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September 07, 1989 - Image 65

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-09-07

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The Michigan Daily/New Student Edition - Thursday, September 7, 1989- Page 5

T k


A new conservative president takes the
helm of the embattled student government

by Alex Gordon
".New Student Edition Editor
Who needs Washington, D.C.?
A list of the past year's top polit-
Sical stories would probably include:
the election of another conservative
president, ethics investigations, the
federal debt, Constitutional debates,
Vand the Supreme Court's legalization
of dial-a-porn.
It's often said the University is a
microcosm of the world, and
nowhere does this appear more evi-
dent than within the realm of poli-
Our student government, the
Michigan Student Assembly, had
their share of trials, tribulations, and
triumphs this past year, many mir-
roring events in the nation's capital.
MSA is comprised completely of
students proportionably representing
'the University's various schools and
colleges. During the fall and winter
semesters the assembly meets every
"Tuesday night.
The regular meetings are open to
the public and often the scene of
emotional outbursts, political court-
ing, name-calling, mud slinging, and
lots of good old fashioned arguing
and propaganda
Topping the list of big stories
*' was the election of the new assem-
bly's president Aaron Williams in
April. Williams, running on the
Conservative Coalition ticket, beat
':out three other candidates.
Many people were shocked that a
candidate who outright labeled him-
*self as a conservative could capture
the top spot at MSA. Upon learning
Williams would be his successor,
outgoing president Mike Phillips
~offered this cryptic analysis: "Hell
"has frozen over, trees are dancing,
cows are jumping over the moon,
Aaron Williams has won. The peo-
ple have spoken."
Later, an anonymous supporter
,send Williams a wooden plaque with
Phillips' now infamous quote forged
:in bronze for posterity.
Though, he hasn't had to deal
*Vwith anything quite as monumental
-as dancing trees or jumping cows
Williams now faces a $60,000 bud-
get deficit.
The deficit has been traced to
what Williams called a "simple math
error" that happened over two years
ago. Apparently the funds that were
*to be allocated to Student Legal
"Services and the Ann Arbor Tenant's
rJnion - two groups supported by
*KMSA- were miscalculated and
never adjusted.
Thus, beginning this August, the
assembly will pare down it's ser-
vices slightly for the next three years
in order to erase the deficit.
All students pay a mandatory fee
to fund MSA. The fee, which must
first be approved by the University's
,Board of Regents, appears on each
student's tuition bill. Traditionally,
'ideological clashes and arguments
have kept a chill on relations be-
tween the regents and MSA. Phillips
said this is because the regents are
interested in the University first,
while MSA is primarily concerned
with the students.
The assembly plans to ask the
University for a 7.8 percent increase
p M

Adm in. seems pleased
with Williams, so far


in funds this year, allowing them to
charge each student $6.77 a se-
mester. However, MSA will cut its
own budget by 20 percent in order to
compensate for the deficit.
The regents will consider the re-
quest during their monthly meeting
in July. Even if the regents cut
MSA's budget, the fact that they are
allocating any money at all to MSA
appears to be a good sign.
Last winter the regents threatened
to cut the assembly's funding com-
pletely because they felt MSA failed
to comply with a regents' resolution
passed last summer requiring the
assembly to "begin immediate con-
sultation with the Student Organ-
ization and Development Center to
develop specific ways and means of
improving and increasing its cred-
ibility, responsibility and ef-
Phillips felt he had complied
with the resolution by holding ini-
tial meetings with SODC. The re-
gents, however, felt he had discon-
tinued the meetings which were sup-
posed to be held on a regular basis.
Many assembly members were
not even aware of the resolution.
The regents also criticized the
assembly for doing little for the stu-
dent body, and being out-of-touch
with the students.
The assembly responded by elect-
ing a committee to meet with
SODC and to prepare a report on
MSA's activities for the regents.
The regents toned down their threats,
deciding to give a fresh chance to the
new assembly elected in late March.
The relationship between MSA
and the regents was a big campaign
issue. All the candidates agreed that
Phillips had damaged any rapport be-
tween the two governing bodies, and
that the relationship must be rebuilt
if MSA is to survive.
Williams said that the regents are
now "very optimistic about the new
administration at MSA." In any
case, he added, he thinks the regents
"will not ever not fund MSA. But,
how much they give is always up in
the air."
At the June regents' meeting,
Vice President for Student Services
Henry Johnson reported that "MSA
is making strides to improve and
seems sincerely committed to act re-
sponsibly on behalf of their student

A lion's share of the time at the
Tuesday night meetings last
semester was dedicated to funding re-
quests by various student groups..
These requests became more frequent
when Phillips announced that the
assembly had a surplus of funds.
Groups suddenly flocked to MSA
to get money for activities ranging
from honorariums for speakers to
new magazine racks. Among the
most controversial allocations were
those given to send students to El
Salvador and the occupied territories
in Israel.
Many feel that trips such as these
are an unnecessary waste of student's
money and that the assembly should
concentrate on campus, not world is-
sues. Williams said at the time that
the students "pay us money to work
on issues directly (related to them)."
Proponents of such trips, includ-
ing Phillips, stress that those who
go on these trips can come back and
educate students with lectures and
workshops about their experiences.
Williams' has already shown his
different opinion. In June, MSA
passed an amendment cutting $500
from the Peace and Justice commit-
tees budget. Williams cast the decid-
ing vote. Peace And Justice spon-
sored the trip to El Salvador.
The $19,000 spent by MSA to
fund a Students of Color conference
was not only the largest, but the
most controversial use of assembly
funds last year.
Some assembly members balked
at the funding because Whites were
not allowed to participate in some
aspects of the conference. Four rep-
resentatives went as far as to intro-
duce a resolution that would have

taken away official MSA recognition
from the conference's sponsor, the
United Coalition Against Res-
Groups derecognized by MSA are
prohibited from meeting in Uni-
versity facilities, obtaining funds
from the assembly, and from using
amplification equipment for Diag
The resolution was easily defeated
after members of UCAR and other
campus minority groups jammed the
assembly quarters to speak against
Representative Bryan Mistele,
one of those who introduced the
UCAR resolution, said that his in-
tent was not to derecognize UCAR,
but to bring attention to the MSA
"The constitution states MSA
will not allow discrimination from
any group, however I believe that
'discrimination' must exist in order
for minority groups to remain mi-
nority groups," Mistele said.
Mistele tied this philosophy to
an earlier derecogniton case, in
which the Cornerstone Christian
Fellowship lost their MSA recogni-
tion. The action came in response to
a CCF rule, stemming from their re-
ligious beliefs, disallowing gay
males and lesbians from leadership
positions in their organization.
The Central Student Judiciary, a
judicial branch of MSA, found this
to be in violation of the MSA
Constitution, and thus derecognized
Mistele, however, claims that
like UCAR, the CCF should be able
to segregate in a selected way to pre-
serve the group's dynamics. He and

several other members of Christian
groups went before the regents last
March asking them to intervene with
the CSJ decision.
At the time Williams said "I
don't believe in derecognition in
general for any groups." He also ac-
knowledged he would try to let CCF
have their case retried, and that he
believes freedom of religion should
be included in the MSA constitu-
The entire argument seems to fall
into the gray area of the Con-
stitution were rights bump heads,
Phillips said of the case.
MSA also had its own ethics in-
vestigation ala Jim Wright and
Thomas Foley, as a committee was
set up to look into the activities of
rep. Zachary Kittrie. Kittrie was
cleared of seven of the eight charges.
But the real controversy came
with the manner in which the
charges against Kittrie first surfaced.
Bruce Belcher, Advice magazine
computer consultant, independently
prepared a report for then president
Phillips on Kittrie's activities.
News of the report was leaked to
the press and then copies were passed
out to MSA members. A number of
people felt that Phillips stepped out
of his presidential bounds by gather-
ing a report without assembly con-

sent. Phillips was also accused of
playing "petty politics."
In addition to listing alleged vio-
lations, the report accused Kittrie of
"racially motivated attacks." The
MSA sanctioned committee found
those charges to be unfounded
Have an opinion about the stu-
dent government already? Constit-
uents are invited to speak to the
assembly at every Tuesday meeting
at 9:00 during the aptly titled "con-
stituent's time."
In theory, most of the assembly's
work really gets done by the com-
mittees. There are 12 committees (or
"commissions", as some prefer to be
"Hell has frozen over,
trees are dancing, cows
are jumping over the
moon, Aaron Williams
has won."
-Mike Phillips
called). Committee heads are elected
or appointed by the assembly.
The committees are: Academic
Affairs, Budget Priorities, Campus
Governance, Communications, Ex-
ternal Relations, Health Issues, and
International Students.
Also: Minority Affairs, Peace and
Justice, Rules and Elections, Student
Rights, Women's Issues.
Students not on the assembly
may volunteer to work on these
If you are interested in joining
MSA, elections are held every No-
vember and March. Half the rep-
resentative spots are up at each elec-
tion, to insure that the assembly is
never completely inexperienced.
Presidents and Vice-Presidents are
always elected in March. Tra-
ditionally voter turn out is low,
because of general student apathy
towards MSA. Controversial ballot
questions, such as the recurring
dilemma of whether or not to auto-
matically fund the Public Interest
Group In Michigan, have in the past
induced more people to vote.
You can see that Washington
style politics, debate, and scandal,
are as close to us at Michigan as the



Daily File Photo
Zachary Kittrie tries to be subtle while campaigning during last March's
MSA presidential election. Kittrie finished second in the field of four.


write for
The Michigan Daily
You don't need the aggravation
of interviewing important Univer-
sity and governmentofficials. You
just might find yourself uncover-
ing a major controversy, which
could leave you writing a number
of widely-read articles and could
.really mess up your social calen-
dar. You might find yourself called
in at 9 p.m. to write a late-breaking
story the entire campus will be
talking about the next day. And
what if there's something good on
TV that night?
No, working for an entirely stu-
dent-run and student-managed
newspaper that's enjoyed editorial
freedom since 1890 can only lead
to trouble. It might start with one
innocent article. But then you'll


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