Ten candidates for LSA Student Government presented their ideas Monday night for increasing diversity of the student body and and expanding mental health awareness in student government and on campus. Elections will be held Wednesday.
LSA Student Government consists of 19 representatives elected by students in LSA. This year, nine positions are filled during the November elections, while the other 10 seats are up for election during the main student government elections in March.
LSA SG president Jason Colella, LSA senior, said he enjoyed hearing ideas from the candidates and he looks forward to implementing them.
“I think we have a great slate of candidates and I think no matter who wins or loses we’ll have a great upcoming semester at LSA Student Government,” Colella said
Apart from the candidates, less than 15 people attended. Colella said this turnout was not surprising.
“We always are hoping for a large turnout,” Colella said. “We try to get lots of students here. It’s important that students know who they’re voting for and I wish more LSA students would show up to these forums.”
The candidates addressed concerns regarding diversity on campus, as well as the extent to which minority groups are represented in LSA SG.
LSA sophomore Nadine Jawad said inclusivity and diversity on campus drive many of her goals for LSA SG. Jawad said she hopes her involvement in student government breaks stereotypes often attributed to Arab Americans and Muslims in the media.
Jawad added that she is she is working on page through University Social Media to present community news about underrepresented groups on campus.
She said when she arrived on campus, she struggled to find a place where she felt safe, and that LSA SG should focus on improving sensitivity to minority students on campus. She added that both Central Student Government and LSA SG lack diversity in its membership.
“I think we have to have people on our student body who are representative of the campus as a whole,” Jawad said. “Whether it’s in CSG or in LSA SG, we’re kind of lacking in diversity.”
LSA freshman Chelsie Thompson proposed a diversity day where the campus would celebrate students of different backgrounds.
“I want us to come together — not as a melting pot because that’s when we’d all get mixed together, and we’d all look basically the same again — but more as a mosaic so when we step back from it it’s just a whole better picture,” she said.
Thompson said misinformation is a pitfall for many students, and perpetuates stereotypes.
“I’m from Michigan, and when some people think of a Black girl from Michigan, they’re probably from Detroit,” Thompson said. “But that is wrong; I’m from Melvindale, which is a small suburban city outside of Detroit. The mentality of stereotypes have to be changed and not just with (Intergroup Relations) training.”
LSA sophomore Nicholas Fadanelli said minority groups feel they have difficulty getting their voices heard, and part of the responsibility to change those notions rests on the shoulders of student government.
“I want to reach out to other groups that we mainly don’t hear the voices of,” he said.
Candidates also proposed measures that would improve mental health on campus.
LSA junior John Steffes, chair of the LSA SG health committee, said he hopes to work with campus gyms to make sure students are aware of their fitness options. Steffes said knowing what exercise options are available is important for maintaining students’ physical and mental health — especially for freshman and transfer students, who are less likely to know their options.
LSA junior Aditi Rao said putting mental health resources on syllabi — a proposal that has already garnered support from CSG — could benefit students.
“Mental health is not an easy issue to combat, it’s not easy to say that we’re going to make it all better because we’re student government,” Rao said. “But some things, like possibly getting language on syllabi that talk about mental health resources is a little step that could mean a lot to a lot of people.”
Fadanelli said he was running for reelection because he hopes to continue to improve the quality and availability of resources on campus for students with mental health issues. He said incorporating mental health training into the new faculty orientation training program would also benefit both students and instructors.
LSA SG elections will take place Wednesday.