CSG elections will take place March 29-30, vote at vote.umich.edu.
The University of Michigan community faces an important decision this week. All students in the University’s 19 schools and colleges are eligible to vote in the presidential election for Central Student Government, and though these elections have had a low turnout in the past, the CSG executive is still an influential position on campus, acting as the primary interlocutor between students and the U-M administration. The University’s student government has defined the campus conversation on a number of important issues, from successfully centralizing the vibrant Vietnam War protest movement on campus to eliminating general admission tickets for football games. These examples highlight two distinct roles that CSG has embodied in the past: a megaphone for nation-wide activism and a persistent voice for issues that affect students — particularly ones for which no other organization is as effective an advocate.
It is with this dual mandate in mind that The Michigan Daily Editorial Board voted to endorse Zaynab Elkolaly and Salma Hamamy, running under the MPower ticket, for CSG president and vice president in the election on March 29 and 30. Though all four tickets interviewed by the editorial board would bring a wealth of experience and substantive proposals to the CSG executive, Elkolaly and Hamamy’s focus on accessibility, accountability and outreach set them apart. Multiple tickets expressed concerns about the culture and approachability of CSG; in the end, Elkolaly and Hamamy brought the best combination of concrete solutions and passion to address these issues and best improve the wellbeing of U-M students.
Elkolaly, the presidential candidate, is a senior in the College of Engineering Honors program, majoring in nuclear engineering with a minor in political science. Elkolaly has a well-documented background in student advocacy and University affairs. She served on the Coordinated Community Response Team, a University-organized initiative that assesses and works toward combatting the persistence of sexual assault on campus, and as the DEI coordinator within CSG itself. Through these efforts, and through a history of advocacy on issues ranging from criminal justice to climate change, Elkolaly has supported a diverse set of student voices. Outside of these spaces, she is energetically involved in different student organizations, such as the Arab Student Association and Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, giving her a unique perspective as an organizer, in tandem with her work in student government.
Hamamy, the vice presidential candidate, is a senior majoring in Biology, Health and Society and Middle Eastern and North African Studies in the College of LSA. Aside from being a research and medical assistant, Hamamy has experience with various positions in LSA student government and in leading multiple projects. She was the Sisterhood Director for the Muslim Students’ Association, where she created a mentorship program and a sisterhood discussion series, and co-founded the organization One Mind At a Time, which seeks to improve literacy rates around the world. Like Elkolaly, Hamamy has a wide range of experiences in student government and student organizations, with a focus on building communities and working toward positive, material change.
Crucial to the MPower platform is inclusion: Elkolaly and Hamamy provide a set of innovative, actionable steps that not only promote true inclusion by uplifting voices on campus that are often left unheard, but also center the grassroots advocacy already embedded in this campus. Elkolaly and Hamamy’s commitment to uplifting student voices is best characterized by their support for the Ethical Investment Project, where they plan to “establish compensation to organizations engaging in activism and civic action” through a simple application process. Their platform also calls for solidarity with the Graduate Employees’ Organization, who just announced their plan to go on strike, and for reallocating Division of Public Safety and Security funding to organizations that are more focused on helping students, such as Counseling and Psychological Services and the Sexual Assault and Prevention Awareness Center.
Beyond that, Elkolaly and Hamamy are committed to increasing the accessibility and transparency of CSG’s Student Organization Funding Committee. The ticket told the editorial board they hope to provide public, periodic and detailed information on where CSG allocates student funds. This would go further than the financial transparency CSG currently offers, and would include graphics and presentations that are more accessible to students, such as a newsletter. Multiple tickets, including candidates serving on the CSG Assembly, expressed concern and confusion around CSG’s current financial transparency measures to the editorial board.
Elkolaly and Hamamy also emphasized simplifying the SOFC reimbursement application process, which they described as byzantine in nature. More than just streamlining the application form, the MPower ticket told the editorial board that they would like to prioritize SOFC funding for smaller or newly-formed student organizations, which often lack the financial resources to pay for events out-of-pocket and hope that SOFC is able to reimburse them later. Though we have concerns around SOFC giving student organizations funding up front — as those organizations might overestimate their expenses and ask for more money from SOFC than they need — Elkolaly and Hamamy’s commitment to helping clubs with fewer resources is clear.
Underlying the MPower platform and its initiatives is something undeniably unique about Elkolaly and Hamamy. Their ticket registered only two days before the deadline and — unlike the other three tickets we interviewed — without an associated party. The candidates told the editorial board they felt their campaign was more a result of necessity than desire. As representatives of student voices they consider often unacknowledged, Elkolaly and Hamamy decided to run to change the culture of CSG. They are not concerned about running without a slate of Assembly candidates, either. Elkolaly and Hamamy told the editorial board that they have strong relationships with Assembly members and would prioritize building a new coalition by making student government more hospitable to its own members and to communities outside of CSG.
After careful consideration of four persuasive CSG tickets, Elkolaly and Hamamy’s overwhelming commitment and authenticity convinced the editorial board to endorse MPower. By prioritizing an inclusive environment and delivering actionable proposals, we believe they will do an overwhelming amount of good for the University and its students should they be elected into office. Vote Zaynab Elkolaly and Salma Hamamy on March 29-30 for CSG President and Vice President.