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September 18, 1982 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1982-09-18

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OPINION

Page 4 .
Why MSA

Saturday, September 18, 1982

The Michigan Daily*

dues should be

mandatory

By Richard Layman
The mandatory fee supporting the
Michigan Student Assembly is insup-
portable, Charles Thomson writes in
'MSA tax: Pay up or drop out" (Daily,
Sept. 9). Thomson's article, however,
shows little comprehension either of
MSA's structure or the value of such
fees. Yet, it does raise questions about
the fee to which students deserve an an-
swer.
There are two major points to Thom-
son's thesis:
1. Mandatory fees violate individual
rights.
Making the fee mandatory is
"organized, legalized thievery," ac-
cording to Thomson. "Students should
loot be forced to contribute money to
private groups they do not support."
This mandatory fee actually results
from a two-part democratic process.
An ad-hoc student committee first
negotiates the fee. Then, imposition of
the fee is voted on by the entire student
body. (The last vote was in March, 1980.
The fee was approved for a three-year
period). Hence, the MSA fee is deter-
mined by students and voted upon by
students in an effort to provide services
for the benefits of students. Although
the fee is mandatory once it is ap-
proved, it is not the result of an un-
democratic process.
.--Eharges that the fee supports groups
with which individual students have
ideological differences are irrelevant.
,With more than 34,000 students on cam-
pus, generating broad consensus on
lW1A's allocations to various groups is
litpossible. But spreading a wide
variety -f opinions and promoting free

thought on campus is important. The
University foremost is a community of
ideas and ideals; students should and
do support this through the MSA fee.
The omnibus MSA fee provides funds to
Student Legal Services, the Ann Arbor
Tenants Union, and Course Evaluations
as well as to general MSA operations.
Student fees are an all or nothing
proposition. The principle behind such
fees is one of collective responsibility.
Services supported by such fees benefit
the student community as a whole, but
maintaining these services is possible
only if students collectively support
them. Collecting individual fees is un-
manageable on a large campus;
positive check-off-the PIRGIM
method-encourages the avoidance of
such fees.
Debate on whether the fee should be
mandatory is an example of the "free
rider" question-"If everyone else
pays, why should I?" But when few
people pay, an organization suffers
because it is forced to spend more time
collecting money than doing work.
Objection to the fee on the grounds
-that it is unfair taxation is inevitable,
but the only real solution is political. I
hate to use this cliche, but get involved.
MSA meetings are open to all students.
Students can speak during constituent
time, help set budget priorities, take
part in activities supported by MSA
fees, complain about MSA to the Regen-
ts, etc.
2. MSA is not a representative body
and thus does not deserve mandatory
financial support from the student
body.
On the contrary, MSA is quite
representative. First, all schools and

tured to fail. First, MSA is a student
government at a university where ad-
ministrators and faculty frame and
maintain the "Thomsonian legal code"
essential to government. The ability of
MSA to take part in the decision-
making process of the University is set
by the University. MSA is "really a lob-
bying organization," as Thomson puts
it, because that's theonly significant
avenue of participation. MSA is not in-
cluded in the official University
decision-making structure.
Second, because of the decentralized
nature of the University, MSA can take
part in academic issues only when they
become campus-wide.
FOR EXAMPLE, MSA can take part
in the redirection issue, but trying to
eliminate LSA 's foreign language
requirement is an individual college
matter. Hence, most University
decisions which MSA attempts to ad-
dress fail to rouse student interest. How
exciting is recognizing student
organizations or working for student
representation on budget review com-
mittees? Even though such issues have
a major impact on the quality of
student life, they do not excite interest.
The end result is that it is easy to con-
demn MSA for not doing anything.
Third, it generally is hard for studen-
ts in any type of student government to
master the information necessary to
become an effective representative.
Students have limited access to Univer-
sity information networks and lack
knowledge about the history of the
University. This problem is com-
plicated by the high rate of turnover in
student participation. Because of these
difficulties, MSA's ability to influence

the University is short-circuited.
THE MANDATORY fee is the least of
MSA's problems. The unethical nature-
of MSA's predecessor-the Student
Governmental Council-spelled MSA's
doom. SGC, with its scandal-ridden
history of fraudulent elections, charges
of embezzlement, and convoluted
system of electing representatives, for-
ced the. Regents to call for the
reorganization of central student
government. What happened was that
MSA was structured to prevent
unethical behavior at the same time its
access to University decision-making
was constrained.
Unless the student government's
structure includes mechanisms to
correct the many problems examined
above, it is likely that student gover-
nment will remain both controversial
and ineffective. But the "ineffec-
tiveness" of MSA is not only the fault of
MSA, it is the fault of the University's
decision-making structure.
In many ways, MSA and the Univer-
sity have a working relationship
similar to that of an aristocracy and an
autocratic ruler. The ruler lets the
nobles represent themselves, but he
can change his mind whenever he wan-
ts. And with "divine right," he doesn't
have to give any explanations.
But individual lords had armies;
MSA doesnot. Because oversight of
MSA is vested in the Regents, it is likely
that the system will not change.
Layman, a senior majoring in
political science, is a member of the
LSA Curriculum Committee and a
project co-coordinator of MSA 's
Course Evaluation Committee.

MSA: Paying the price for student government

colleges elect representatives to the
assembly. Second, the number of
representatives per school is propor-
tional to total enrollment. What could
be more representative?
In terms of the actual number of
voters in a student election, however,
Thomson may have a point. (Yet, I
suggest he count the number of faculty
who attend an LSA governing faculty
committee. If he finds more than 10
percent, I'd be surprised).
The real question is-not whether MSA
is representative, the question is why
students don't vote. Political disaffec-

tion on campus and nationally is a com-
plicated question to which I have no an-
swer, but, in relation to MSA, much in-
sight.
THOMSON'S statements that "MSA
isn't really a government and shouldn't
be able to tax like one" and "man-
datory funding actually weakens the
power of MSA" appear to rely on the
following definition of government-a
corporate body with a legal code which
must be obeyed by all citizens in face of
punishment.
Under this definition, there are a
number of reasons why MSA is struc-

V

Eit ade bt g a nivesio Mhig
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Sinclair

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Vol. XCIII, No. 9

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

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Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Dail y's Editorial Board

A floor for the poor

N WASHINGTON, almost any
interest group, be it cigarettes,
s, or butter, can muster up big
es to speak out in its behalf. The
r, however, fail as lobbyists; they
e to hope for any advocate they can
ut yesterday some very big names
ke up for the poor in the Capitol.
ight former secretaries of Health,
education, and Welfare-spanning the
ideological and temporal gap from
Eisenhower to Carter-came out in
Favor of a national minimum benefit
Xor welfare families.
A consensus of such experience
?nerits attention in itself. These are the
people who for the past thirty years
have struggled to manage the myriad
'American social programs.
0 But the eight offer more than im-
'ressive credentials. They offer an
equitable plan. Under current policy,
states can set their own level of
benefits. The wide variance that exists
in state welfare programs-which of-
ten adds up to hundreds of
dollars-demonstrates that states can
nd do shirk their responsibility to the
goor.
-The president, of course, has his own
plan for ironing out inequities. If the
[C

poor don't like what a state is handing
out in the way of aid, Reagan suggests,
they can "vote with their feet" by
moving to a different state. With such
an absurd line of logic, the president
soon may be advising the poor to lick
poverty through smart shopping.
Reagan's determination to give
social aid programs back to the states
and to restrict program eligibility
smacks of callousness, of an im-
plication that social welfare just isn't
the federal government's respon-
sibility anymore. A national minimum
benefit would help correct this im-
pression, by offering proof that the
nation's commitment to the poor can-
not fluctuate with each new ad-
ministration.
Arthur Flemming, HEW secretary
to both Eisenhower and Kennedy,
spoke for his colleagues when he said
that the poor need a nationally-set
"floor below which no one should fall."
Reagan has made promises- to the
poor. Early in his term he offered them
a safety net. As it turned out, that net
was full of holes.,
But when it comes to finding a safe
ledge against the plunge into poverty,
a floor will do better than a
net-anytime.

LETTERS TO THE DAILY:

A Riegle visit from a selfish senator

To the Daily:
Sen. Don Riegle dropped by the
University the other day (good
thing, too-we hadn't seen much
of him in the last five years until
he started campaigning for re-
election). Along with telling us
just how much he dislikes nuclear
weapons (that's his campaign
theme for campuses) he said that
"to find the money to go to

college in this economy. . . it's
not feasible" for a lot of us
students.
Right you are, Senator! When
we have a Congress in
Washington filled with the likes of
Don Riegle practicing the politics
of promise, it's no wonder that we
have had a period of high in-
flation, high interest rates, and
low growth. When the federal

government runs such a huge
deficit (and Riegle voted for one
twice as big as the already
mammoth one), no one has the
money to build a business, go to
college, or anything else.
Well, Senator, I don't need any

more student aid. I need a job in
an economy that works - not the
one you've given us. Raise that
nuclear freeze issue, Don -
you've already lost it here at
home.
-Martin Tatuch,
,Sept. 13

Housing inaccuracy

Support the Filipino people

To the Daily:
Your article on local housing
options ("Ann Arbor housing of-
fers diverse choices," Sept. 9)
contained several inaccuracies
and omissions concerning
cooperative housing that I, as
treasurer of the Inter-

laundry facilities. Also, our co-
ops are fully furnished, fully
equipped and offer leases for as
short as eight months.
We feel that co-ops meet the
full range of student housing
needs. And they should-they are
owned and operated by students.

To the Daily:
President Marcos visits the
United States this week in an ef-

pines which facilitates the depor-
tation of Philippine citizens
without the benefit of due

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