Student Government Fiascoes
Back when I was in student government, our biggest problem was apathy. It was hard enough getting people to know that we existed. It was even harder to get them to care. That’s why we were constantly working on outreach. Some, if not most, of these outreach programs failed, like the “Bill to Give Students Candy”, which ended up being a waste of money that attracted negative publicity. That was the problem. The State News was 100 feet down the hall. So every time we screwed up, it ended up in the campus rag. Besides the infamous Candy Bill (which I wrote), here are three other student government resolutions that backfired while I was a representative.
Handing out candy in the girls’ dorms turned out to be a disaster, but somehow the Academic Assembly tried a similar program just a few months later. We bought several large thermoses of hot chocolate from the campus dining services and rented a minivan. With the Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) logo on the side, we went down to the bus stop outside of Brody Hall. There we found dozens of freshmen shivering out on the side of Harrison Road. We opened up the back of the van and offered up cups of hot chocolate, but only a few braves souls were willing to try it. It turned out that most people don’t want to drink beverages from the back of a stranger’s van.
Sometimes stirring up controversy can be a useful tool, but we failed at that too. We had the idea to get a keg of root beer and cart it around the freshman dorms. Since I went to a campus where illicit underage drinking was rampant, we thought that this might stir up a debate. It didn’t. Instead of creating controversy, we were simply ignored. We didn’t make the paper or anything. We had a few Academic Assembly meetings with leftover root beer, but after that, the keg went as flat as our campaign.
After those two disasters, we resolved to try something different. We decided to make the student government offices more comfortable for visitors by purchasing some couches. The Academic Assembly allocated some money for two couches in the main office. But when the couches arrived, they were clad in green leather. The green leather couches were comfortable, but they looked like something off of a porn set. When one of the representatives brought it up at the next meeting, the chair replied that professional looking “doctor’s office couches” would have been a lot more expensive. Nevertheless, the State News made a big to-do out of it. In hindsight, we would have gotten less flak for buying the more expensive furniture.
Looking back at my student government adventures, it’s amazing how dramatic things seemed at the time, and how petty they seem in hindsight. I have to remind myself that the whole thing was just a game. And like any good game, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment.