It seems somewhat poetic that elections for student body government happen to take place at the same time as a federal government shutdown. America, as a whole, seems disillusioned with the actions of the federal government, while the MSU student body appears apathetic, or at least indifferent, toward the actions of ASMSU.
And why shouldn’t they be?
On the surface, ASMSU would appear to be a mostly irrelevant organization full of only resume-padders and power-seekers. The senate’s Thursday night meetings are long and boring and most action taken is symbolic in nature and tiresome in practice. Due to this, the meetings themselves usually take place in front of an audience of no one (except, perhaps, an Exponent reporter).
With that being said, there is no more important organization to student interest than the ASMSU senate. Beyond the superficial surface of pomp and circumstance, ASMSU provides a crucial unified student voice, out of 15,000 individual ones, to a fairly receptive MSU administration.
While the task of allocating fees and representing the student voice is not one to be taken lightly, the public face of ASMSU still seems to be barbeques, concerts and spirit events — not the extraordinary and necessary work of other parts of ASMSU, such as daycare, lobbying at the statewide level or financing student clubs and organization. With this as the public face, the true usefulness of ASMSU is lost to students, including those who ought to be heading to the polls today to elect their new representatives.
The senators that will be elected are tasked with the exceedingly difficult responsibility of representing a seemingly apathetic student body, a mentality that the Exponent has not hesitated to criticize before.
But perhaps this apathy is not entirely the fault of the student body. With 39 candidates vying for 21 seats, the election process provides no glimpse of real issues and the candidates’ convictions, but instead becomes a contest of how much school spirit each candidate has — something as indicative to leadership skills as the color of a candidate’s hair. The result becomes a popularity contest that is inaccessible to the vast majority of students, who fail to vote and fail to care.
Both students and the candidates themselves deserve a better elections process that accentuates the differences between the many candidates and shows whether they have the expertise and skills needed for the job. Without it, MSU seems trapped in an endless cycle of students being uninterested and uninvolved, therefore causing members of ASMSU to pay less attention to their responsibilities and care less about reaching out to students on campus.
Moving past the election itself, the senate should not only be a place for the administration to interact with student voice, but for students to interact with each other in a helpful manner. If a student, organization or club needs help or direction, they should not be afraid to reach out to their representatives who have the capacity and resources to assist them. As long as the status quo remains and students are unaware of the resources ASMSU has to offer, then the full utility of ASMSU can never be realized.
With elections and the certainty of at least half of the senate being new to the positions, the opportunity for meaningful change is present. After all, student government elections are the one time that students get a literal vote in how we are represented, yet that privilege is often thrown away. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”