CSG candidates debate issues before polls open

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By Kristen Fedor, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 24, 2014

The discussion at the Central Student Government presidential debate Monday evening centered on the current state of student government at the University, but lacked focus on specific future initiatives.

Public Policy junior Carly Manes, a FORUM candidate, LSA junior Ryan Hayes of The Party Party and LSA sophomore Mical Holt of the Defend Affirmative Action Party all expressed discontent with the status quo. Public Policy junior Bobby Dishell, Make Michigan’s candidate, focused on his role as current CSG vice president and how he will expand on that experience if elected.

In the opening statements, Dishell specified major platform points of Make Michigan, such as increased support of the LEAD Scholars Program to foster minority enrollment and the creation of a peer support network aimed at bettering the mental health of students across campus. He referenced these points several times throughout the debates.

Manes reiterated FORUM’s commitment to increasing diversity on campus and support of what she referred to as “student-centered initiatives” in her opening statement, an echo of the party’s slogan, “Empowerment, Not Politics.”

Hayes began with a direct criticism of CSG and said the way student government has functioned reveals a lack of engagement with the student body.

“We need to open doors, not have people find our open doors,” he said.

As a single-issue party, Holt’s opening statement reflected DAAP’s focus on increasing minority enrollment. Throughout the debate, Holt’s responses circled back to this sentiment of increasing minority voices on campus.

The CSG budget was the most divisive issue of the debate. While every candidate agreed that student organizations should see increased funding, the methods in which this goal would be achieved and its feasibility given current funding provided intense disagreement among the candidates.

Manes and Hayes held similar stances on the issue. Both said they have goals of increasing funding for student organizations to exceed 50 percent of the total CSG budget. However, both candidates also said they do not believe in raising the current $7.19 fee students pay towards CSG as part of their tuition payments. They said a more efficient restructuring of the budget is possible without increasing these fees.

Manes said she does not believe CSG has functioned well enough to be able to ask for more money.

“Student government has not been accountable enough to the students yet to trust in the student government enough to take more of their money,” she said.

Hayes said he is confident he would be able to find a way to allocate more money to student organization funding without a fee increase.

“If you want something, you can make a budget happen,” he said.

Dishell spoke about his experience dealing with the CSG budget. He said in the past year, the overall executive budget was severely cut and the resulting increase in cash flow was redirected towards the Student Organizations Funding Commission. He said they zeroed out all Executive Commission budgets at the start of the year and made them reapply for funding as the year progressed.

In past years, the individual commission budgets were preset at the start of the year. Dishell said the only way he would have been able to reach the goal of 50 percent of the budget for student organizations would be if CSG cut its Program Manager.

As a solution, Dishell said he supports a $2 increase to the $7.19 student government fee. He said a fee increase would supply the funds necessary to increase funding for student organizations.

“I feel terribly every time a student org has to get turned away,” he said. “We simply need more money to give out to student orgs.”

Dishell added that he is the only candidate who has experience directly working with the CSG budget. In response, Manes and Hayes both reiterated that they feel they are competent to deal with this issue. Manes said she has experience with the LSA student government budget.

Hayes said that Dishell’s experience is invaluable, but that this should not dictate the legitimacy of other candidates.

“If that’s the precedence, why don’t we always just reelect the incumbent?” he said.

Dishell pointed to his experience as vice president again later when a question was raised from the audience regarding the respective candidates’ role in campus activism.

“What’s important as you come into your role as a leader as a representative of 43,000 voices is that you know how to be an activist for a student voice, not just for one cause,” he said. “We’ve done that this past year. That’s evidenced by our work, that’s evidenced by the national press we’ve gotten, and that’s evidenced the regents’ reports and their comments to us.”

Manes said she has identified as a student activist since her freshman year and she will continue to do so whether or not she is elected.

“Student activism is the most effective tactic to achieving goals on campus,” she said.

Hayes said The Party Party would increase the role of student activism on campus. He pointed to the #BBUM movement as an effective use of the student voice. He said student government needs to make more of an effort to engage the student voice.

“You can’t wait for something to happen,” he said. “For 43,000 people, there is literally less than a lecture hall here.”

The candidates also discussed the #UMDivest movement. They were to commit to a decision on the resolution proposed that CSG support divestment from several companies. Dishell and Manes both said they do not support the resolution. Holt was the only candidate who said he supported divestment.

Hayes did not specify his personal decision on the divestment resolution.

“It should be a composition of student voices. It is not my personal decision,” he said.

Regarding the decision of CSG to table the resolution indefinitely, Manes reiterated that she voted against this decision, regardless of her personal opinion regarding the resolution.

“It matters to students, it should matter to their student government,” she said.

Dishell said that this was a decision of the CSG Assembly and not within his power as an executive member of CSG. However, he said he regrets not meeting with SAFE members earlier to hear their concerns following last Tuesday’s meeting.

Hayes said Dishell’s technical role should not be taken into consideration when addressing the decision of CSG to postpone the vote on the divestment resolution.

“We should never wait to engage,” he said.

In closing statements, Holt reiterated DAAP’s commitment to addressing issues such as racism and sexism on campus.

Manes said she is running because she wants to see a change in the way CSG operates. She said that even if she does not win, she will continue to be a student activist and address the issues raised in FORUM’s platform.

“We know student government has failed students, and that’s why we are running,” she said.

Dishell reiterated Make Michgian’s campaign slogan multiple times in his closing statements, saying that the party will “Make the Difference.”

Hayes was the final speaker of the debate and repeated that he believes student government has not been effective in engaging students. He said The Party Party would be the change that is needed. He referenced the comical #SaveRoss video that has received over 2,500 views in its first day as a testament to his ability to spark interest in student government moving forward.