Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

MSA's performance, respectability questioned by new parties

1. December 2005 • Murph
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The Daily reports that several students are in the process of creating new parties to challenge the dominant “Students 4 Michigan” in the Michigan Student Assembly:

Nowinski, a former member of MSA’s Budget Priorities Committee, is forming the Michigan Progressive Party and planning to run on a platform based on “better housing and better classes.” The “better housing” end of the platform entails the maintenance of better MSA relations with the city in order to have an influence on housing issues, including lease dates and parking restrictions.

“MSA has a tremendous amount of lobbying power to change these things,” he said.
. . .
With its entire executive committee already assembled and its platform almost entirely formulated, MPP is well on its way to developing a full slate for the April 2006 MSA elections.

Radina, a member of the College Democrats, is forming the Michigan Students for Progress Party. The party is still in the works, with only a handful of students involved in its development, but Radina plans to field candidates for every position in this April’s elections.

(The Progressive Front of Michigan and the Michiganian Progressive Front could not be reached for comment.)

Clark Ruper, an LSA sophomore and vice chair of Young Americans for Freedom, has also expressed interest in forming a new party. The Abolish MSA Spending Party would run on the platform of “decreasing funding and controlling spending with the end goal of eliminating MSA discretionary spending,” Ruper wrote in a letter to the Daily. Ruper could not be reached for comment.

  1. I’m curious to hear what Nowinski sees as “tremendous lobbying power”, and what he plans to do with it .

    I’ve got at least one issue in mind he could work on…
       —Murph    Dec. 1 '05 - 08:59PM    #
  2. ”(The Progressive Front of Michigan and the Michiganian Progressive Front could not be reached for comment.)”

       —Marc R.    Dec. 1 '05 - 09:21PM    #
  3. Yes, I would also be curious what type of lobbying power he plans on using. As the former chair of the “lobbying agent of MSA” (ERC) I can say that I don’t really think lobbying is a main goal of MSA, and it is illegal to devote more than 5 percent of the discretionary funds to this purpose due to the Southworth ruling. Let me tell you, once I told legislators I was on MSA I got RESULTS (insert sarcasm here)
       —Mike Forster    Dec. 2 '05 - 01:53AM    #
  4. -In order to join the PFM, you have to really hate the Students 4 Michigan Party.
    -I do.
    -Oh yeah, how much?
    -A lot.
    -Alright, you’re in.

    classic, murph, classic,
    ari p.
       —Ari P.    Dec. 2 '05 - 02:02AM    #
  5. We always wanted to start GROMSA – “Get Rid of MSA”. The YAFers are just Johnnie-come-latelys.
       —John Q    Dec. 2 '05 - 03:34AM    #
  6. Reminds me of Utah Phillips’ “do nothing” platform—paraphrasing: vote for me and I promise not to do a damn thing. If y’all want something done, get together and do it yourselves!
       —Scott Trudeau    Dec. 3 '05 - 12:01AM    #
  7. Mike,

    I’m a little suprised you are toeing the administration’s line on MSA’a lobbying.

    As was shown quite conclusively, MSA, as a 501©3 incorporated non-profit, using the h-election, can delegate 20% of its resources towards “lobbying,” narrowly defined as “influencing legislation.”

    The Suprem Court’s Southworth Decision has absolutely NOTHING to do with it.

    And you not geting results when you told legislators that you were from MSA is more a comment on how MSA has handled itself recently, not on any inherent lack of power on MSA’s part, which is what your post seems to assume.

    What MSA needs are true advocates for students and student power.
       —Abe    Dec. 3 '05 - 02:00PM    #
  8. I have to profess my profound skepticism of the efficacy of an organization fighting for student’s rights whose main weapon is “lobbying.”

    “We have a lot of lobbying power.” Nowinski (who I met last night and seems like a good guy) says. Lobbying is not power. Lobbying is only power when it is backed up with organized people or organized money. Seeing as how MSA failed to register any sizeable number of voters or mobilize students on any large scale in the last election, I have little faith in the efficacy of lobbying. In fact, at recent hearings on the Madison Ordinance, which would push lease-signings back to a half-way reasonable date, landlords outnumbered students! MSA turned out SEVEN students, and Jesse Levine ducked out half way through.

    We have ourselves to blame for that.

    However the city’s gerrymandered ward system is constructed specifically to prevent students from having power over anyone in the city government. Until that is changed, we have little chance of having our opinions really matter in city politics via the electoral process.

    That leaves direct action and solidarity.

    I challenge the “progressive” parties to take a real stance on a pressing issue like housing through the only vehicle that can have wide-spread impact:

    Organize a tenants union.

    (i dare you)
       —Bates    Dec. 4 '05 - 04:50AM    #
  9. As an S4M member who has been complaining about lack of a cohesive platform and meaningful mission statement, I’m ecstatic there are new parties forming. I especially think it’s phenomenal that there are students who want to make MSA a more professional organization and focus on housing. Just because MSA hasn’t been living up to its potential doesn’t mean that we should criticize others’ optimism. Sometimes MSA just needs new blood to jump-start activity, and a contested election is definitely a way to get candidates to seriously consider the way they feel about problems that affect students.

    However, if the new parties really want to do a good job, they need to get involved with MSA now. If MSA inherits new leadership with no personal experience with the administration, committees or commissions, the new party will not be effective in implementing its platform, leaving the Assembly just as well off as if there were no platform at all. A lot of the ideas could be addressed now if the candidates and party organizers would join MSA committees or commissions, so I challenge them to demonstrate their commitment to students by getting involved when it’s much less “glamorous” (I use quotes because I know what you all have to say about MSA).

    A huge campaign issue that’s wonky but really important is that the admin doesn’t want MSA to fund any student orgs that lobby (meaning any rallies, events, legislator visits, etc that tell a decision-maker to vote a certain way on legislation) because we don’t have a way to track lobbying expenditures for the IRS. This “no lobbying” policy also applies within the Assembly, as well, so all planks related towards affecting legislation are quasi-out-of-bounds until MSA fights back the admin on the right to lobby with a means to track expenditures. MSA Rules & Elections Committee is devising a method to track lobbying expenses so that we can push for student fees to actually go towards issues students care about. I actually gave up running for the External Relations Committee so that I could focus on getting MSA back on track to support students’ rights to lobby. If you’re interested in working on this, let me know!
       —Rese Fox    Dec. 5 '05 - 04:37AM    #
  10. PS: In case it wasn’t clear, let me be blunt: if anyone knows leadership within the new progressive parties, let them know I’m totally willing to jump the S4M ship unless S4M miraculously decides to reverse its no-platform, no-mission statement policy. I’m not even up for re-election in spring, but I’d really like them to succeed if they’re serious about what they want to do. I’d have to change the name of my blog, though … I hope the four or so of you who read it would be supportive!
       —Rese Fox    Dec. 5 '05 - 04:48AM    #
  11. Hello!
    My name is Dan Hirschman and I am a member of the executive committee of the Michigan Progressive Party (which now includes Travis Radina’s Students for Progress party, we’ve merged seamlessly). I just wanted to clarify that the focus of the “lobbying” efforts the MPP was proposing was in fact the University itself as much as the city of Ann Arbor, say. The MSA could be used as a voice for the student body in terms of the basic units of our education- classes. So that’s a big part of the lobbying role we envision for MSA.
    In addition, while I think we aren’t quite so naive to believe that MSA holds tremendous sway with the Ann Arbor government, we do hope to at least make it to the meetings planned between the two bodies, and try to exercise as much power as we can.
    I think we would fully support a tenant’s union, and if you are interesting in organizing one with MPP support, let me know.
    Please feel free to direct any further questions to myself, at, or the party at We have high hopes for the coming year, if nothing else than for reopening the debate about the role of MSA and hopefully reinvigorating student interest. The MSA could serve as a representative body in a meaningful way; we believe it currently does not.
       —Dan Hirschman    Dec. 5 '05 - 07:53PM    #
  12. For those of us who have memories longer than 2 years, it seems we’ve come full-circle. Does anyone remember the AATU?
       —John Q    Dec. 5 '05 - 08:54PM    #
  13. Ahhh…I hope all you progressives can get together and make this a competitive election. And before you go all out bringing back a tenants union, perhaps you should investigate the downfall of the last one? If anything, bringing back a tenants union would exemplefy the transitory nature of students. At least call it something else…
       —Anita    Dec. 6 '05 - 05:56PM    #
  14. Agreed. Back to the good ol’ days. Crazy liberals, Crazy conservatives and the no platform party. All you need is T.J. and a solid Michigan Review scandel article and I’d think it was 2001.

    On the subject of the AATU, I think its a great idea. But I’ll be the first to admit that my failure was my inability to find a good group of people to run it. You’ll be hard pressed to find an MSA president who won’t support a cause that all s/he has to do is allocate money and take the credit HOWEVER I was unwilling to commit such a large chunk of students’ money to a few people’s salaries.

    Wall street ain’t got nothing on State Street.

    Miss the ‘heated discussions’,
       —Jason Mironov    Dec. 6 '05 - 08:02PM    #
  15. John Q & Anita:

    Yep, I definitely remember the AATU, and I’ve been mourning it since it went up in smoke. I’ve heard that it had its problems, but that’s no reason to say it shouldn’t be done.

    bringing back a tenants union would exemplefy the transitory nature of students.

    Personally, I’d say the opposite. Canning it exemplified the transitory nature of students.

    “Well, that didn’t work out the way we planned, did it? I suppose we could try to fix it, but, nah, that’d be a lot of work, and we’ll be graduating by the time an improved Tenants’ Union was in place. So…Why don’t we spend our time on something that’ll have all the benefit right now, when we can enjoy it? Hey, I’ve got an idea! Let’s focus on bringing big-name musical acts to Ann Arbor!”

    Investigating the shortcomings of the previous incarnation of the Tenants’ Union, yes, is the necessary first-step to forming a better one.
       —Murph.    Dec. 6 '05 - 10:29PM    #
  16. AHHHHH!

    Please read my latest blog post on the Ludacris concert … there are financial discrepancies you all should see that some MSA members and execs are not acknowledging.
       —Rese Fox    Dec. 7 '05 - 04:48AM    #
  17. K, one more time …

    ... my last attempt to give you the right link was hardly an “unqualified success.”
       —Rese Fox    Dec. 7 '05 - 04:53AM    #
  18. While many accuse MSA of “losing” $20,000 on the ludacris event, I beg to differ. While I had nothing to do with any aspect of the event (and was personally unable to even attend) I take offense when people criticize without offering any better solutions.

    As I have previously stated, students on campus and the Daily repeatedly harped on the fact that we needed to get a big name concert on campus. Finally when MSA steps up and people like Eddie Lee and Stu Wagner put in hours of organizing and put on a great concert with 88% attendence, all people do is complain. In my opinion the $20,000 was well spent, and I look forward to getting more big name concerts to Hill.

    MSA is in a lose-lose situation. They tried to respond to the calls of the Daily to listen to their constituents, and in doing so got blasted.

    Leave’m alone
       —pete borock    Dec. 7 '05 - 06:35AM    #
  19. “I take offense when people criticize without offering any better solutions”

    Better solutions:

    1) Follow the MSA Compiled Code: if you change the budget of a resolution, you have to re-submit and re-approve the budget. When Ludacris planners changed the ticket prices without notifying the Assembly, they affected the budget.

    2) Be consistent in claims (aka accountable … one of s4m’s planks in a meager platform): on Sept 6 and 13 we were told the concert would cost $5,000 and we would break even, worst case scenario. Today we were told that we would have lost $16,000 best case scenario. Please check the MSA minutes.

    3) If MSA is incurring financial risk, MSA needs to be involved in decision-making. MSA put forth $40,000 to the concert, the second most of any other organization (UAC gave $60,000), and Hillel was the only other org to contribute over a few thousand. I got the impression tonight that our job for the concert was largely focused on publicity and that we didn’t have as much power in planning the concert as originally thought. Perhaps we need to stipulate financial oversight task forces for large projects.

    Concerts are great, having the first rapper at Hill is great … but we need to be financially responsible when we put them on.
       —Rese Fox    Dec. 7 '05 - 08:00AM    #
  20. “leave ‘em alone”?

    I don’t know which is worse – to think that MSA accidentally lost $20k on a poorly executed concert promotion scheme, or that MSA intentionally lost $20k on a poorly conceived concert promotion scheme. Knowing that they were going to lose $20k seems like ridiculous negligence. (Or, you could say, “Planning to spend $20k in funds unrecoverably is ridiculously negligent.”)

    There are times when MSA should say to the Daily, et al, “You’re right, that would be nice, but we’re just not set up to do it.” The best thing that MSA can do with our student fees is to prove to concert promoters that big-name acts are unprofitable in Ann Arbor? Yes, that seems to make sense. (shaking head no)

    Some things are worth spending student fees on. I don’t think this was one of them. Considering how many little(?)-name acts come to Ann Arbor, and how many “big-name” acts play the Detroit region, I hardly think this was some terribly underserved need.
       —Murph.    Dec. 7 '05 - 03:05PM    #
  21. Hey! I’m impressed. MSA has found a totally new way to mismanage students money! Back in the day, it was simple corruption, money spent on junkets to third-world countries and bad bookkeeping. Now MSA is elevating the financial mismanagement to a whole new level. It’s a good thing most MSA reps. are resume polishers and wanna-be activitists. Otherwise, you would think we’re grooming the next generation of Tom DeLays!
       —John Q    Dec. 7 '05 - 03:47PM    #
  22. Actually, I think it is attitudes like yours, John, that contribute to the problem. I saw this at WMU, as well.

    The fact is, the university leadership has to recognize some student leadership/representation group. Even if they disbanded MSA, in two years they would form or recognize a new one in response to a (warranted) hue and cry from the student body. This university, like others around the country, chooses to enable and collect a student fee to put towards student activities. That’s not going to change, either.

    The problems arise when a large portion of the student body ignore or argue that what’s going on with the people who control this money and who have this access to the administration are insignificant or are clowns. At WMU, a group of about a half-dozen undergrads controlled almost 3/4 of a million dollars and I think many of the choices they made on its use were scandalous. The student newspaper didn’t cover it; many of the people in the student assembly didn’t closely monitor the use of the student fees (they weren’t elected college- or university-wide and didn’t have that re-election stick to motivate them); the general student body, not well-informed about the activities of the student assembly, thought it didn’t matter or that it was a bunch of resume-padders. And the scandalous activities continued.

    I don’t know who would put MSA on their resume, and I don’t know how that line would possibly make a difference in getting a job, though the skills learned in the student assembly could be valuable.

    The solution, in my mind, is to encourage conscientious participants from a broad range of campus divisions to get involved in the important work that makes up much of the activities of MSA.

    I don’t think that includes bringing big-name acts to Ann Arbor. It might include helping develop regional acts.
       —Dale    Dec. 7 '05 - 04:34PM    #
  23. Dale,

    My comments just reflect my experience with MSA many years ago and your detailed comments just confirm what happened then is happening now. Too few students care, the administration doesn’t take MSA seriously because they don’t percieve it as having student support and some abuse their positions in MSA for their personal or group gain at the expense of the students they are supposed to represent.

    It’s also think it’s a lame argument to blame the student body when their representatives misbehave. Just because the students, the newspaper, or the administration doesn’t pay attention doesn’t give those reps. the green light to abuse their positions. Call me old-fashioned but I expect people to act ethically, even when no one is watching their every move.

    I don’t know what the solution is to get better representation and student involvement from MSA. In a way, it’s a microcosm of our current political system and its inability to get students engaged. But so long as MSA behaves badly, it shouldn’t be expected to be taken seriously by anyone.
       —John Q    Dec. 7 '05 - 05:40PM    #
  24. “Or, you could say, ‘Planning to spend $20k in funds unrecoverably is ridiculously negligent.’”

    Yeah, goddamn, MSA is SO ridiculously negligent that it wastes hundreds of thousands of dollars by unrecoverably funding the events of student groups on campus EVERY SINGLE BUDGET CYCLE.

    Something must be done.
       —Sam    Dec. 9 '05 - 02:33PM    #