Gov. Snyder selected to be commencement speaker; students throw hissy fit

16 03 2011

I wrote this bit about the controversy surrounding U-M’s selection of Gov. Snyder as the class of 2011’s commencement speaker for the Student Free Press Association.  It looks like it got picked up by Fox Nation as well. Exciting!

University of Michigan students have picked an odd time to campaign against Governor Rick Snyder, since he assumed office two months ago. Across campus, petitions are being signed, protests are being organized, and student opinion is coalescing: Snyder is the wrong man for Michigan—or at least the Big House. The cause of this most recent awakening is, of course, Monday’s announcement that Snyder is to be the U-M graduating class of 2011’s commencement speaker, pending approval by the Board of Regents.

The outrage seems to stem largely from a recent segment on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show that painted Snyder as a dastardly economic hit man.  Far from trying to improve Michigan’s economy by fostering a more business-friendly environment, Snyder is hell-bent on using his emergency economic powers to crush unions and the middle class while rewarding his big-business buddies. Who knew?

A video clip of that segment went viral on campus just days before the commencement announcement was issued. As the clip was spread across Facebook, few if any bothered to acknowledge the harsh realities facing the State of Michigan, still suffering from double-digit unemployment and gaping budget deficits; fewer still proposed any solutions to our crises other than Michael Moore-esque cries of “eat the rich!” Far easier to simply hop on the bandwagon and rally against Michigan’s own wannabe Scott Walker.

The great irony is that a significant percentage of the students protesting Snyder’s commencement appearance are non-Michiganders; this is no surprise, since roughly 30 percent of U-M’s undergraduate student body is comprised of out-of-staters and international students. Though these temporary transplants will forever consider themselves Wolverines, their only substantive impression of life in the Great Lakes State will come from their time passed in the upscale food court that is Ann Arbor.

While U-M students love to occasionally venture outside the reality-deflecting bubble of Ann Arbor to attend, for example, afternoons of public service in Detroit, few non-Michiganders will ever experience the pervasive economic stagnation that persists just a few miles outside of Tree Town during their time on campus or pause to consider its root causes.

Even Michigan natives begin suffer from Ann Arbor-induced economic delusions after just a few semesters at U-M; obvious symptoms include an unshakable faith in the ability of the “green sector” to replace Michigan’s lost manufacturing jobs and a pathological affinity for high-speed rail.

There’s a very legitimate reason that to so many of my peers, the eight or ten semesters spent in the State of Michigan will remain nothing more than a quick pit stop on their road to success: Michigan’s economy remains a shambles. There’s simply not enough economic opportunity to entice the best and brightest born and raised in the state to stay, to say nothing of the lack of offerings for those who travel here from across the country and around the globe for an education.

By slashing handouts to special interests and reducing taxes on small businesses, Snyder is demonstrating that he is serious about spurring lasting economic growth in this state—the kind of growth that provides jobs that don’t disappear when the subsidies are yanked out from under them. His ability to use supposedly “dictatorial” emergency management powers speaks volumes about the sad state of the many municipalities that are now finding themselves in no position to make good on their exorbitant promises to favored constituencies.

Though I am a senior studying economics at U-M, Snyder will never be my commencement speaker—but not because I find his actions odious. Rather, it’s because I’m taking a reduced course load and extending my stay in Ann Arbor in order to help launch a small business. If that makes my appreciation for Snyder’s attempts to increase Michigan’s national competitiveness biased, then so be it.

There are others of a similar mindset on campus, though they’re usually too busy making their own opportunities to engage in mindless rabble rousing. Unlike many of their peers, they realize that Snyder’s success may mean that some day soon, future U-M graduates will be able to put their talents to work here in Michigan instead of bolting for the exits following their own commencements.

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