A sub-commission of Central Student Government met Sunday with representatives from student organizations involved in Detroit to foster discussion about the University’s role in the city.
The event, titled the Detroit Congress, aimed to prompt connections and conversations between student organizations to raise awareness on campus about opportunities for students in Detroit.
The CSG subcommission on Detroit Engagement has eight members from CSG who have had experiences with and in Detroit and are passionate about student involvement within the city, which could be anything from music to entrepreneurship.
LSA sophomore Dylan Bennett, co-chair of the CSG Commission on Detroit Engagement, said student involvement was needed to foster a strong connection with Detroit.
“We can’t have a true relationship with Detroit if we can’t get our students there,” he said.
The meeting opened with a discussion of the individual groups, their involvement with Detroit and their goals as organizations. The student organizations that attended included Detroit Partnership, Detroit Revitalization and Business Initiative, JDs in the D and Seven Mile Music.
A discussion followed about the needs and opportunities each organization provides to the others.
LSA senior Alyssa Setting, a representative from Detroit Partnership — a student-run organization that encourages community service in Detroit communities — encouraged organizations to participate in their DP Day, an annual service program in Detroit.
MBA student Steve Worthy said the main opportunity his group, Detroit Revitalization and Business Initiative, offers is connections to people in the city. The group works with entrepreneurs in the Detroit area in order to foster long-term relationships.
Transportation between Detroit and Ann Arbor was one of the major issues discussed by multiple groups. LSA junior Joanna Leung of Seven Mile Music expressed concern over her organization’s ongoing need for funding — currently, the group pays to transport students to Detroit communities twice a week to provide musical instruction to young students.
“We need a lot of funding on a consistent basis,” she said. “It’s hard to put on paper, especially when the application is asking for a one-time event.”
In response, CSG representatives discussed the Detroit Connector as a possible solution for financial issues associated with travel. The Detroit Connector is a bus providing transportation between Ann Arbor and Detroit. Representatives said they plan to make students more aware of the Detroit Connector and to work with University Provost Martha Pollack’s office to make the bus schedule and stops more convenient and efficient for individual students and student organizations.
The meeting ended with a big-picture question about Detroit, a format Rohin Patel, chair of the CSG subcomission, said he wanted to incorporate to improve and maintain conversation about the city. During Sunday’s meeting, he asked why students may be disinclined to travel to Detroit.
In response, Setting cited potentially negative stereotypes about the city.
“One of the biggest things that’s either straining the relationship with Detroit or limiting it is a lack of factual knowledge,” she said. “People, especially from out of state, hear a lot of things about Detroit that aren’t necessarily true.”
The next Detroit Congress will be Feb. 7.