BY ALEX MICH, Staff Reporter
As the Michigan Journal prepares again for the upcoming meetings with potential Student Government candidates, I cannot help but recall my days when I was thoroughly involved in all of the drama and spectacle that was Student Government.
Now, those students who have been here for more than a year know to anticipate the large amounts of fliers, candidates, and supporters who will seem to be at every entrance of every building on campus. Also, one may hear of conflicts and bad blood that may arise (though it hasn’t happened so far). Certainly, a difference of opinions will occur generating some conflict.
The question becomes one of being civil. I have seen it be a bad as it could be. The allegations that tires were slashed are actually true. I have seen it. Sadly, no one blew up my car (to be honest, I really, really need a new car).
With all of this, students wonder what the point is. Student Government supposedly has not done anything and still does nothing for the students. I had one student call me a hypocrite for saying that I was writing about promoting for more student awareness about the upcoming referendum, when I myself in Student Government denied students their right to be heard. I can honestly say that yeah, people got denied their right to be heard. I petitioned to join the Senate in September many years ago, and was not allowed a chance to be heard before the Senate until December. So again, the old raucous days of Student Government were trying times. However, using that excuse to prevent me from being heard is not really a great argument, Mr. Vice President, and I do hope you could come up with something a bit better. Personally, both he and I both know that we try to do what is best for the students. I venture to say that every Student Government administration (despite our differences) has always done something beneficial to the Student Body and has always tried to direct its policies towards the betterment of the Student Body. As a Senator, I tried to bring forward changes to the Constitution that helped to launch a springboard into the latest amendments. As vice-president, this student has certainly provided one of the best years that Student Government has had in a very long time.
But overall, you, the reader, don’t really care for the constant bickering between old foes. Rather, I hope you find this battle somewhat tiring and disgusting. Hopefully, you will be so fed up with all my articles that “bash” Student Government and the entire rancor about these upcoming elections that at least one person will stand up and say, “I want to change this situation.” I hate to break it to you, but it is not that horrible.
This present Student Government is again, a very good one. Yet, if you are absolutely certain that you must change the organization, I have for you the following advice:
The process always begins just around the end of the fall semester. Prospective candidates will attempt to bring forward a prospective executive board and have a V.P. candidate ready to go. Also, this is the time where you start to try and find senators to run with as a party/slate/coalition/whatever term can be thought of next.
On a side note, don’t be caught up with the battle between slate/coalition and party. I find that overall, its meanings are just the same. A slate has been used by some to say that there is an element to individualism in a slate that one cannot have in a party. A party is one in which everyone must support these views are be ostracized. That is true, you do get hated if you do go against the party. However, I always say a slate/coalition is used by one large group that is unable to form a party themselves so they must “use” another group to get votes and get into office, then break-away and be the “individuals” that they are and pass whatever legislation they prefer. So unless you are an independent, you will have to inherently compromise something if you join a larger group. So the idea that a slate/coalition is a better word than a party is nothing more than marketing. As such, I highly encourage its use.
Coming up with ideas can take months and ideally will require some research of the general student body population. Or you could just come up with some ideas that you feel is important. A couple of things to keep in mind:
Tuition: Very difficult to fix. I was once part of a budget committee of faculty and students in which the committee mentioned quite a bit about its lack of teeth being only an advisory board. So yes, it might be too big to handle, but perhaps with enough support, changes can be made.
Parking: Difficult to fix. There have been many proposals to the parking situation. We have tried to point out faculty members who were in student spots. We proposed more parking. Even the previous administration (or the one before it…it is hard to remember) actually negotiated a short-term deal to get the parking next to the estate for a certain time of day (because we sold the estate back to the Ford foundation, it will technically become their parking lot when the estate is back online…and a parking lot full of student cars might get in the way of tourists who want to go to the estate).
We even had a proposal for a new parking structure (but that would interfere with the aesthetics of the campus…so parking will be difficult). Currently, there is no real feasible plan. Someone even suggested moving freshmen to their own spots behind the Fieldhouse. As one who visits often, I would like at least some spot over in that area. So again, very difficult but good luck to you.
The majority of changes that will come and be proposed will more than likely take time. I say this because those who promote strong policies will require a multi-year project. Now, unless you plan on being President for half a decade, it is going to be a rather difficult chore to accomplish in one year. I say try to find a mix of multi-year projects combined with meaningful projects that students can see over the course of a year.
Campaigning: Ha! That is always quite entertaining. So, campaigning in the old days required a lot of fliers, pamphlets, stickers, and food (because you will be campaigning all throughout the election days…yeah, days…thank goodness the advisor stopped that nasty tradition. Albeit, it is now on a day where few students are on campus, but hey…even the American election day is on Tuesday for a reason). So, here are some pieces of advice.
You must go and talk to people. Learning how to politely say “Have you voted, today?” 100 times in a day is absolutely crucial for your survival. Also, you only have a window of one minute to talk to them, so pitch ideas that are relevant to them. If they are engineering students, talk about engineering problems. If they are in the school of education, talk about how everyone keeps calling it the business building. The point being is that you will be annoying students for votes.
Speaking of which, to all you voters out there….you all may short yourselves quite a bit. And you all are so hypocritical too. Seriously, there are at least 10 people who will make a grand statement about how these campaigners are just pests and that they are only doing this to get votes. Well, for every 10 people, there are about 200 students who will end up voting (about half of which just vote because someone stopped them and talked to them). Yes, it may be annoying, but it is the only thing that grabs your attention. So seriously, start demanding better changes for once. We are not going to change our tactics because the next party over will just start using them. And if you think people will respond to us taking the high road, they don’t care because they don’t notice. All you need is a nice mosquito, and boom, that is it. Seriously, we may have taken the high road, but we didn’t get any votes. So honestly, just stop being so mad to the people campaigning.
Flyers: Though the Lorax might be rather incensed, fliers and pamphlets are essential because they provide more material than what you can say (you want to be a mosquito, not a vampire; you can’t talk forever). Put your ideas down and all your candidates with the correct spelling! With flyers, try to keep them in good taste. As entertaining as it was having my presidential and vice-presidential candidates being portrayed as either Bush and Cheney or McCain and Palin, it is just not nice. Although, it was absolutely hilarious, it is just not in good taste to do so.
Get sponsors: Basically, if you get organizations to endorse you, you start to look credible. If you are in a student organization, then the task is very easy. If your entire party is composed of an organization, well…that is just beyond easy. It does make it an organization war between different types of organizations but that rarely is the problem. The big thing is to convince student organizations that you are going to do something good. The main feeling for some major student organizations is that it is still the same student government that cause so many troubles in the past. If you show (as this current group has done) that it is not all gloom and doom, than certainly you have a shot. Otherwise, it is just understandable to expect the major student organizations to remain neutral throughout these elections.
Follow the Rules: Should’ve been the first thing I said. There is a large packet on the Student Activities Office website that outlines everything that needs to be done correctly. Learn it, Memorize it, and embrace it. If you do not, you will pay by getting disqualified. (Albeit, you can get away with the small stuff, the endless amounts of petty complaints that are brought to the election commission are so numerous and silly that they don’t merit much attention). So honestly, be conscious of the rules.
Time and Money: It will take a great deal of time to not only make the fliers, pamphlets, stickers and what not, but there is a great deal of money. Now not all of us can rely on organizations donating money, so donations from your fellow campaigners will barely help. So plan on investing your own money if you want to win this year. As for time, you have to train your fellow campaigners to coach them on what to say. So expect plenty of meetings and even late night sleepovers folding pamphlets.
As for the rest, well…I don’t want to give too much away. If you manage to accomplish all of that and win, congratulations to you for making it work. However, it is what you do afterwards that is important. One last thing, try to have fun. It is going to be a very stressful time with people scrutinizing you and everything that you do. You will feel terrible throughout it unless you find something that can humor you throughout the process (like a silly opinion piece writer’s attempt to make some change), you can at least realize that this is still just student government. Yes, you want to make a change to the campus, just don’t forget that you want to keep your wits about you and still have fun being a college student. So for those that I offend, I do so to bring some humor along with change. Relax…it is not like your tires will get slashed anytime soon.