
advisory role, if any role at all, in University
decision-making. Students, arguing that students,
deserve a serious role in the decisions that will shape
their educations, have fought for a binding role -
with a vote - inmany administrative committees.
That longstanding ;debate over the proper student,
role in decision-making has come to a head recently
now that the University has embarked upon a
"redirection," marked by the discontinuance or
dramatic cuts in many programs and academic
departments..Students, led by the MSA, have argued
that now more than ever when the University is
making decisions regarding the scope and direction
of the University, students must have a binding role
in the decision-making. Some administrators, on the
other hand, have argued that these decisions are
crucial and that, now more than ever, decision-
making should not by muddled by student voices.
MSA PRESIDENT FEIGER campaigned last
spring on a promise to increase the student role in the
Even without a binding vote in administrative
decision-making, however, MSA has been effective in
the past in representing students' interests at the
administration building. Last fall, MSA was suc-
cessful in persuading the administration to reverse
its decisions to cutback the operating hours of the
University buses shuttling between North campus
and central campus and the hours of the Un-
The MSA Security Task Force negotiated with both
University and city officials in its effort to make the
campus area more safe for students at night. As a
result, Michigan Bell installed several telephones on
campus that can be used for emergency help and it
has worked persistently with the Ann Arbor Tran-
sportation Authority to establish a late-night shuttle
In its efforts to act as the official student voice,
MSA has had to struggle to overcome the damage
and loss of credence done by an election scandal is
the spring of 1979. During that election, a number of
standard procedures were ignored. As a result,
polling places were closed down early, the ballots
were misleading, and the election results were even-
The incident did great damage to MSA's ability to
represent students before the administration. The
administration soon stepped in to monitor new elec-
tions and, worried that MSA might be equally
irresponsible with its thousands of dollars of student
funds, the administration moved to supervise MSA's
Despite the fact that the '79 election controversy
came after a year of many achievements for MSA, it
took a long while for the Assembly to rebuild its
credibility with the administraton. And, though by
now that incident is largely forgotten by students,
MSA still must contend with its deep scars with some
faculty members and administrators.
MSA has also traditionally been discredited by its
political infighting. MSA members usually belong to
one of two major campus political parties - either
the Student Alliance for Better Representation,
generallly considered more conservative, or the
People's Action Coalition, acknowledged as more
liberal. The squabbling and feuding between SABRE
and PAC members has frequently come under fire as
Feiger, like others before him, has pledged an ef-
fort to discourage the so-called "petty politics" and,
largely as the result of the rise in independent can-
didates and smalled, alternative parties in recent
years, such politics appear to be on the decline.
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