This is the second part of The Michigan Daily’s coverage of the executive ticket debate for the University of Michigan Central Student Government. You can find our coverage of the presidential debate here.
Central Student Government participated in a debate for the Executive Branch candidates, hosted by the CSG Election Team and The Michigan Daily, on Thursday in advance of the upcoming election which will take place from March 30 through 31. Michigan Daily reporters moderated the debate, starting with the two presidential candidates and then the vice presidential candidates. The questions, asked by The Daily, challenged candidates to discuss sustainability, sexual assault, the search for a new president, mental health and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on campus.
Aaron Kall, director of the U-M debate team, introduced and also moderated the event.
LSA junior Noah Zimmerman and LSA junior Jackie Hillman ran for president and vice president, respectively, as part of EnvisionBlue. LSA junior Erica Nelson and LSA sophomore Ron Burgaj ran as president and vice president, respectively, for the Diverse&Dedicated campaign.
Burgaj said he is running for CSG Vice President to help make positive change and to work alongside students.
“We are there for you guys. We believe in fighting for the students because we are students,” Burgaj said. “And with the students (we want) to build a better future for all of us.”
Hillman said she was running to improve students’ daily lives through advocacy. She said she sees fixable issues on campus but does not believe anyone is working to fix them.
“I believe in translating advocacy projects into direct student interventions in their lives,” Hillman said. “I see the needs of a lot of my friends on campus who come from a very diverse range of backgrounds and that constantly face day-to-day issues that are very easily solvable by CSG. But there’s no one currently working together to most efficiently address those things and put solutions in place that help students’ lives.”
In January 2022, CSG passed a resolution in support of keeping COVID-19–style grading policies where students could elect to take a class pass/no record-COVID, masking the letter grade. Candidates were asked how they would ensure continued accommodations would be made to support the return to the classroom.
Burgaj expressed his support for making class withdrawal and new grade policies permanent so students have more flexibility and accomodations.
“I believe that these are our classes. This is our time window and this is our life that we’re putting time into to learn this stuff, and things happen,” Burgaj said. “Life happens, and we should have the right to withdraw up to the last day of class for whatever reason.”
Hillman said she supported expanding COVID-19 grading policies to support the long-lasting effects students might experience from the pandemic or other causes.
“I believe that it’s CSG’s role not only to provide more resources for mental health and wellness in order to combat some of these issues that individuals are inevitably going to face, but also to evaluate the really catastrophic circumstances that could have happened in a student’s life,” Hillman said. “… I believe that this policy should be expanded in order to accommodate circumstances.”
Hillman also said it is important to take into account the long term effects of COVID-19.
“People don’t really talk about long-term effects of COVID; people don’t talk about the impacts that COVID has had on their social well-being or their emotional well-being. Those things don’t just go away now that we can be in a classroom or we can be in a building without a mask,” Hillman said.
CSG recently passed a resolution to expand the free New York Times subscription to include games. Candidates discussed why they supported this resolution and what they thought about expanding student resources.
Hillman said she believed by expanding resources like the New York Times Games subscription, students can better connect with each other despite their socioeconomic background.
“It’s trivial to think about things such as Wordle having a real impact in student lives,” Hillman said. “But I do believe that creating more accessibility to resources and having that equity within different socio-economic brackets and our student body will really allow for connection across different identities.”
Burgaj also said he supported expanding free resources to students.
“I believe that it’s not only in our best interests and purpose but also our duty to extend as many resources to students as they want,” Burgaj said.
In Hillman’s closing statement she said she believed the University needs increased cooperation in order to grow and become more inclusive in light of the pandemic, the Hail to the Victims protests and the circumstances regarding former University President Mark Schlissel’s firing. Hillman said she believes students’ voices are a big part of increasing inclusivity.
“I understand that the only way we can be a more productive and inclusive community is by collaborating with student groups, collaborating with the administration and coming together as a community,” Hillman said. “COVID especially and a lot of the recent misfortunes in our community have really closed our school and I feel like our biggest goal is to address these issues and then we will help unify the community through listening directly with student voices.”
In Burgaj’s closing statement, he reemphasized how he and Nelson bring diverse perspectives and will be dedicated to working with the student community.
“We are diverse, we are dedicated, we are driven, we are passionate, we are ready, and we have the experience to do this,” Burgaj said. “We have the will and drive. We know how to get it done from top to bottom.”
Daily Staff Reporter Emma Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly said Noah Zimmerman is a sophomore, when he is an LSA junior. Ron Burgaj is also a sophomore, not a junior.