The University of Michigan LSA Student Government will hold elections on March 30 and March 31, 2022. Students in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts will elect a new president, vice president and 19 representatives. The executive race will be the largest in the history of the LSA Student Government, with five competing tickets.
Meet the candidates:
The following candidates, paired together as presidential and vice presidential candidates, respectively, are running for executive office: LSA freshman Bilal Irfan and LSA freshman Maria Wajahat, LSA junior Max Stoneman and LSA sophomore Peter Tam, LSA sophomore Gabriel Ervin and LSA sophomore Noah Gadola, LSA freshman Adrianna Kallabat and LSA junior Noor Alesawy, and LSA junior Erica Nelson and LSA sophomore Roland Burgaj.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Irfan said if he is elected he hopes to bring to fruition the projects he began as a representative. These projects include a bidet initiative to benefit Muslim students on campus as well as climate action and increasing community members’ awareness of climate issues. He also hopes to aid in creating an undergraduate student workers’ union and to continue cementing relationships with student organizations.
“More often than not, when I encounter people, they don’t even know that LSA SG is distinct from CSG,” Irfan said. “And I think that’s an issue insofar as the fact that people don’t know that they can come for funding from LSA SG.”
While Irfan acknowledges that he and Wajahat, his running mate, are relatively new members of the LSA SG, he said the number of resolutions they have authored and their extensive collaboration with student organizations set them apart from the other candidates. Irfan also said the fact that he and Wajahat are both people of color allows them to relate to the experiences of minority communities on campus.
“(Our experiences as people of color have) definitely helped us in the way we have navigated conversations within LSA Student Government and (informed) some of the changes that we would like to see happen,” Irfan said.
Stoneman’s campaign revolves around the themes of “sustainability, solidarity and inclusion.” If elected, he intends to support Ann Arbor for Public Power’s campaign for a municipal utility and invest in innovative projects to achieve carbon neutrality.
“The climate crisis is not something we should take lightly, and I don’t think that issues related to sustainability and climate as a whole should be put on the back burner,” Stoneman said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of problems that need to be addressed on this campus, but I think that this is definitely a big one.”
Stoneman also emphasized the importance of accessibility inside and outside the classroom as well as diversity, equity and inclusion. He plans to introduce a DEI grant for student organizations on campus working to advance these efforts on campus.
“DEI isn’t just about having students of diverse backgrounds on campus, but it’s also about making students feel welcomed, supported and represented,” Stoneman said. “LSA SG, we can pursue our own projects, but there’s already student groups that are dedicated to particular causes related to DEI, and I think it’s best to support those groups that have been working so hard and so long on these types of projects.”
Stoneman, a second-term Representative in LSA SG, believes his experience sets him and Tam apart from the other executive candidates.
“I’m the most experienced candidate running,” Stoneman said. “In my time, I’ve authored well over 70 resolutions and bylaw amendments. I know that the same is true for my running mate in terms of the high quantity and quality of work.”
Ervin’s campaign is focused on the issue of workers’ rights on campus. He hopes to support the campaign for a $15 minimum wage for student workers and wants to spearhead the unionization of student workers.
“The vast majority (of student workers) agree that they’re not being paid enough, and a decent amount of them also say that they’re being overworked,” Ervin said. “If we get this done, the students will know that if something is going horribly wrong, we’re going to be able to tackle it … we will be your voice.”
Ervin believes “there are some things worth getting angry over” and said he is ready to fight for change, but he also emphasized the importance of compromise.
“I’m not going to overplay our hand and leave us with nothing,” Ervin said.
Kallabat’s candidacy is focused on representing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) students within LSA. Both she and Alesawy, Kallabat’s running mate, are studying STEM subjects, which Kallabat said would allow them to bring a unique perspective to the LSA SG. Neither Kallabat nor Alesawy are current members of the Student Government.
“In our eyes, we see things from the student perspective on the outside, where there are things that we want to improve on and there are things we see that maybe they can’t because they’re so involved in (LSA SG) and they’ve been in it,” Kallabat said.
Kallabat hopes to create new websites to consolidate LSA resources across majors and introduce more events for STEM majors in LSA. She also wants to improve mentorship opportunities for women on campus and further the LSA SG’s current efforts to bring awareness to sexual assault. Kallabat voiced support for creating resources tailored to transfer students and international students.
“We really want to drive academic success, bring forth STEM in a more powerful way and bring the community together by giving them opportunities that they are not aware of,” Kallabat said.
Nelson is running to amplify the voices she believes go unheard in the University community. She wants to make sure transfer students, undocumented students and students of color know how to access the resources available to them, as she said those resources may get lost in email inboxes. She also emphasized her plan to listen to what students actually want from their government.
“We want to listen for programs that students want to attend, versus something that it seems like the University is doing just to hold a program,” Nelson said. “Because at the end of the day, if we’re not here trying to serve the students, then what are we doing?”
Nelson’s desire to make change comes in part from her own experience as a member of the LSA SG.
“I’ve been the only Black person in the student government at one time,” Nelson said. “I get what we’re doing, I get the goal, but let’s make it better … We’re hyper-committed to saying ‘something is going to get done on our watch.’”
Nelson’s experience in the Student Government also helped demonstrate the importance of representation.
“I learned from Student Government how amazing making change can be,” Nelson said. “And how amazing having a seat at the table can be.”
Beyond the executive race, there are 28 candidates running for the 19 open representative seats. According to Public Health senior Riya Gupta, the assistant election director for the upcoming election, students can learn about the candidates at the University of Michigan voting website and the upcoming Candidates’ Forum and Executive Ticket Debate. The Candidates’ Forum will take place on March 24 from 7-10 p.m. in Angell Hall Auditorium D, and the Executive Ticket Debate will be held on March 25 from 6:30-8 p.m. at Forum Hall in Palmer Commons.
LSA senior Anna Colvin, the election director for the election, described the LSA SG’s efforts to reach voters, which include the use of social media and sharing voter information with student organizations. Gupta also said tabling — setting up a table in a public place to interact with passersby — is an effective way to reach voters who might not otherwise participate in the election.
“Generally, a large percentage of our voters come from students within either our own organization, (Central) Student Government; friends of people in Student Government; or people who are otherwise involved with other student governments or organizations related to us,” Colvin said. “So, I think tabling helps us reach students (and) anyone just walking by. People love a doughnut or a bagel.”
Colvin said the size of the upcoming election makes it unique in the history of LSA SG.
“One notable thing is that you’ve got a lot of information to read,” Colvin said. “We’ve got a ton of candidates.”
Students enrolled in LSA can vote for representative and executive candidates on March 30 and March 31 at vote.umich.edu. According to Gupta, students will also likely be able to use in-person polling stations to cast their votes.
Daily Staff Reporter Eli Friedman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.