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The Central Student Government of the University of Michigan elected four members to its newly formed Presidential Search and Selection Committee Task Force and passed resolutions for election reform and student organization safety on Tuesday night at its first hybrid format meeting of the semester. LSA senior Joseph Lobodzinski, CSG Vice Speaker, acted as speaker at the meeting in place of current Speaker Annie Mintun. 

The CSG University Presidential Search and Selection Committee Task Force was established at the assembly’s Jan. 25 meeting to recommend a replacement for former University President Mark Schlissel after his Jan. 15 dismissal. Engineering junior Zaynab Elkolaly, LSA freshman and disability activist Olivia O’Connell, LSA freshman Mario Thaqi, LSA senior Vincent Pinti and Music, Theatre & Dance junior Juan Gonzalez Valdivieso were nominated for positions on the task force. All nominees except O’Connell, who was not present, advocated for themselves in speeches. 

Elkolaly said the task force was an opportunity to ensure policies blocked under President Schlissel’s administration, such as the allocation of funds to the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services and the supply of menstrual products to bathrooms, were passed. 

“With this task force, we have the power that we have never had before to fully implement our demands,” Elkolaly said. 

Thaqi, the only nominee who was not a sponsor of the bill, said the makeup of the task force should reflect diverse voices, like his own, that can speak to a wide array of experiences. 

“As a first generation college student, first-year student and a student of immigrant descent, I believe I hold a very unique set of beliefs that would benefit the task force as a whole,” Thaqi said. “And lastly, but most importantly, as a student who is Pell Grant eligible and someone who utilizes financial aid from the University, I value one decision that President Schlissel made, which is the Go Blue Guarantee…I would be very concerned with picking a candidate who supports providing financial aids to students.” 

Pinti said he would focus on selecting a candidate who would support disability advocacy, inclusion and accessibility. He cited the 2016 Student Campus Climate Survey on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which showed disabled students experienced high rates of discrimination compared to other groups on campus, as evidence that disabled students need more support than they received under former President Schlissel. 

“One of the biggest issues that (Schlissel) had was that he refused to listen to the people that desperately were asking for his support and for his guidance during unbelievable, historic emergencies that threatened our University, from the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change to the threat of school shootings,” Pinti said. “And I really, really want to make sure that the next president of the University is someone that’s willing to listen to a wide range of voices.” 

Gonzalez Valdivieso agreed with Pinti and previous candidates that the task force should represent a diverse set of experiences. He said his identity as a bisexual Latino man andfirst-generation immigrant who grew up in the South provides him with a perspective that would benefit the task force. 

“I think one of the priorities of this task force is also to make sure that those that are not on it are heard,” Gonzalez Valdivieso said. “And that identities or lines of thought that are not directly represented in the task force can nonetheless play a role in our selection process.” 

Elkolaly, O’Connell, Pinti and Gonzalez Valdivieso were all elected to the committee after the candidates spoke in support of O’Connell’s qualifications.

Pinti said he sees O’Connell as an ally in the cause of disability activism. 

“I truly believe that disabled students need to be one of the chief voices in the selection of the next president,” Pinti said. 

The assembly unanimously passed a resolution focused on Student Government election reform that provides funds to candidates and establishes a formal party system. The resolution allows candidates to receive funds for their campaigns on a reimbursement basis from the newly created Public Elections Fund. 

Another resolution, which endorsed the Center for Campus Involvement’s recommended COVID-19 best practices for student organizations, also passed by unanimous consent. 

Public Health senior Nithya Arun, CSG President, spoke in support of a resolution reaffirming CSG’s opposition to a University policy that requires current employees to immediately report felony charges and convictions.

“Low (socio-economic status) and marginalized communities are disproportionately surveilled, disproportionately criminalized,” Arun said. “And so this really just exacerbates already existing racial disparities and inequities.” 

The resolution was returned to committee along with another resolution, which would provide CSG funding to the United Student Government of Michigan Conference, hosted this year at U-M Flint. The conference brings together student government representatives from all 15 of Michigan’s public universities to address student issues and discuss resolutions.

Levi Todd, president of the University of Michigan-Flint Student Government, addressed the assembly about the value of the event as a demonstration of unity. 

“I’m excited,” Todd said. “We have great speakers, from Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, from the United States Secretary of Education…it’s going to be a showstopper. We’re really excited about it.” 


LSA sophomore Peter Tam, a residential staff member and LSA Student Government representative, also visited the assembly to advocate for a $15 minimum wage for undergraduate student workers and CSG support for an undergraduate workers’ union. 

“It is my firm belief that CSG’s advocacy on these issues can bring a better future for residential staff,” Tam said. 

LSA senior Marina Wagner was confirmed as Disability Advocate, and LSA sophomore Ayden Makar was confirmed as Student Organization Funding Committee vice-chair. 

A verbal motion to make Lauren Billnitzer an authorized co-signer for CSG also passed by unanimous consent. 

The assembly passed an appropriation request to compensate disability advocates who previously led the Student Government in a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training. Vincent Pinti, one of the members proposing the appropriation, said he believes the advocates should be paid for their work. 

“I think that this should be the precedent, that if people work hard and advocate for important issues that our assembly should be knowledgeable on they should be compensated for that,” Pinti said.

Daily staff reporter Eli Friedman can be reached at elisf@umich.edu.