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Update Mar. 29: As of Tuesday evening, LSA Senior Riya Gupta, LSA Student Government assistant elections director verified that the disqualifications have been reversed and Ervin and Gadola are back in the race.

Update Mar. 28: As of Monday evening, LSA Senior Riya Gupta, LSA Student Government assistant elections director, confirmed to The Michigan Daily that LSA sophomore Gabriel Ervin and LSA sophomore Noah Gadola were disqualified from the race. This article is about an event held on the Friday prior to the decision.

LSA Student Government hosted their 2022 presidential ticket debate Friday night at Forum Hall. After an introduction from LSA senior Anna Colvin, elections director, and LSA senior Riya Gupta, assistant elections director, the four executive tickets began with an opening statement about their platform. Throughout the debate, candidates asked other candidates questions, who had a limit of two minutes to answer.

The first party to share their opening statement was LSA sophomore Gabriel Ervin and LSA sophomore Noah Gadola. In his opening statement, Ervin shared his experiences about being the only Native American student in LSA SG. He discussed his thoughts on cultural expression, and his contributions in organizing town halls to discuss injustices that University employees face.

“This (tie I’m wearing) is a representation of the culture that was here for thousands of years before European conquest,” Ervin said. “I think it’d be really nice if more of us could use our cultural expressions to broaden the conversation and ensure that everyone is being heard and respected around campus.”  

The next party to open was LSA freshman Bilal Irfan and LSA freshman Maria Wajahat. Irfan provided an opening statement elaborating on his thoughts on joining LSA SG. He referenced a past resolution that addressed anti-Muslim bigotry both on campus and nationally. In December, the Arizona office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called on Arizona State University to investigate the burning of the Quran and other Islamic materials in a prayer room.

“We came in at a time when Islamophobia was becoming very relevant across the national landscape,” Irfan said.

Irfan said his goal is to uplift minority voices that are often forgotten and neglected. He spoke about his work with Ukrainian students in helping them adjust their initiatives to have a vigil planned. 

“I think a lot of people sometimes forget that national events and global events affect students on campus … the narratives of the campus, the way students feel on campus,” Irfan said. “We’d like to see more attention towards the University’s clear double standards in regards to how they treat certain issues affecting campus populations.”

Earlier this month, the University announced its plans to pull its investments from Russia in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The University additionally announced that it would light the Burton Tower up with the colors of the Ukrainian flag. In 2017, however, six members of the Board of Regents rejected a proposal by Central Student Government calling for the creation of a committee to investigate University divestment from companies “allegedly violating Palestinian human rights.”  

The third opening statement was presented by LSA junior Max Stoneman and LSA sophomore Peter Tam. They said their platform is based on student representation and working together to achieve three pillars: sustainability, solidarity and inclusion.

“It’s important that we work together to make student life better for each and every student,” Stoneman said. “That means expanding and enhancing wellness zones throughout campus, a tangible plan that we’re able to do that means making sure that HIV and STI testing is available to each and every student.”

In July 2019, the University decided that it would stop using tuition to cover STI tests at the University Health Services. However, after receiving backlash from community members, the University reinstated coverage of STI testing in September 2019, one week following The Michigan Daily’s coverage of the policy change.

Tam said they plan to address the understaffing of CAPS and provide closer communication with students to address concerns they have. 

CAPS is a program that is severely understaffed,” Tam said. “This should not be the case. We (also) want to establish closer connections with student publications to ensure that our mistakes, but also our successes, are being published and available to the student body.” 

The last party is LSA junior Erica Nelson and LSA sophomore Ron Burgaj, who are also candidates for CSG president and vice president, respectively. Burgaj presented the last opening statement. They discussed their goals to accomplish advocacy projects, increased representation of campus voices in student government, and greater accountability of the University. 

“One of our biggest things that we’re advocating for is that we believe we’re the diverse and dedicated candidates for the University,” Burgaj said. “One of the biggest things that we want here is that we want to (actually) accomplish something.”

Following the statements, the party candidates began their debate by asking each other questions, many of which focused on their platforms and how they plan to impact the student day-to-day experience.

Ervin asked Irfan how his platform plans to address internal issues within the LSA Student Government. Irfan responded by saying his platform aims to focus on policy making over expansion of new positions within the student government.   

“We think there should be more focus in regards to actual action within committees instead of what can only be stated as the expansion of titles,” Irfan said. “So we definitely plan to continue opposing legislation that extends LSA functionaries in a way that doesn’t actually produce change.” 

Later in the debate, candidates discussed structural problems they hope to change in LSA if they are electedIn her answer, Nelson discussed her thoughts on representation and tokenism.

“We feel that tokenism is a big issue within the government,” Nelson said. “We want to dismantle that altogether and make sure every person of diverse backgrounds actually feels welcome — like they don’t have to fit into some type of box.”

Throughout the debate, candidates discussed some of their past work with student government and campus initiatives. In the next ticket round, Tam and Stoneman discussed their goal to achieve a $15 minimum wage. “That (resolution on wages) comes with the recognition that the University has not done enough for our students,” Tam said. “By advocating for something tangible or giving students the opportunity to earn more money for the job that they’re doing, that’s something that I’ve been very proud to have done.”

The final set of questions were for Ervin and Gadola. Ervin shared his thoughts when asked about representation initiatives and how his indigenous identity informs his role on student government. 

“I live diversity every day,” Ervin said. “Diversity is not just something that we should check off our box … It’s not just something that we should talk about, and then not do anything about.”

In their closing statements, the ticket candidates summarized several of the main points they discussed throughout the debate. Ervin and Gadola shared final thoughts on implementing tangible reform and fighting for student bod; Nelson and Burgaj discussed their perspectives on being diverse in culture and dedicated to the students; Irfan and Worjahat emphasized listening to students and various organizations on campus; and Stoneman and Tam reiterated their three main goals of sustainability, solidarity and inclusion. 

Ervin said that whoever ends up leading the LSA student government body should ensure that representing student voices is at the forefront of their goals.

“(This is) a gift to you by the voters; they have trusted you to be their voice,” Ervin said. “The president, whoever it may be, needs to make sure that this is the priority — amplifying the voice of the students, increasing engagement from those who have been previously disenfranchised from this whole system and making sure that, going forward, this is a better campus for all students.” 

Daily Staff Reporter Nirali Patel can be reached at nirpat@umich.edu. Daily News Contributor Zainab Taher can be reached at zainabt@umich.edu.