Central Student Government passed a resolution to adopt a student fee to increase funding for the Leadership Engagement Scholarship at its weekly meeting on Tuesday. The resolution passed with 29 in favor and two opposed.
The Leadership Engagement Scholarship reduces the burden of financial strain for potential student leaders who aspire to contribute to any area of extracurricular campus life.
The scholarship also seeks specifically to reduce socioeconomic barriers faced by many students who must forgo valuable opportunities because of financial strain. The nature of the scholarship, and its intention to aid student leaders with demonstrated financial need, is in accordance with the University of Michigan’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategic plan.
Many members of CSG expressed support for the resolution, noting that financial barriers affect many on campus, even if these students are not widely represented within CSG itself.
CSG Communications Director Joe Shea, a Public Policy senior, has been a proponent of the resolution since its introduction. He said he supported it for its dedication to increased student involvement on the part of those who may struggle to access opportunities on campus.
“The idea behind this resolution is one of solidarity,” Shea said. “As students, we understand how expensive it is just to go here … I try to remember that for some people at this university, it is simply not possible, and that is where something like the Leadership Engagement Scholarship comes into play.”
The resolution — which was tabled during last week’s Central Student Government meeting following debate over whether it would lead to tuition increase — will create a fee for all University of Michigan students equaling $5 per semester for the next five years. This contribution will total more than $2 million toward the scholarship, a sum of money that the resolution’s writers said would aid hundreds of students.
Engineering senior Tania Haddad, a writer of the resolution, echoed Shae’s sentiments, stating individual contributions would benefit the University in innumerable ways. She noted how the scholarship can be extended to innovation in extracurriculars such as Greek life, entrepreneurship endeavors, performing arts projects and student government initiatives.
“Leadership is very much a public good that we think everyone should contribute to, because it benefits all of us,” Haddad said. “All of the students who would be coming here the next five years would be helping student leaders and therefore helping themselves.”
Some members remained skeptical about the amendment, fearing that it would result in widespread tuition increases, despite the writers’ stating that tuition alterations fall under the responsibility of the Board of Regents, rather than the resolution itself.
Upon request by other members of the assembly for examples of the experiences of low socioeconomic students who have been compromised by their situations, many CSG members spoke up and cited incidents pertaining to the scholarship.
Public Policy senior Joe Ambrose said he has known students who demonstrated interest in student government but did not apply because they could not commit so much time to an unpaid position.
Engineering senior Katie Culver mentioned similar instances in which her peers were unable to access resources provided by the University because of financial barriers, which she said could be aided with contributions to the Leadership Engagement Scholarship.
“I was at an information session for GM, and the woman said they want interns that are very involved on campus and in extracurriculars,” Culver said. “And one kid said, ‘I don’t have any internships, and I’m not very involved on campus, but can I still get this job?’ He said, ‘I work at Pizza Hut.’ And to the recruiters, it didn’t look very good, but what if he couldn't afford to give up that job to be involved on campus?”
Besides limiting access to internships or job positions through the University, financial burdens also limit students’ access to scientific research. Haddad noted an instance in which potential researchers were unable to pursue important career opportunities due to the strains of unpaid time commitments.
“I know that a lot of my friends on engineering design teams can’t dedicate a full-time job’s worth of time on top of their classes, towards something that would benefit them in the future, when looking for internships, or full time-jobs, or just for the hands-on experience,” Haddad said. “That’s the exposure I’ve had, and why I’m passionate about the LES.”
Rackham student Rep. Andy Snow, who opposed the resolution when it was introduced last week, voted against it for a second time. He said he will never support a resolution that could potentially result in tuition increases.
“You can call it a fee, you can call it a tuition change, but either way it is an increase,” Snow said. “I want it on the record and this will absolutely increase what people will say, and I cannot be for it.”