As Central Student Government moves into the winter semester, its work in the fall includes both achievements and several campaign goals left short.
CSG President Cooper Charlton, an LSA senior, began the fall semester focusing on the goals outlined on his Make Michigan campaign platform, the same ticket upon which former CSG President Bobby Dishell campaigned last year.
Charlton and Vice President Steven Halperin, an LSA junior, campaigned on promises to make the University safe for students on and off campus, diversify the student population and create more cultural awareness. Make Michigan, as a party, promised to make headway on increasing convenience in campus transportation and increasing student-led participation initiatives.
Among the plans put into motion last semester, CSG amended the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, fought for the release of course evaluations, restructured the Student Organization Funding Commission and planned a campaign to bring awareness of prescription drug misuse on campus.
Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities
In the first meeting of the fall semester, Charlton said increasing awareness of the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities was his main priority.
“The Statement Amendment process and sexual misconduct policy review are the things that go unnoticed and seek no applause, however are paramount in the protection of our students,” Charlton wrote in an e-mail interview.
Charlton said in the e-mail the Statement amendment process is the method by which students defend their rights and determine the constraints on their behavior. The Statement is amended every several years by the University — CSG, along with the Senate Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Affairs and the administration, are the three groups that can propose amendments.
Seven amendments were proposed during the first term of CSG, some of which were aimed toward improving the amendment process and one of which targeted improving student awareness of the Statement. All were drafted and proposed by CSG and heralded by Public Policy sophomore Jacob Pearlman, CSG general counsel. The amendments will not be final until University President Mark Schlissel approves them; he is expected to consider changes to the Statement later this year.
Sexual Assault Reform
The misconduct feedback process is a product of students looking inwardly at the causes of sexual assault and discovering a problem, Charlton wrote. He said CSG remains steadfast in its dedication to eradicating sexual assault on campus.
“We have advocated for students and will have begun the institutional and cultural changes needed to protect students,” Charlton wrote.
CSG held round tables in an attempt to increase conversation about sexual assault on campus.
In September, CSG approved funding for a new program to open dining halls earlier on game days. The pilot program initially cost Michigan Dining more than anticipated, and CSG provided $10,000 in order to sustain the project.
Pearlman said the initiative helped tens of thousands of students “stay in the blue,” or maintain safe drinking behaviors.
Mental health language in course syllabi
CSG passed a resolution in the fall to include mental health language in course syllabi, including information on services such as Counseling and Psychological Services and other programs for students with disabilities.
The body is currently working on implementing the approved language in various schools on campus.
Prescription Drug Misuse Campaign
CSG Representative Thomas Hislop, a Public Policy junior, said he was most proud of the big conversations happening in CSG, and their momentum toward tangible change.
One of those big conversations, he said, was planning the Prescription Drug Misuse campaign, which brings attention to substance abuse on campus. Hislop, who was involved in the project, said CSG has had a lot of great allies in planning the event, partnering with the College of Pharmacy and Wolverine Wellness.
The program, which will consist of a panel discussion, an informational video and various CSG sponsored activities around campus will launch either in the beginning of February or April.
Charlton wrote launching an online application for the Student Organization Funding Commission, the commission that allocates CSG funds to student organizations, was an unprecedented move for the body.
Kevin Ziegler, Business senior and CSG treasurer, said he was most proud of the work of SOFC this semester, and he believes the new policy will help improve CSG’s money management.
“SOFC really is the best unsung heroes of student government,” Ziegler said.
Ziegler said of CSG’s $400,000 operating budget, SOFC was allocated half; ultimately, over $198,000 was allocated to student organizations.
“This high level of utilization shows the success of new processes and checks in the funding and forecasting system as well as the strong leadership of our chairs,” Ziegler said. “This semester’s SOFC success, combined with the growing student organization demand for financial resources, supports the need for a higher budget allocation in the future.”
Charlton said in terms of CSG’s overall finances, the assembly collaborated successfully on funding executive initiatives.
He attributed the ease of beginning initiatives like the early dining hall hours and adding more water bottle refill stations to low levels of assembly discretionary spending last year.
What didn’t get done
Ziegler said, while he was excited to see how much SOFC was able to spend, he was disappointed that some money was still left unused this semester.
“I would like to see 100 percent utilization,” he said.
In terms of future goals, Charlton said in the past, CSG had been internally fragmented and disconnected, which prompted this assembly to work to unite the weaker points in their leadership.
He said this semester, the assembly failed to fully implement the communicative infrastructure that had been an early goal.
“We set out to increase transparency, communication and collaboration between the executive team, the Assembly, the Commissions, and the student body,” Charlton said. “We have a few steps to go. I have an interest in bringing in a philosophy of civil discourse; I hope to see our student body and assembly in a dialogue and not necessarily a fight.”
LSA junior Anushka Sarkar, a member of the CSG executive committee, said she was proud of the establishment of a network of leadership between CSG and student organizations, but disappointed in the lack of collaboration between the assembly and the commissions.
“Collaboration would be in everyone's interest, and I hope that happens next semester,” Sarkar said.
Charlton said his goal moving forward is to lay down infrastructure for sustainable student government, but he recognizes he has room for improvement as a student government leader.
“I can always do better,” Charlton said. “Being able to acknowledge the privilege I carry into a role that already places me in a power dynamic is a continuously important learning experience for me emotionally and philosophically.”
Addressing the performance of the assembly as a whole, Charlton said there has been marked improvement in progress compared to last year’s assembly. However, he said he was disappointed at times when representatives were disengaged and distracted, as this meant they lost an opportunity to represent their peers.
“The tangible and the intangible, mental health, amendment to statement, sexual misconduct — we were able to truly fight for what students want and get their voices to the highest time,” Charlton said. “The vision has not changed: equalize student voice with other University stakeholders and enhance students’ emotional and physical safety on campus.”