Sunday, November 16, 2003Student Government Elections are November 19th and 20th
As you may know, the elections for student government at Michigan will be held this week, Wednesday 19 and 20th. The voting is conducted online throughout the 48-hour voting period through this website, which appears to be much-improved over previous years. The website now requires you to authenticate with your uniquename and password to review the voter information. Since there always seems to be confusion about who can vote, and for whom, I'll quickly explain how the process works. Also, the Daily has seemed to have dropped the ball: the only coverage of the student government election seems to be this column written by my friend Ari Paul about the University Party, and this story about last week's decision to limit soliciting in the dorms. Student government may seem petty and annoying, but it's an important principal, and MSA alone provides a variety of unique resources to students, whether they know or like it or not, among them student group funding, funding to subsidize student health insurance, AirBus, and Advice Online.
Who will you vote for? Every school or college at the University has at least one representative on the umbrella student government organization, the Michigan Student Assembly (MSA). The number of seats for each school is proportional to the size of the school, with the minimum of one. Students in the following schools will be voting for an MSA representative this Fall: Business, Dentistry, Engineering, LSA, Medical, Music, Nursing, Public Policy, Public Health, Rackham, Social Work. Some of the smaller schools which only have one representative (Such as Architecture) elect their representative in the Winter, since all representatives serve one-year terms.
In addition, three colleges have their own student governments, so students in those colleges will vote for both an MSA representative, and representatives for their college government. These three are LSA Student Government, the U-M Engineering Council, and "Rackham" students, which includes most humanities grad students, vote in the Rackham Student Government election. Finally, Residential College students will vote for people to serve them on the East Quad Governing Assembly, and engineers will elect their class officers.
Who's running for all these offices? Visit the voting website anytime to review a list of candidates and their bios, if they've submitted them.
What's all this business about parties? There are three active student political parties for the elections this fall. As far as I know, only the MSA and LSA-SG elections are "partisan." The only party that can be said to have a consistent ideology is DAAP, however since they are the political wing of BAM-N, they have something of a bad reputation, however there have been some DAAP candidates I have supported in the past. Students First and the University Party both basically lack any political ideology, seeking to do "stuff" for students to make our petty bourgeois lives that much easier. In general, however, Students First has run many more liberals, progressives, and students of color, and the University Party has had more conservatives. However, there are a number of notable exceptions: liberals in the U party, arch conservatives in Students First, so it makes generalizing difficult. To get a better idea of these parties, I suggest perusing a variety of endorsement emails send during the election last spring. Also, if you've been around a couple years, you know these parties have a tendancy to come and go, as a quick review of my page of past election results will show. Here are the party's websites, where you can find platforms, pictures, and bios of most candidates:
> Students First
> The University Party
> The Defend Affirmative Action Party
Why do I know all this? Because I served on MSA for a year an a half as the Student Rights Commission Chair and as an elected representative with the "University Democrats," even running that party's campaign one semester. I've also been notified that I've been appointed to the Central Student Judiciary, a body that exists theoretically as the judicial counterweight to MSA's legislative body. I say theoretically because the organization basically disintegrated in the past year, and does very little aside from settle disputes that arise during MSA elections and occasionally help sort out power struggles within student groups. It's an open secret that there is a fair amount of cheating in every MSA election, and in fact former MSA president Bram Elias's secret Michigamua nickname is "Won it by Computer Bias," since the party he founded (The Blue Party) was caught stealing uniquenames and passwords using a packet sniffer in a university computer lab. Because of the nature of the voting website at the time, the votes couldn't be "undone," and the people who had their data stolen were simply allowed to vote again. I've heard convincing circumstantial evidence that this sort of thing goes on every election, and as a CSJ justice if hear anything about cheating you better bet you'll hear about it.
Posted by Rob at 11:13 PM