Do not vote in MSA elections

Unless students threaten to lower tuition revenues, we will remain powerless.

by Sam Blake

Today is the last day of elections for the Minnesota Student Association executive leadership. IâÄôm sure many of you, in a fervor of patriotic duty, are planning to vote sometime today if you havenâÄôt already. But in case you havenâÄôt and youâÄôre up in the air about whether you intend to vote or not, let me try to convince you: DonâÄôt do it. ThatâÄôs right. IâÄôm telling you that you should not vote in the MSA election. ItâÄôs not that the candidates are somehow at fault; the MSA candidates for this year are, as far as I can tell, representative of the candidates available to voters every year. No, IâÄôm suggesting that you not vote in the MSA election because to do so is to delude yourself into thinking that MSA has any sort of authority as a representative student government. Certainly MSA has a role on campus. As a student outreach organization, they have a strong reputation of implementing programs that many students find valuable. As an advocacy organization, they do in fact give some kind of voice to students. But the election is always cast in the context of student government, and MSA as a âÄústudent governmentâÄù is completely illegitimate. It has no actual power. The MSA has no power because it has no actual leverage against the school administration. The powers that be care about two things: that enrollment rates remain high, and that student excellence is maximized. Both of those things reflect positively on the University of Minnesota, and therefore on the administration running it. If the administration does something that angers students, what will happen? Will people drop out of school in protest? Will people refuse to do well so that the administration looks bad? Of course not. Students may moan and complain, but no one will stop giving the administration what it wants, so itâÄôs not going to concede anything it doesnâÄôt have to (and there is nothing it has to concede). âÄúShared governanceâÄù is a term thatâÄôs been thrown around a lot lately in the context of this election. And the people in favor of shared governance are certainly not wrong. As a student, I would love to be able to have an actual say in the decisions the University administration makes. But again, since I have no leverage with the school, theyâÄôre not going to give me power just because I ask. Even if some kind of shared governance is enacted, it will certainly be a sham. This is economics, not politics. If the UniversityâÄôs administration were Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola or some other large company, you could refuse to buy their products and you would have some leverage (of course, college students prefer to protest rather than boycott, lest they actually be inconvenienced). But as a student, you pose no threat. And neither does the body that supposedly represents you. So if you havenâÄôt voted for your MSA âÄúleaders,âÄù I urge you: continue not to. If you have already voted, consider calling the ACEC office and asking them to discard your ballot. They wonâÄôt, since they donâÄôt actually care about what you want, but it canâÄôt hurt to ask. And no, MSA wonâÄôt gain real authority just by increasing voter turnout. So do not vote with a ballot, vote with your actions. Students can only gain the clout necessary to put pressure on the University administration if there is a threat that students will harm the UniversityâÄôs reputation by either lowering their performance or taking their tuition dollars elsewhere. And if students are willing to actually utilize that leverage, then MSA will mean something as a student government, and on that day I will happily cast my ballot. But not one day sooner. Sam Blake welcomes comments at [email protected].