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March 07, 1986 - Image 18

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-03-07
Note:
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COVER TORY

U V U

U

U.

S1

: Working to establish credibility and communicate efi

Fectively with st

By Mary Chris Jaklevic
THE MICHIGAN Student Assem-
bly was first recognized by the Board
of Regents as the University's official
student governing body 10 years ago
this September.
The change to the "Michigan
Student Assembly plan" was meant to
increase the effectiveness of sub-
sequent student government and
divorce it from the existing Student
Government Council, which had been
plagued by low voter turnout and the
discovery that two SGC officers had
embezzled funds.
Today there are no embezzlement
charges hanging over the heads of
MSA representatives, but according
to many students and adminstrators,
MSA still lacks respect.
Assembly members say they must
deal on one hand with student apathy
and accusations of being ineffective
and on the other hand with
powerlessness in the face of the ad-
ministration.
When the assembly passed a
resolution last fall opposing Vice
President George Bush's speech on
campus for the Peace Corps anniver-
sary celebration, the action set off a
barrage of criticism from students
both inside and outside of MSA.
Some students threatened a cam-
paign to defund the assembly, and
MSA members who opposed the
resolution considered resigning over
its political nature. For many other
students, it was one of the rare times
they noticed MSA, and considered
where the $5.07 fee they pay for MSA

operations each semester is going.
Though no one resigned and defun-
ding efforts died down, the incident
left a bitter aftertaste that MSA
members must combat. Politically
enticing issues like the Bush
resolution overshadow other MSA ac-
tivities and often leave students
thinking that MSA is isolated from the
rest of the student body-not concer-
ned with campus issues.
MSA members dispute this negative
image and say that few students
acknowledge their efforts to stand up
for student interests. They point to
their less visible work on securing
more student financial aid and legal
service and student representation
on University committees. They also
mention a recent campaign to im-
prove communication with the
student body.
One group that has clashed con-
tinually with MSA's politically-
oriented stances is the Engineering
Council. The council asked MSA to
work on more student-related issues
after the Bush resolution, and last
month the council condemned MSA's
decision to place on the MSA election
ballot a referendum asking whether
certain companies should be
disallowed from recruiting on campus
if they support "international
terrorism."
Engineering Council President
Mark Chapo, an engineering senior,
said MSA did not allow sufficient
discussion among students before put-
ting the referendum on the ballot, and
violated the freedon of choice of
Engineering students to choose the
companies with whom they interview.
Chapo said he thinks MSA officers

are making an effort to bridge the gap;
between the council and MSA, but that
"when you look beneath the surface
you wonder whether it is really a
student assembly."r
LSA senior Allan Lutes, President
of the Inter-Fraternity Council said
MSA has alienated itself from studen-
ts by taking political stands. Lutes3
said MSA needs to keep in better;
touch with the rest of the students.
"You can't expect everyone to come
to you with all of their problems. You
have to meet people half-way," Lutes;
said..
Lutes suggested that MSA send its
representatives to dorm council
meetings and prioritize agenda items;
so that meetings are not sidetracked;
into long discussions about political
issues rather than immediate student
concerns. Lutes also hopes that MSA;
will allow IFC to send a non-voting
representative to assembly meetings.
The Panhellenic Association has;
also been making an effort to get
representation in the assembly.
LSA senior Steve Glass, an officer
of the Inter-Fraternity Council, said
the low voter turnout for MSA elec-
tions shows that most students are not
aware of what MSA is doing. Last
year, only one fifth of the student body
voted, the largest turnout in recent
history, according to MSA officials.
"To be honest, I don't know as much
about MSA as I should," Glass said.
"It's very hard to see how some of
what they do, like taking a political
view, affects students," Glass added.
MSA, by contrast, sees.itself largely
as a group which lobbies the ad-
ministration and state and national
governments on behalf of student in-
terests.
"I don't think students realize that
their $5.07 is well spent, if for not other
reason than because we're getting
more financial aid for students when
we're lobbying," said MSA President
Paul Josephson, an LSA junior.
MSA also strives to include more
student voices in University decision-
making by lobbying the ad-
ministration for student seats on
University committees.
Assembly members say that the
term "student government" is a
misnomer because MSA does not
make or enforce University policies.
Most of MSA's budget goes to funding
student services under its own direc-
tion, such as Student Legal Services
and the Tenants Union, and funding
the projects of other student
organizations.
MSA also publishes ADVICE. a
course evaluation guide.
Law school representative Eric
Schnaufer describes MSA's problems
as a Catch-22 situation. "Students on
the one hand expect very little from
MSA, and they also expect a lot. They
expect us to do great things for them,
but they don't want to give us the
Y money to do it," Schnaufer said.
MSA Vice President Phil Cole said
he does not take stock in "people on
the sidelines who are throwing in
plays to the quarterback.'
'When they read something in the
Daily that they disagree with, they
don't always see the work involved.
They don't dig a little harder," Cole

said.
MSA members said many students
who complain about the assembly
refuse to spend the time needed to un-
derstand the issures or to help MSA
work-on them.
Cole said most students are
generally only interested in how
something will affect their grades.
"This campus is considered active,
along with Berkeley, but percentage-
wise students really aren't that in-
volved," Cole said.
"MSA needs students who worry not
about what's going to happen to them
after they graduate, but what's hap-
pening to them while they're in
school. Because if you aren't concer-
ned about what's happening to you in
school, you're not going to realize it
until it hits you in the face,"
Schnaufer added.
Josephson said opposition to MSA
consists of a vocal minority of studen-
ts, and the silent majority of students
supports MSA actions. In the past het
has cited as an example of this sup-
port a student referendum which
passed overwhelmingly in support of
MSA's plans to restructure.'
He added that students are better
informed about MSA since Daily cir-
culation increased last September due
to a free drop circulation policy, but
that the added publicity has brought
mixed blessings.
Josephson said he is better.
recognized by students than last
year's president Scott Page was, and
that he expects a higher turnout in
this year's MSA election due to an in-
crease in student awareness of MSA
But Josephson also complained that
the Daily helps to promote a bad
image by publicizing too often
negative and controversial aspects of
the assembly and not often enough the
effective things the assembly does,
such as traveling to Lansing to lobby
the state legislature.
This year MSA hasttried to improve
communication with students by
manning aninformation table in the
Fishbowl and a phone line called 76-
GRIPE for several hours each week.
Both efforts have drawn only
modest student response, but
Josephson is hopeful. "MSA is not
operating in a vacuum anymore.
There is no way the Bush resolution
would have passed in October if they
had the kind of contact they're getting
with constituents now," Josephson
said.
But others on the assembly are not
optimistic.
MSA member Richard Layman
said that there is still a lack of
awareness of MSA among students,
and the assembly shot down the phone
line after a few weeks because few
students called in.

I

"This campus is considered active...hut
percentage-wise students are not that n -
- AISA Vice-President Phil Cole
"We need to do more than just stick
ourselves in the Fishbowl. We need to
where the people are, and that might
mean going to a frat or sorority or co-
op... On the other hand, that's not easy
when the people here are also studen-
ts, and they have tests and papers,
and a lack of knowledge just like
everyone else," Layman said.
Layman said he personally does not
go out of his way to relate MSA ac-
tivities to students "because they
would not know what the hell I was
talking about, or be interested in it
like I am. The University is a very
complex, interwoven, screwed-up
weird thing. Dealing with ad-
ministrators, trying to promote
change, little victories here, major
defeats there. I think it's really in-
teresting, but a lot of people wouldn't
get the kind of excitement out of it
thatIdo."
THE ASSEMBLY has been plagued
by its workload. This year MSA
has made numerous changes in its in-
ternal structure in an effort to make
itself more effective and to insure that
all the work is not left to only a few
dedicated students. One provision of
the new structure requires all
representatives to hold seats on
committees and to maintain close
contact with constituents.
Although constituent contact is dif-
ficult to monitor, the provision does
encourage more work to be done in
committee, rather than at general
meetings, and will make assembly
members more knowledgable about
issues that come up in general
meetings.
"It probably takes 60 hours a week
to be knowledgeable about all of the
issues otherwise," said Rackham
representative Bruce Belcher.
The MSA elections have also been
changed dramatically.
Starting with the fall of 1987, the
assembly will hold two elections a
year so that terms of office will
overlap, a move which assembly
members hope will provide greater
continuity.

Josephson's assembly has also in-
creased the number of represen-
tatives from 37 to 50 to provide more
manpower and broader viewpoints
within the assembly.
In addition, MSA elections this term
have been moved up to late March to
help representatives adjust to their
new role before final exams.
Josephson also believes that paying
MSA officiers a salary for their work
would allow more students to put in
longer hours on assembly matters.
N ADDITION to working on its
image among students, MSA is
struggling to win credibility with a
University administration that often
ignores its wishes.
Assembly representatives complain
that MSA gets little respect from ad-
ministrators, and that com-
munication easily breaks down on
issues over which MSA and the ad-
ministration disagree.
Although the regents recognized
MSA as "the legitimate student
government" in 1976, they failed to
specify how far MSA's powers would
extend, and MSA leaders have since
clashed with administrators over the
assembly's involvement in University
decision-making.
The MSA Constitution gives the
assembly sole prerogative over ap-
pointing students to serve on Univer-
sity-wide committees, and assembly
members cite this internal document
as evidence of MSA's representative
authority.
But the constitution was never of-
ficially approved by the University
and administrators can thus ar-
bitrarily ignore MSA's wishes as
events dictate.
Last fall, for example, ad-
ministrators overruled MSA protests
when University President Harold
Shapiro allowed governments from
all schools and colleges to submit
student nominations for a committee
reviewing classified research
guidelines.
The regents' by-laws, which dictate
the structure of University decision-
making, only give MSA power to
nominate students to eight individual
committees, which include the
University Council and the Board of
control of Intercollegiate Athletics.
They say nothing of ad-hoc or
presidential committees like the
guideline review committee.
The by-laws maintain, however,
that "student participation in Univer-
sity decision-making is important to
the quality of student life at the
University, and shall be encouraged."
Despite this statement, MSA mem-
bers say they are frustrated by their
lack of power and influence within the
University.
"MSA has so little power that often
what comes out of individuals' ac-
tivities are personality conflicts, so
that all you can do is scream and yell
at each other, because you can't effec-
tuate any change in the University,"
Schnaufer said.
Layman said students are
frustrated with MSA because they
don't realize that MSA is only one cog
in the complex machinery of Univer-
sity decision-making.

"People on campus and in general
society are anive about how complex
organizations work... We exist at the
pleasure of people in 503 Thompson
(Fleming Administration Building)
and tomorrow we could be gone if they
say 'No more student government,"'
Layman said.
MSA representative Ed Kraus, an
LSA sophomore, said the ineffec-
tiveness MSA often feels in dealing
with the administration is compoun-
ded by student apathy.
"In the '70s the administrators were
afraid of student government. Now
the administration knows this is Yup-
pieville, USA, and they know there is
only a small core of students that is
going to oppose them," Kraus said.
Kraus added that apathy is a
problem even within the assembly.
"I came to a University where I
thought I was going to find a lot of
long-haired students who were in-
terested in issues. You want students
to care, (but) there are actual
representatives who don't seem to
care themselves," Kraus said.
Shapiro said he does not know any
administrator who does not respect
students, but he agreed that com-
munication between MSA and the
administration is a serious problem.
He added that both sides must work to
improve the situation, a plan that
might improve relations.
Shapiro said the communication
problem is not caused by

Frye said that the present leaders
do not act in an adversarial way,
though they may oppose the ad-
ministration's efforts to institute the
Code, a set of regulations which would
allow the administration to punish
students for non-academic crimes.
"several years ago there was more of
a militant opposition," Frye said.
Regent Thomas Roach (D-Saline)
said administrators do not rely com-
pletely on MSA as the representative
body of the students. "We don't have
the perception that just because the
student body president says
something, that's what all the studen-
ts think. We get input from a lot of
sources," Roach said.
Roach said he views the role of MSA
mainly as a supporter of student
organizations and a forum for student
discussion for the purpose of lobbying
for student concerns.
Josephson has tried to promote un-
derstanding by inviting ad-
ministrators to speak at MSA
meetings.
"I've tried to stress to the represen-
tatives more self-reliance in dealing
with administrators. In general, com-
pared to the last two assemblies,
we've had better relations,"
Josephson said.
Josephson said that some students
are too quick to label administrators
as "anti-student."
"There are a lot of administrators
out there who are extremely pro-
student, and who are very much along
the political lines of a lot of people in
MSA. But the organizational con-
straints of working for the University
don't allow them to always make a
pro-student decision," Josephson
said.
Josephson added, however, that the
will of the regents or the nature of the
University often dictates the positions
administrators take.
"Right now I can think of 10 or 15
administrators who are either direc-
tors of various student services or
assistant vice presidents or vice
presidents at the University who do
not like the Code. But there is no way
they would ever publicly say that they
are opposed to the code," Josephson
said.
Associate Vice President for
Student Services Thomas Easthope
applauded Josephson for his efforts to
"find some common ground" with the
administrators.
"Some of his opinions I don't agree
with, but I'd disagree with any
student leader on them, such as the
Code."
Easthope said he doesn't think that
any MSA members trust the ad-
ministration, but some of them feel
more comfortable dealing with ad-
ministrators than others.
Schnaufer, a vehement opponent of
the Code and other administration
policies, said he trusts administrators
on issues where it is clear that they
have the same interests as MSA.
"The administration represents its
own interests, which are to get higher
salaries, to increase the size of the
administration and generally make
sure that students don't gain any sub-
stantive power over the University,"
Schnaufer said.

MSA held a rare closed-door greeting on Feb. Ih
eventual/y resulted in the resignation of the assen

"... we should comunicate better, and
listen better, on both sides. "
- University President Harold Shapiro
disagreement over issues. "It's a
matter of each side trying to think of
how they can help each other more
creatively... We may or may not come
to agree with each other, but we
should communicate better and listen
better than we do-on both sides,"
Shapiro said.
Vice President for Academic Af-
fairs Billy Frye agreed that MSA and
the Administration need to establish
more regular communication.
"We need more ongoing discussions
and more delegates. Whether they
agree or disagree isn't the point," he
said.
Frye said that in recent years MSA
leaders have seemed more anxious to
communicate with the ad-
ministration, but that many MSA
members used to take a more adver-
sarial attitude.

Chairman.
Layman said he is wary of MSA
members being too friendly with ad-
ministrators.
"It's pretty easy to get romanced by
administrators-we call it co-opted.
In general the administration does not
like MSA because we're an organized
body that says they are doing things
that are wrong," Layman said.
"The fact is that we still have very
limited access to the decision-makers,
and it's not sytematic in any way, so
that puts us at an extreme disadvan-
tage," Layman said.
Some assembly members feel that
an increase in the student fee would
make the assembly more effective as
a lobbying group.
"If MSA has more resources, then
MSA can lobby more, and can, so to
say, raise more hell," Schnaufer said.
"Unfortunately the regents here
seem to have much more control over

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'MSA is not operating in a vacuum anymore. "

-RASA President Paul Josephson

6 Weekend-March 7, 1986

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