On Tuesday night, the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government met to discuss candidate criteria for the new vice president of Student Life and updates on the renovation of the Michigan Union.
Members of the Vice President for Student Life Search Advisory Committee attended the 12th CSG of the year meeting to hear comments and concerns about replacement candidates for E. Royster Harper, who will be retiring in January. Robert Sellers, vice provost for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, sat in place of Committee Chair Alec Gallimore.
Presidential Mark Schissel launched the search on Oct. 10, to find a new vice president of Student Life. The committee has already held two town halls to gather student input for the search and plans to meet with Harper’s student advisory board next week and eventually, Harper herself.
Sellers shared the committee has decided to make the candidates’ identities confidential in order to find the most qualified person and protect them from retaliation at their current career positions.
“The reason for confidentiality is to really make sure that we get the very best candidates to apply and participate in the process,” Sellers said. “Many of the candidates that we will be looking at are currently employed in very important, interesting positions, and the idea of a public search that they may actually not end up as the number one case could potentially jeopardize their standing in their current institution.”
Assembly members shared concerns regarding what they wanted the new vice president to be aware of once they take over. Ben Gerstein, Public Policy junior and CSG president, told the search committee he wanted the new vice president to be prepared to handle the political climate on campus, especially in light of the University hosting the presidential debate in October 2020.
“I think that’s important to keep in mind that, given we are entering an election year, that there are going to be controversial discussions on campus, and to make sure that they have an understanding of that and have prior experience dealing with issues in a political campus climate,” Gerstein said. “Understanding the importance of involving students in issues about the election when they come up, especially around security, and the fact that we are holding a presidential debate next year will add to that issue as well.”
Taylor Lansey, LSA junior and CSG treasurer, told the search committee the candidate should focus on improving Counseling and Psychological Services, as well as students’ awareness of campus resources.
“In terms of CAPS, I think that someone who values the integration of that into our general community might be beneficial,” Lansey said. “Somebody who values the integration of that because we are saying we don’t want students to be afraid to go to CAPS, but I would say a large number of students actually haven’t met anyone from CAPS.”
In addition, Director of the Michigan Union Amy White spoke to CSG about the new renovations and goals of the Michigan Union. The Michigan Union has been closed for renovation since April 2018 and will reopen in January 2020. She gave a presentation about the history of the union and its renovation plans.
Student organizations will be housed on the second floor of the Union, along with the IdeaHub, an open space for student organization meetings. Previously, there were only 80 offices for student organizations, but the new building will provide enough space for all the student organizations on campus. Student Life’s office will be located on the third floor. CAPS and SAPAC will be on the fourth floor, allowing more private space for counselors to meet with students.
White said feedback from students has been essential in renovating the Union, and many of those concerns were addressed in the renovations, including creating more space for student organizations.
“Those of you who experienced the Union before we closed might remember that the student organization office in the building were tucked in former hotel rooms on the fourth floor,” White said. “…What we heard was that we need to look at a different model for that. The other thing that we heard was there are 1,600 student organizations on this campus. We have 80 office spaces on the fourth floor, that doesn’t even begin to look at the equity across organizations and the needs that exist. So what we’ve looked to do is really design a new space.”
In the renovations, the Michigan Union will also include original architecture plans from 1919. The renovation will place the information desk in a different location than it was originally and open balconies on the second floor. There will be a fireplace surrounded by a community space in the area where the Michigan Union director’s office was previously located on the first floor. The Union will also include a selection of six restaurants and five retail spaces for student use. The exact date for the Michigan Union grand opening is still undecided.
At the meeting, CSG also discussed a resolution to provide funding for socio-economically disadvantaged CSG members.