Letter: East Lansing leadership must represent the interests of students
By Lorenzo Santavicca
Editor's note: Lorenzo Santavicca is the undergraduate student body president at MSU. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Minor stylistic and editorial changes were made.
There’s a sense of pride every student feels when they face, “Welcome to the City of East Lansing: Home to Michigan State University” at the many entrances into Sparty’s homestead. But, I sit here writing with the proud green and white on my shirt, symbolic of this treasured place holding a heavy concern for our city in my heart.
During my freshman year, I thought positively that after graduation I would never want to leave the city and find permanence around my Alma Mater. My naïve-self never seemed to realize that only a few sandwich shops, sticky-floor bars, and towers of new and ghost-town student housing complexes are the thriving pride-points of business here.
The Associated Students of MSU, the undergraduate student government, recognized in its past session that the city council needs to solicit options for the student and non-student populations through stable work and housing opportunities in an effort to be more prosperous.
Look before the US-127 Corridor on Michigan, and along Grand River Avenue at Collingwood to find that East Lansing is doing quite well to provide a wealth of student housing. Students have no reason to rush into signing their next lease only weeks into their current year. But how does the newly-minted college graduate transition to permanent housing with a stable job in an unaffordable city? Homeowners in East Lansing have a median income of $51,386 and a median home price of $143,400, according to 2015 Forbes data. One can’t help but think that the city dynamic isn’t meant for job-seeking young adults, trying to get a strong footing into their professional career.
Our city needs leadership with foresight into a new future for East Lansing. We need leaders that will be a bridge between students and permanent residents, establishing a means for all to come together without dividing the populace by time of residency and fiscal contribution. Where more than half of its residents are students, a city council that is a representative to all interests — including students — should be paramount.
Leaders of East Lansing should be more active to step out of their political routine by making an honest effort to walk the streets of campus and knock doors in Bailey Neighborhood during off-election cycles to learn about our true city composition. Needless to say, knowing your elected leaders more frequently contributes to feeling more welcomed and engaged with the success of the city beyond the 5,200 contiguous acres named MSU.
I urge our community, especially students, to get out and vote this November. Learn the initiatives that city council candidates are proposing, and how it will impact the whole community. Understand the implications of an income tax; a measure assuring students that the city is unwelcoming to the hopeful who desire to live here longer beyond their term of a student. Realize the direct attack on the university that created an identity for our city, one of the largest employers and holdings of intelligence around, is now being seen as an unwelcome and dangerous creature. Time will tell if the signs that celebrate MSU upon entrance to the city will be replaced with, “Welcome to the City of East Lansing: Pay Toll Ahead.”
It’s critical that our city welcomes a dynamic community of citizens young and old, permanent and transient; actively greeting important opportunities for engagement and growth. But not falsely embracing one of Michigan’s hearts for higher learning and its faithful Spartans on a flimsy road sign.