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November 16, 2004 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-11-16

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - 5

THE PRIMER ON STUDENT

GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS

ELECTION SEASON IS FAR FROM OVER ON CAMPUS. TOMORROW MARKS THE BEGINNING OF MICHIGAN STUDENT ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS, SENDING
STUDENTS BACK TO THE POLLS. THOUGH A NEW PRESIDENT WON'T BE ELECTED UNTIL MARCH, NEARLY HALF OF THE ASSEMBLY'S SEATS ARE UP FOR
GRABS, WITH MORE THAN 50 CANDIDATES VYING FOR A SPOT ON MSA.

Fixable flaws of MSA elections

BY WHITNEY DIBO
Michigan Student Assembly elec-
tions are upon us again. Just as in
years past, the Diag is chalked to
perfection, eager candidates are
knocking on doors almost inces-
santly and posters bearing the faces
of smiling University students are
seen all over campus. Ju'st when you
thought the frenzy of elections had
come to an end, it is time for MSA
hopefuls to begin their campaign.
Unfortunately, I know a fair num-
ber of University students who are
completely unaware of what MSA is
and what they try to do for our cam-
pus. For this reason, I feel a brief
history lesson is in order. Accord-
ing to its website, "The Michigan
Student Assembly (MSA) is the cen-
tral student government at the Uni-
versity of Michigan, representing
students from every school and col-
lege." Currently headed by seniors
Jason Mironov and Jenny Nathan,
this year's MSA has brought the stu-
dent body such things as a Sept. 11
conference, a visit from filmmaker
Michael Moore and the new housing
reviews website. Past parties have
included the Blue Party, the Michi-
gan Party, the ever-popular Students
First party and the current frontrun-
ner - Students 4 Michigan.
While many students do run inde-
pendently, there seems to be a recent
pattern of a one-party monopoly in the

MSA elections. Last year, Students
First took 18 of the 24 open MSA
seats, including all nine seats avail-
able in LSA. The Defend Affirmative
Action Party and independent can-
didates only received two seats each.
Students 4 Michigan and DAAP are
the only parties running in this year's
election, and considering DAAP is a
single-issue party, it is likely that Stu-
dents 4 Michigan will take the major-
ity of the seats.
In a school with more than 35,000
students, I find it hard to believe
that one party can encompass every
person's interests and agendas.
Where are the other parties on this
campus? Why is Students 4 Michi-
gan running essentially uncon-
tested? There is no reason for this
monopoly - other than the fact that
no other party has risen to challenge
Students 4 Michigan.
Even Students 4 Michigan was
formed relatively late in the election
game, just three days before the Oct.
29 deadline. Had this handful of stu-
dents not been motivated to estab-
lish themselves as a party at the last
minute, candidates would have been
forced to run independently. The
party system of MSA elections was
at risk of fading away if Students 4
Michigan had not come forward.
I know there is not a shortage of
political enthusiasm on this campus.
We all saw it this fall during the

presidential election; the activism
was so widespread it was inspiring
just to walk through the Diag. Hun-
dreds of students were out register-
ing voters, throngs of people went to
meetings and rallies and every third
person was sporting a button nam-
ing their candidate of choice. This
campus is not politically apathetic.
The irony is that students seem
willing to come out in full force for
the national cause, but not for their
own university. Or perhaps MSA
has not succeeded in its efforts to
bring students to the polls - con-
veniently located online. Last year,
a mere 5,139 students voted in the
MSA elections out of the roughly
37,000 students that attend the Uni-
versity.
While the student body must take
partial responsibility for this pitiful
turnout, MSA needs a stable party
system to motivate voters. There
needs to be at least two parties with
clear objectives and visions. Where
are the conflicting opinions, deci-
sive issues and hot topics that typi-
cally fuel high voter turnout during
elections?
The frequency by which parties
disband is also a factor that hinders
MSA elections. A party cannot form
a reputation if it disbands every few
semesters. Students First lasted three
years in MSA, but disbanded just as
it was becoming a well-known name

around campus. Students were just
becoming familiar with the party's
bright orange shirts and reputable
place in student government when
the party decided to throw in the
towel.
Due to the indiscriminate disband-
ing of Students First, student vot-
ers are now faced with a brand new
party - and no alternative. Imagine
if Democrats and Republicans con-
stantly changed their name, logos
and party platforms just to shake
things up every few years. There
would be no consistency, no reputa-
tion or building of trust, no issues
specific to any one party. I have high
hopes for Students 4 Michigan - I
just hope it doesn't choose to disband
after one or two semesters in MSA.
MSA needs to work with the stu-
dent body to improve this election
process, or this pattern of a one-
party elections and a low student
voter turnout will continue. There
should not be a shortage of students
willing to run for MSA positions on
this campus, or a lack of concrete,
dependable parties. As I found out
this fall, Michigan students are both
willing activists and intelligent vot-
ers. In the spirit of our campus, this
activism should persist during the
upcoming MSA elections.
Dibo is a Music School sophomore and
a member of the Daily's editorial board.

MSA: It's a vicious cycle

By STUART WAGNER
Last Friday, Jasmine Clair wrote a
column, humorous and partially true,
which articulated the disjunction
between student government and the
student body.
First, I would like to start by thank-
ing Clair for voicing her feelings and
those of others. Next, as a represen-
tative and candidate, I would like to
address Clair's concern and find a
way to fix the problem.
Jasmine criticized a candidate for
putting his cell phone number on
his flyers. Well, that was me, and I
provided my most personal contact
information because I wanted voters
to be able to contact me with their
concerns and interests (If
you have a question, contact
me at (248)-346-6130). If a
senator put his personal cell
phone number on his cam-
paign materials, wouldn't you
appreciate the opportunity to
speak directly with him?
Clair also complained
about campaigning tech-
niques like sending out infor-
mational e-mails, knocking
on doors, and approach- h
ing students as they passed
through the Diag. Yet, what
Clair and the rest of the student body
fail to realize is that these futile
attempts are the only ways student
government representatives and can-
didates can inform the students of
what student government has done
and what it is working on. Students
have varying complaints about why
they don't like student government
and its elections, yet most students
ignore honest attempts to remedy
their grievances.
Claims like student government
doesn't do anything, the representa-
tives only want to pad their resumes
and student government turns a blind
eye to student groups pervade our
campus. These claims, for the most
part, are stereotypes. Although some-
times these perceptions are true, it is
prejudicing to generalize all of stu-
dent government without having fac-
tual support.
Student government candidates
fruitlessly try to educate the students
on what student government has done
and can do to get students interested.
I have spent hours with many of the

candidates campaigning and work-
ing with them on projects. Although I
can not honestly speak for all of them,
most are truly interested in helping
the University and students.
The candidates work hard. For
two weeks, they skip classes, neglect
their studying and sacrifice their
health, grades and social lives for
their campaigns. They go to resi-
dence halls and stand outside on the
Diag in the cold for hours to talk to
constituents. Many times, students
fail to realize that while they get 10
seconds of attempted conversation
on the Diag, the candidates spend
most of the day in the cold. More-
over, the harder candidates try to
reach out to students, the faster con-

ages them from future outreach. In
my experience on government, com-
munications for government activities
and elections are met with the same
frustrating response. In the words of
Fat Bastard, "It's a vicious cycle."
There are important issues that
affect every student on this cam-
pus. It's laughable to compare the
recent presidential election to this
week's student government elec-
tions, but it is all relative. Although
the issues aren't nearly as impor-
tant, they still affect our lives. The
collective voice of student govern-
ment carries more weight than any
individual or student group. At the
same time, that voice lacks legiti-
macy and power without the sup-
port of the student body.
That voice is weaker
when it tries to appeal to
hh4 the University Board of
} Regents to fight funding
cuts to student servic-
es, fight changes to the
Greek system, or fight for
any other issue without
>rt student support.
* What came first, the
chicken or the egg, the
'£> pissed off student or the
irritating candidate? How
can student government
candidates get out their message
and receive input from constituents
without communicating with their
constituency? I honestly don't have
an answer, but I know it will take
effort on both parts. Students need
to be more receptive to campaigning
so they can elect representatives who
will support their concerns and not
be merely resume builders. Repre-
sentatives also must maintain abet-
ter connection with the student body
so pieces like this are not responses
but initial actions. It's all on the table
now, and it is up to you to decide who
you want to represent you. Check
out the websites, talk to candidates,
find out who represents you and
vote. Whether you vote or not, stu-
dent government will still be around.
However, if you vote, you are making
sure government is working for you.
Wagner is an LSA sophomore, former
Student Counsel to LSA Student Gov-
ernment and a candidate with Students
4 Michigan as an LSA representative
in MSA.

stituents run away. We know you
have better things to do than talk to
us, but please respect our effort and
sacrifices to make the school a better
place for everyone.
So students don't want us to knock
on their doors or stand outside in the
cold for hours to let them know what
we are about. We respect that and try
to let them learn about the issues on
their own schedules through e-mails
and flyers. Candidates spend hun-
dreds of dollars of their own money
on flyers that take 20 seconds to
read. We send out e-mails to student
groups to let them know of our goals
and remind them to vote. Addition-
ally, candidates' platforms can be
seen on the ballot at www.umich.
edu/-vote. These efforts are met with
similar criticisms.
Unfortunately, students' critical
responses to the "irritating" cam-
paigning tactics perpetuate represen-
tatives' lack of connection with the
student body. When candidates see the
lack of interest and sometimes insult-
ing reactions to campaigns, it discour-

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